Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The House Across the Lake - 1954 film review

I didn't know what to expect when I settled down to watch a British crime film from 1954. But The House Across the Lake turned out to be set around Windermere, and featured a struggling crime writer as the conflicted protagonist. Needless to say, this premise grabbed my attention right away!

Alex Nicol plays Mark Kendrick, an American writer based in the UK (for unexplained reasons) who rents a place in the Lakes as he tries to meet a deadline for his latest book. He encounters a blonde femme fatale, also played by an American, Hillary Brooke. She happens to be married to a rich man - played (rather to my amazement) by Sid James, in a rare straight role. She's well-known for dallying with other men, and Kendrick befriends the husband but becomes besotted by the wife - rather surprisingly, since the husband's daughter from an earlier marriage, played by Susan Stephen, seems much more appealing.

Anyway, we are in classic film noir territory here. The storyline owes a great deal to Double Indemnity, although it's based on a book called High Wray by Ken Hughes, who directs the film (and later directed many others, including Chitty, Chitty, Bang Bang). Although it's not very original, it's well done, at least until the very rushed finale, which I found anti-climactic.

There's fun to be had in spotting the other cast members -including Joan Hickson, Paul Carpenter, John Sharp, and Alan Wheatley (later famed as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood). I hoped the titular house would prove to be Wray Castle, which I enjoyed visiting a few years back, but it wasn't to be. However, I did enjoy this short film. Definitely worth watching. Why was it called Heat Wave when released in the US? Your guess is as good as mine.


Anonymous said...

Sid James played quite a few straight roles in his early days, several in films directed by Ken Hughes. One interesting oddity is Joe MacBeth, which is Macbeth played as a gangster noir.

Martin Edwards said...

I do remember having watched Joe Macbeth when quite young. Somehow it stuck in my memory, though it was many years ago.