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I'm a big fan of Mae West, and I waited for years to see this insignificant, forgettable little movie. Although I knew it had gotten bad reviews at the time of its release--- and West herself didn't like it any more than the critics did--- I thought there still might be something in it worth seeing, since it holds such an important place in her career: this was the final movie of her 1930s/1940s "movie star" period. After it was done, West returned to live stage work, recording sessions, and of course her famous nightclub act of the 1950s. She was not to make another film for 27 years (at which time she did the rather infamous "Myra Breckinredge" in 1970).
Seeing "The Heat's On" is an exercise in tedium. I had to literally struggle to stay awake during it. It's not that it's all that horrendously "bad"--- heck, even bad movies can be entertaining for the wrong reasons. This one is just....empty. Completely vapid and forgettable. It's easy to understand why Mae West practically disowned this movie.
The main thing wrong with it is that she isn't in it nearly enough. For the entire first hour, I swear that West had about 6 minutes of total screen time, scattered throughout in a series of VERY short "blink and you'll miss it" scenes. She's got more charisma and screen presence, by far, than anybody else in this thing--- when she's on, you can't take your eyes off her. But you hardly get to see her! Giving West more screen time would have improved this movie immensely, and it's a mystery to me why director Gregory Ratoff didn't understand that.
What makes her absence from the screen even more frustrating, if not downright puzzling, is that so much of this movie is a revue/type *musical* (in neon lights), the type of film that could have shown her at her absolute best. But instead you get one lame song after the other filling the screen; there are singers, dancers, production numbers, showgirls, Latin-flavored guitarists, even a boogie-woogie pianist/singer (blues and jazz great Hazel Scott, playing herself). They all come in, do their thing, leave, and it's on to the next song. With the singular exception of Scott, who is wonderful--- all of this is absolutely and completely forgettable. Most of the singers, the dancers, the songs, the movie itself: it's "B"-grade material at best. We aren't talking MGM-quality here, folks.
Watching this parade of musical mediocrities go by, all you can think of the entire time is "Where IS Mae West??! Why don't they bring her on?" But it never happens until the very end, at which time you'll be practically asleep if you've managed to sit through it all up to that point. It's hard to imagine who might be a fan of this picture.
For what it's worth, West does look pretty good. Always proud of her youthful appearance, she was 50 years old here, but she looks maybe 40-ish, and she's dressed in stylish, contemporary clothes for one of the very few times in her screen career. (Well, except for her very first musical number, in which--- amusingly--- she's in her trademark "gay 90s" garb, looking much like she did in her earlier films).
The story--- what flimsy plot there is of it--- has something to do with Broadway musical star Fay Lawrence (West) getting funding for her next show, and having producers fight over her. But the main point of this movie, and the most amount of screen time, is devoted to the endlessly boring musical numbers. Gentle, befuddled Victor Moore is the primary male lead; and a YOUNG Lloyd Bridges--- yes, he was young once!--- has a featured part as a soldier engaged to Moore's niece.
Not a bad movie, just a boring one, and it missed the boat all around. Mae West deserved better.
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