Thursday, 5 March 2015

Night of the Big Heat (1967)

Britain’s Planet Film Productions strikes again with this 1967 follow-up to ISLAND OF TERROR. In fact the movie was known in the US under the rather better title of ISLAND OF THE BURNING DAMNED. Either way it’s a film that doesn’t quite measure up to its predecessor but is still a lot of good old fashioned British fun. 

Once again it's time to sit in the pub and worry about aliens trying to steal our beer

The remote island of Fara is undergoing a tropical heatwave in November. Brusque Christopher Lee is trying to find out why in his hotel room packed with laboratory equipment. He’s staying at the local pub run by author Patrick Allen and his (real-life) wife Sarah Lawson. What she doesn’t know is that they moved to the island because Patrick was suffering an acute case of writer’s block due to having it off with Jane Merrow on the side. Bad girl Jane has followed him to the island and the unusual weather allows her plenty of opportunity to try and entice him back by wearing nothing but a bikini or a blouse that is probably far wetter than it needs to be.

Patrick Allen confronts his writer's block

As with ISLAND OF TERROR, disposable locals are being bumped off by Something Horrible. First to go is dear old Sydney Bromley. Others soon follow, their bodies found burned to a crisp. But what’s doing the burning? We don’t get to see until right at the end, which is probably just as well as the monsters are a bit of an anti-climax, especially if you’ve seen ISLAND OF TERROR and are expecting something of at least the minimal technical achievement of the silicates. Instead we get something resembling a blancmange crossed with a plastic bag. Whereas the monsters in ISLAND OF TERROR were created by man’s misexperimentation, these creatures are from another planet and are hoping to use earth for their own devices. However, they figure without rain, which means they really haven’t planned their takeover at all if they’ve come to Britain, although I suppose the really stupid aliens ended up in Wales.

The aliens still don't quite understand how to play hide and seek

NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT is fun, but it’s nowhere near as good as its predecessor. The science fiction elements (from a novel by John Lymington) often take a backseat to Patrick Allen getting to grips with a moist Jane Merrow. Admittedly she’s rather appealing in her heated up state, but one soon starts wishing the monsters would turn up. Peter Cushing is along for the ride (and only about three scenes) as the local doctor, but he exhibits none of the enthusiasm for his role that we saw in ISLAND OF TERROR. Many of the same personnel are carried over from that film, including director Terence Fisher and composer Malcolm Lockyer, but sadly this time the magic is rather missing.

Christopher Lee reacts to the news that after this he's starring in DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE

Odeon’s transfer of NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT is not as good as ISLAND OF TERROR, but it’s perfectly passable for a film of this vintage. Where the package really wins is in the extras, which include a commentary track by Marcus Hearn, star Sir Christopher Lee and screenwriters Pip and Jane Baker. It’s the best kind of commentary, being pleasantly chatty and at the same time informative and I can highly recommend it. We also get a 19 minute featurette on Sir Christopher’s career and an image gallery. NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT is more a Saturday afternoon time waster than a classic of the genre, but this is a very decent package for this minor footnote in British genre history. 

Odeon Entertainment have released NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT on Region B Blu-ray and Region 2 DVD and it's out now

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