Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Movies: The Gambler and The Lady (1952)/Heat Wave (1954)

Onward into the Hammer Film Noir Collection I go. Here’s installment one.

This DVD serves up quite the double bill; Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide describes one film as “tepid” and the other as “tame.” Sadly, I can’t entirely disagree. The movies are primarily of interest to genre completists who want to see familiar noir tropes played out against unfamiliar English locales. Still, the collision of twisted psychology and the stiff-upper-lip mentality of our cousins across the pond yields a few interesting moments.

Heat Wave, also known as The House Across The Lake, also known as the tame one, answers the question “What would a film noir from the director of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang be like?” Ken Hughes even adapted it from his own novel. The story is the classic set-up of loner (here a visiting American novelist suffering from writer’s block), scheming dame, and wealthy husband. But Hughes adds the wrinkle of the loner and the husband meeting first and becoming friends, with the husband even giving tacit approval to his own cuckolding. The hubby is played by Sid James, a staple of the Carry On series who delivers solid performances in several U.K. noirs. The rest of the movie plays out exactly as you’d expect, with the husband’s murder almost an afterthought.

Hammer often imported American actors for their crime dramas, either those on the downswing of their careers or recognizable faces who never hit the big time. The Gambler and The Lady – that would be the tepid one – features one of the latter in Dane Clark. He’s a Yank who fled the States after a manslaughter beef. His obsession with joining high society has him taking etiquette lessons, but the poor sap doesn’t realize that the British upper crust is every bit as treacherous as the gangsters he left behind. The movie’s slow to get started and somewhat obvious once it does, but the story’s an interesting one. Plus the object of Clark’s affections is played by Naomi Chance, an appealing actress reminiscent of Kate Winslet. I haven’t seen anything else she’s been in, but one of her credits stands out: a 1964 television adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel, written by Doctor Who guru Terry Nation and starring Peter Cushing as Lije Bailey. According to Wikipedia, it no longer exists.

Miscellaneous: Links

Via Bill Crider, we have the ten hottest alien babes of TV and film. And from GreenCine Daily comes the 50 greatest commercials of the ‘80s. That should keep you busy for a while.