Thursday, September 23, 2010

HEAT WAVE (1954)

A British B-movie DOUBLE INDEMNITY. Alex Nicol (at right) is an American novelist living in England. Rather like Nick Carraway, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, he is summering across the bay from a wealthy businessman (Sid James) and his sexy wife (Hilary Brooke) who throw ostentatious parties. Nicol, struggling with writer's block, sits in his lonely bungalow and watches the parties until one night when he is called upon to ferry some guests over when James' launch quits working. Though he takes a liking to the husband, he also becomes smitten with the wife, who is having an affair with a pianist (Paul Carpenter) but soon shows signs that she might like to canoodle with Nicol. When Nicol's latest chapters are rejected by his publisher and his agent drops him, he goes to borrow some money from James but instead has drinks with Brooke and one thing leads to another. After some folderol involving James' weak heart and a will he wants to change, the three of them wind up on a boating excursion in the fog; when James falls and is injured, Brooke tosses him overboard and Nicol agrees to go along with her story that James fell out of the boat and drowned. James' daughter, who never liked her stepmother, thinks that story is fishy and a cop starts to do some snooping. In grand noir fashion, it's all downhill from there for the femme fatale and the misguided anti-hero.

Though the plot elements are right out of noir, the visual style is not, but it still remains worth seeing for fans of the genre. One of the things I liked best is how the two main characters are not prettified: Nicol looks and acts washed-up, and Brooke looks and acts like a restless middle-aged woman. James is the most likable character so his death, though predictable, packs a punch (not so with the unlikable husbands in DOUBLE INDEMNITY and BODY HEAT, for example). All three give solid performances. This is available as part of a Hammer Film Noir boxed set from VCI. [DVD]

1 comment:

Jim said...

Sounds like one I want to see ... thanks for the tip!