johnlink ranks HEAT WAVE (1954)

Here’s a B-movie film noir directed by a guy named Ken Hughes who would later go on to helm such movies as the Peter Sellers’ CASINO ROYALE and a little family film called CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. But, over a decade early, he was paying some bills with this little HEAT WAVE.


I watched HEAT WAVE (1954) on 3.26.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

This is the sort of movie that uses lines mildly useful like “I had taken that bungalow to get away from fast blondes and slow gin.” It also gives us the empty nothingness of “When I woke up the lake had faded out of sight like something in a dream”  This is an unambitious noir which is happy to live off the reputation of its predecessors of the 40s. A moderately successful writer, Mark (Alex Nicol), starts by confessing his sins to an unseen confidant. We quickly flaw back to see why he is feeling so guilty. Mark provides plenty of ambient voice over to set the tone as he meets the stunning blonde Carol (Hilary Brooke). We know she’s going to be trouble because he as already told us so. It’s just a matter of time before we find out the particular brand of trouble she is dealing.

There’s that opening confessional to bring up memories of DOUBLE INDEMNITY. There is a piano playing love songs to remind us of CASABLANCA. There is a mother-husband-daughter triangle which reminds us of MILDRED PIERCE. The plot, as it unfolds, is not dissimilar to THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. This is a movie which doesn’t have a ton of original ideas, but which at least takes a shot at telling its story in its own way.

That husband is Beverly Forrest (Syd James), a rich guy who is happy to throw his money around. He loves his wife, something he sees as a fault in a moment of honesty with Mark. Beverly likes Mark, trusts him, even if he knows that Carol will take a run at the writer, Mark, just because she can. A dishonest sounding voiceover tells us that Mark has a soft spot for women. That is the sort of soft B-movie remark which serves as a launching point for the second act of a film. When he tells her he loves her, it’s not convincing. The movie pretends to support this notion for a moment before a kiss. Unfortunately, everything feels artificial.

One of the key elements of noir, as we are supposed to understand it, has to do with the wonderfully mood-induing lighting of shots. The best noir is hidden in shadow, is slashed by prison-bar light arraignments, or simply dumps us in all night-time darkness. But this B-movie doesn’t have the sophistication to provide such delights. Instead we get mildly lit interiors awash in its own commonness. Even the passionate “kiss me” moment feels underlit due to a lack of skill as opposed to an eye towards artistry. Asking a B movie noir to stand beside the greats of its genre may be unfair, but the derivative subject matter yearns for a comparison to which the skill of the filmmaking can’t hold up.

The acting is not inspiring. The writing, as alluded to plenty, leaves much to be desired. HEAT WAVE is not a terrible movie, but it is the sort of B-movie nonsense which probably doesn’t need to be watched. It is the equivalent of watching an episode of a cancelled TV show; sure there is some slight entertainment value, but couldn’t your time be better spent with something more important?

Film Noir completists? Sure give it a shot. Otherwise? There is no reason at all to go here.




FINAL SCORE: 4.25 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on March 27, 2015.

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