Cast & Crew
In the bar of the Lake Windermere Yacht Club in England, American hack novelist Mark Kendrick tells an unseen listener about recent events in his life: One night, Mark, who has been renting a bungalow on the lake's shore, receives a phone call from Carol Forrest, a neighbor who lives across the lake, to ask if he would use his launch to ferry four guests to play a party as her launch has broken down. Mark agrees and is invited to the party at the lavish estate, but does not stay long. As he is leaving, he encounters Carol's husband Beverley, a financier, who invites him to a game of billiards which lasts until dawn. While the house staff is cleaning up, Mark meets Beverley's daughter Andrea, who becomes distraught when Carol, her stepmother, returns from watching the sun come up with her latest lover, Vincent Gordon. Later, Beverley invites Mark to the launching of his new boat. There Carol makes it clear to Mark that she would like him to be her new lover, but Mark resists her. On a trip to London, Mark learns that both his publisher and agent have decided that they will no longer support him, leaving him short of cash. On his return to the lake, Beverley tells Mark that a heart condition will probably cause his death within a year and that he intends to eliminate Carol from his will. Later, Mark attempts to see Beverley about a loan, but falls into the clutches of Carol, who seduces him. The following day, when Beverley is speeding in his new launch, it catches fire. He is saved, but Carol tells Mark that she had hoped Beverley would die. After informing Carol that she is to be cut out of her husband's will, Mark attempts to extricate himself from the situation and leave the area, but misses the train. Beverley encounters him at the railway station and invites him on a boat excursion until the next train. Carol invites herself along. A heavy fog rolls in and Mark, who is steering, has to swerve suddenly to avoid a ferry, accidentally throwing Beverley to the deck and knocking him unconscious. Carol suggests to Mark that they push him overboard, but Mark refuses and goes below deck for a first aid kit. Carol then pushes Beverley into the lake and he drowns. Andrea does not believe her father's death was an accident, and although Detective Inspector MacLennan reports that the skipper of the ferry saw Beverley fall to the deck, not overboard, the coroner returns a verdict of accidental death. As she is still in Beverley's will, Carol suggests to Mark that he leave to avoid further suspicion falling upon them and that she will join him in a month. However, when Carol has not arrived after six weeks, Mark returns to the estate to find it deserted. MacLennan tells him that Carol left three weeks earlier and admits that he has no case against them. MacLennan then drives Mark to a nearby house where he discovers Carol with Vincent Gordon and learns that they have been married for three weeks. Realizing that he has been duped, and despite Carol's pleas, Mark meets MacLennan in the bar, tells him the whole story and leaves in his custody.
Monti De Lyle
John "pinky" Green
Robert L. Lippert
J. Elder Wills
Nicol plays an American writer who rents a lakeside cottage in England in an attempt to cure his writer's block. He befriends an unhappily married couple living across the lake, played by Hillary Brooke and Sidney James, and, falling under Brooke's spell (as many a noir sap before him), gets mixed up in her scheme to kill her husband before the husband can remove her from his will. Adding a further noir feel, the film is told in flashback as Nicol relates his yarn to an initially unseen listener.
Directing the film from his own script, which in turn was based on his own novel, was Ken Hughes. Then 32, Hughes was a rising force in British cinema, having directed eight films in the past two years and written the scripts for all but the first. Years later, he'd direct his two best-remembered movies: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and Cromwell (1970).
Heat Wave was based on Hughes' novel High Wray, which he later said was heavily inspired by the style of Raymond Chandler, his favorite author. "My agent sent the novel around," Hughes recalled, "and a copy got to Hammer Films' Tony Hinds. They liked it; and when they discovered I was also 'Ken Hughes the director,' the deal was set. So I wrote the screenplay, too."
Production took place in August 1953 at Hammer's own Bray Studios, as well as on location in England's lake district. Hughes remembered Bray as being too small to handle major sets or backlot construction: "The stages were small, but, with a bit of ingenuity, they worked. All confined theater stages and studios force you to use your imagination. The rich appearance of Hammer Films was due to the ingenuity and skill of its art directors who had to work within the confines. So, more money was available for dressing, decor, and furnishings."
Indeed, the final result, entitled The House Across the Lake for its British release in the summer of 1954 before being re-titled for America, was praised for its strong atmosphere. Today it's considered to be one of Hammer's best film-noir-style thrillers, with the feel of a B film made in Hollywood. Certainly Hillary Brooke makes for a solid femme fatale, attractive and sinister. (As the posters declared: "Her blood runs hot... but her heart is cold.")
Among her many credits, Brooke had appeared in two Sherlock Holmes films and was known for playing Lou Costello's girlfriend many times on the Abbott and Costello TV show. Soon she'd have a supporting role in Hitchcock's The Man Who knew Too Much (1956). Alex Nicol was also a reliable supporting actor, especially in westerns and war movies, but he had also just completed another "Hammer noir" in England: The Black Glove (aka Face the Music) (1954).
By Jeremy Arnold
Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio, Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography
Wayne Kinsey, Hammer Films: A Life in Pictures
This film's British release title was The House Across the Lake. Actress Joan Hickson, listed in the cast as "Mrs. Hardcastle," was not seen in the print viewed.