Tuesday, June 28, 2016

In short: Night of the Big Heat (1967)

aka Island of the Burning Dead

aka Island of the Burning Doomed

Despite it being winter and the rest of Britain complaining about freezing temperatures the British island of Fara suffers under a terrible heat wave. Experts are baffled by the phenomenon.

The weather is only the start of the islanders’ problems, though, for there’s much worse, much stranger and much more fried egg shaped to come. At first, there’s only an inexplicable high-pitched noise in certain parts of the island upping the pressure but soon, sheep and people are cooked while electronics burst. And what does the mysterious guest of the island’s only inn, one Hanson (Christopher Lee), do with the science-y instruments he has in his room, and the tripwire and camera constructions he builds in the woods?

If your answer to that is: trying to find proof for an invasion by heat-producing giant, glowing fried eggs from outer space, then give yourself a gold star! Now the only question is: will you get through the film’s main concern, a love triangle between writer/innkeeper Jeff Callum (Patrick Allen as some sort of mid-60s John Agar-like manly man monstrosity who likes to blame the woman he fucked for their extramarital affair with charming declarations like “She was a slut! And I wanted her!”), his former lover Angela Roberts (Jane Merrow) who has smuggled herself onto the island as Jeff’s new secretary and is characterised in a way even a gracious interpretation can’t not call misogynist, and his wife, the wifely – yes, that’s her only character trait – Frankie (Sarah Lawson) to reach a finale where the aliens are beaten through a bit of rain, which never happens on the British isles?

Oh boy, this just might be director Terence Fisher’s worst film. It was produced by the same company responsible for the somewhat superior Island of Terror  with quite a few overlaps in cast and crew, with the addition of Christopher Lee and the relegation of Peter Cushing to a guest starring role. Which is rather unfortunate, seeing as Lee does the usual low effort thing he did when cashing his cheque for projects he was embarrassed by – looking grumpy, then looking grumpy, then looking grumpy some more – while Cushing doesn’t get anything to work with at all and still comes out looking the dedicated professional.

Though, to be fair, the script really doesn’t give Lee much to work with. It is much more interested in a love soap opera sub-plot that is badly dated, deeply unpleasant in his loathing of female sexuality and which can’t help but make every character involved in it look like a deeply horrible person. Sure, a better script could have used this approach to do something interesting about or with its characters’ general unpleasantness; unfortunately, this one’s not even average and therefore leaves us with a bunch of protagonists we have no reason to care about.

Night also suffers from sluggish pacing (that at least fits the whole heat wave concept, so there’s that), monsters that turn out to look like downgraded versions of the creatures in Island of Terror when we finally get a look at them in the last act, and the lamest deus ex machina ending imaginable. It’s really a rather dire film.

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