Night of the Big Heat (1967)

Night of the Big Heat (1967)

Whilst the rest of Britain freezes in deepest winter, the northern island of Fara bakes in usually hot weather. The crew at the Met station have no idea what is causing this heat but when people start to hear strange noises and are found scorched to death, the locals begin to suspect something. A scientist on the island studying this phenomenon believes that the island is being used a beachhead for an invasion by aliens who need high temperatures to survive.

 

Terence Fisher was one of the core figures at the centre of Hammer Horror’s emergence as the top horror-making company in the late 50s and early 60s but left the studio during the 60s to go off and make a trilogy of sci-fi films for another studio (the others being The Earth Dies Screaming and Island of Terror, ironically both are two of my favourite films). The Night of the Big Heat is the third film he made and is just as strong as the other films, at least until the aliens turn up which ironically again, was the problem of the other two films.

We are given the traditional isolationist community in peril, introduced to a few of the key local characters and an odd moment or two where some minor character is killed by an off-screen menace. There’s nothing different about the approach to the film than anything else of the period – keep the monsters out of sight until the very end is the key here. But a good job is done to keep us interested throughout – the pace is quite brisk and there is a foreboding sense of doom. We’re in no hurry to see the aliens and for most of the time the buzzing noise that they make is enough to keep us just a little bit scared and curious as to what they’ll look like. The constant sight of people being killed off by bright lights does get a bit laughable – they’re humans, not vampires! Some of the science is also bordering on the nonsensical too but when it’s delivered by Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, it sounds like scientific fact.

When you do see the aliens, they look AWFUL and in the DVD commentary there is a lot of amusement and laughing when they do come on screen. It’s a total let down for the finale, especially as it is the point in the film where everything is supposed to come to a head, not descend into a farce. The only major problem is the rather unconvincing love triangle plot that’s forced down our throats. It’s pretty pointless, doesn’t go anywhere and doesn’t add anything to the plot except pad it out.

Filmed during winter, the actors wear damp shirts and had glycerine smothered over their faces to give the illusion that it’s hot – and believe me you’ll sweat during this film just watching them. You can feel the heat coming from the screen at times. Peter Cushing keeps his suit on all of the time though which is a bit worrying especially as it’s supposed to be really hot – you’d think the guy would be sweating a bit. It’s unfortunate that Cushing is given such a limited part in this film but as usual, Cushing is excellent. I’ve never seen him give a bad performance – ever. Even in some of the crap which he starred in, Cushing was always head and shoulders above the material.

Unlike his co-star, Christopher Lee, Cushing actually manages to make us believe everything that’s happening. Christopher Lee as the arrogant and abrasive scientist Godfrey Hanson doesn’t really work – he’s such a complete and utter asshole but we’re supposed to root for him? Lee doesn’t convince as much as he should and needs to here but he admits in the DVD commentary that the script was changed a few times and the actors tended to ignore it most of the time since the changes were even worse. Patrick Allen also has a big role here and I wouldn’t have mentioned him except for the fact he’s got arguably one the most recognisable voices this side of Darth Vader.

 

**Spoilers ahead**

this is one of the few films that I can recall where neither Lee or Cushing actually make it to the end alive.

**End Spoilers**

 

Night of the Big Heat doesn’t rank with the best work of Fisher, Lee or Cushing but it’s still a great dose of British sci-fi/horror from the 60s. If, like me, you’re a Cushing and Lee nut, then you’ll watch it regardless but for those who aren’t, there is better work out there.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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