Night of the Big Heat Film Details
Overview: While mainland Britain shivers in deepest winter, the northern island of Fara bakes in the nineties. The boys at the Met station have no more idea what is going on than the regulars at the Swan. Only a stand-offish visiting scientist
Review: A charming small scale British sci fi thriller from 1967, ‘Night of the Big Heat’ benefits from some good performances, solid direction, excellent set design, good editing and a plot which, whilst talky, does not lapse into boredom. In the depths of winter, while the mainland is freezing in sub zero temperatures, the island of Fara is experiencing a highly localised and inexplicable heat wave. A visiting scientist, Hanson (Christopher Lee) deduces that a bizarre alien species, possibly the vanguard of an oncoming invasion, is responsible for the weather anomaly as part of an effort to alter Earth’s climate to suit their own needs. A group of increasingly isolated islanders prepare to face their foe and attempt to warn the mainland of the growing threat. Of course, much has been said of how a reasonably well made film was let down in the closing stages by the hugely inferior and disappointing aliens. Clearly, whatever slice of an already limited budget was apportioned to the special effects department was grossly inadequate. Consequently we are subjected to the spectacle of a couple of very slow moving, sub William Hartnell era Doctor Who, fried – egg looking blobs that somehow radiate intense heat and noise. Personally, I think the strengths of the film are enough to salvage it from complete ruin, but I can certainly understand how let down people must have felt by the lack lustre pay off. One question that does cross my mind, however, is just what should the aliens have looked like? Apparently in the original book they were carnivorous, heat generating, spiders and large maggot like things in the 1960 TV play but I can’t help wondering how the special effects people should have approached it in the movie. I quite admire the decision not to make them stereotypically humanoid as is the case in so many sci fi thrillers. Instead we are presented with apparently sentient but completely non human, ie alien, creatures, perhaps all the better to disrupt the equilibrium of our expectations. Had they been just an energy form, that would have been too ‘Star Trekky’, had they been humanoid that would have been clichéd and, as they are, they’re a little too early Doctor Who so the question remains; what should they have looked like? Fried egg looking blobs notwithstanding, the film, as mentioned earlier does have some strengths. Christopher Lee is on good form as the disagreeable scientist Hanson and Peter Cushing approaches the smaller role of Dr. Stone from what, for him, is an interestingly naturalistic perspective. Patrick Allen is as dependable as ever as Callum and is well supported by real life wife Sarah Lawson as Frankie and Jane Merrow as erstwhile on screen paramour Angela. Other cast members including Kenneth Cope and William Lucas all turn in adequate performances that help the film achieve its goals. Terence Fisher’s direction is solid and efficient and he handles the film’s most awkward moment, the attempted rape scene, with considerable bravery even though an understandable element of reticence, discernible also in a similar moment in Fisher’s ‘Frankenstein Must be Destroyed’ (1969), is apparent, but works well in what I would argue is a surprisingly non misogynistic movie. Angela’s increasing marginalisation is quite well handled too. Initially seeming like a predatory vamp, her strength seems to be drained after Callum eventually comes clean to his wife about their affair and she assumes a far less threatening role, her vengeance becoming further distilled through interactions that could never have been predicted when she originally formatted what could have been either a revenge scenario or a straightforward attempt to usurp Frankie. Although underdeveloped in places, the film is technically adequate and I personally think they did a good job of making people look like they were suffering from heat effects in the middle of a cold February. The DVD commentary, however, is really unfocused; the film itself is seldom talked about but it is interesting to hear the random things Christopher Lee comes out with and, consequently, it’s never less than entertaining. I also noticed that the DVD cut is slightly longer than the one last shown on TV here in the UK with an extra scene involving the dissemination of the walky talkies which, in the other version, just appear from nowhere. All told, I find the film makes for a pleasant distraction; it’s a nice representation of times past, a period I vaguely remember from my childhood, and stands up to subsequent viewings as long as you can forgive the fried eggs! Addendum; I have since managed to track down a copy of the book and am now sure Christopher Lee must have read it, so convincing is his portrayal of Hanson (Harson in the book),it really is as if the character has come to life! Also, the aliens weren’t spiders; the real aliens sent these big, nasty spiders to see if they could survive on our planet prior to their own possible arrival.
Country: United Kingdom
Duration: 94 min
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Also known as: Остров обреченных гореть,Island of the Burning Damned,Brennender Tod,Island of the Burning Doomed,Night of the Big Heat,Tromos stin Islandia,Demoni di fuoco,O ihos tou thanatou,La Nuit de la grande chaleur,Radiaciones en la noche,La notte del grande caldo,Redselsnatten