Daily Archives: February 21, 2020

Night of the Big Heat (1967)

*. The gang’s all here. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing (the latter credited as only “guest starring,” whatever that means). Directed by Terence Fisher. With a story by the staggeringly prolific (and now largely forgotten) John Lymington about an alien life form that burns people to a crisp. Sure it was put out by a small studio (Planet Film Productions, who had just done the very similar Island of Terror the year previously), and obviously it had no budget to work with, but really: how bad could it be?
*. Night of the Big Heat answers that question.
*. Since they didn’t have any money to spend on the monsters they ditched the idea in the novel of fire spiders from Mars (or wherever) and went with a glowing blob that makes a high-pitched, cicada-like whine. This blob was, however, so disappointing that they decided to conceal the alien’s appearance until the very end. This has two unfortunate consequences: (1) for most of the movie we only see actors reacting to the monster by screaming at the camera and then flaring out in white light; (2) when the big reveal finally does come it’s an even bigger letdown.
*. It’s not just the monster. Night of the Big Heat can’t even sell its basic premise, which is that a small island off the English coast is experiencing an extreme heat wave in the middle of winter. Unfortunately, the only way they had to represent this was to douse the (male) cast with glycerin that is supposed to look like sweat. Except it doesn’t. The shirts are stained in ways that don’t follow any familiar sweat pattern. Meanwhile, Cushing never takes his jacket off (despite it appearing to be soaked as well) and Jane Merrow looks like she’s freezing in her bikini. Which she probably was. The film was shot in February and March! In England!
*. The script was apparently a work in progress that nobody was satisfied with. It’s a talky film and all of the talk is bad. I guess the sexual angle was thought to be a way of turning up the heat further, but it’s just dull. The explanation for the aliens is dumb even by 1967 standards. The characters behave like idiots. Right after warning Cushing not to go near the pit, in which he will be killed, Lee sees something glowing in the pit, complains about how hot it’s getting and decides . . . to go into the pit to check it out. Makes sense. I mean, he’s a scientist. As for Merrow’s character, she’s much too dumb to live but somehow does.
*. Relased in the U.S. as Island of the Burning Damned. I wonder which title is worse. I honestly feel like it’s a toss-up.
*. If you have a sweet tooth for this sort of fare then you’ll get a smile out of some of the terrible dialogue (“I wanted her! I wanted her body!”) and the general air of silliness. But in answer to the question of how bad it could be the only answer is Plenty.