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British trappings can't disguise all-American deadly triangle
Heat Wave is the American reissue title of a pretty fair British suspense drama, The House Across The Lake. It retraces the eternal noir triangle (adding English angles): Rich but rough-hewn older husband (Sidney James); duplicitous blonde trophy wife (Hillary Brooke); and the chump (Alex Nicol). There's also the optional element of the jealous daughter by the first wife (Susan Stephen), but she doesn't bring much to the tea party.
Nicol is a pulp novelist who's taken a cottage in the lake country where he sweats, drinks but doesn't make much progress on the page rolled in his typewriter. One night he gets a call from party-central across the water, a posh house called High Wray (the movie is directed by Ken Hughes from his novel of that name). Their launch is down could Nicol pick up some guests waiting at the club and ferry them up to the house?
He obliges, gets invited in for a thank-you drink, and meets Brooke, the bored, flirtatious wife; her paramour of the moment, pianist Paul Carpenter (she has a weakness for impoverished artistic types); and, later, the daughter. There are `scenes.' Hack writer or no, Nicol can't have read much James M. Cain or he'd be off to his typewriter in a flash, if not all the way back to the States.
James has a bum ticker and plans to write Brooke out of the will, but inevitably the inevitable happens: James, Brooke and Nicol go out on a fishing expedition, a heavy fog enshrouds them, there's an `accident.' (Brooke even sports Stanwyck-in-the-supermarket cheaters at the coroner's inquest.) But a police inspector (Alan Wheatley) takes an undue interest in the case....
Despite a score which quotes Debussy's Le Mer until seasickness ensues, the movie has an American feel to it (due in large part to Americans Nicol and Brooke in the leads, though Brooke's cucumber-sandwich accent would fool Henry Higgins). Its major shortcoming is an abrupt ending which leaves a little too much to be inferred, in an understated British way. Best reason for watching is Brooke, who made her mark in some Sherlock Holmes movies and against Brenda Marshall in Strange Impersonation but never got the parts her talents deserved. Heat Wave is an opportunity to watch what she could do.
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