Review: Night of the Big Heat (dir. Terence Fisher, 1967)

The Night of the Big Heat

The Night of the Big Heat
UK, 1967
Director: Terence Fisher
Writers: Ronald Liles, Jane Baker and Pip Baker

Review by Katy Quigley.

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing team up once again in this B-movie from the 1960s and unfortunately the results are disappointing.

It is November and on the remote island of Fara in the Scottish Highlands, the secluded inhabitants are doing the best they can to cope in an unusual heatwave. Inn owners Jeff and Frankie (Patrick Allen and Sarah Lawson) welcome two out-of-towners, one a mysterious scientist called Dr Godfrey Hanson (Christopher Lee), the other Jeff’s former lover Angela (Jane Merrow). Whilst Jeff battles with his feelings for Angela and tries to keep his infidelity a secret from Frankie, temperatures swell and as people start dying in mysterious circumstances suspicions turn to Dr Hanson. But he potentially has proof that Fara is the landing ground for an alien invasion…

Night of the Big Heat suffers from a weak plot which is stretched to its limits to reach the 94-minute running time. For most of the film little is happening other than lots of shots of people being hot (and conversations about people being hot). Whilst the performances are unsurprisingly excellent, the actors bigheat3struggle with a complete lack of characterisation. The menace that seems to be troubling the island is purely focused around the heat, which in itself is not particularly terrifying. Whilst people do scream in terror when the alien makes itself known to them, the closing scenes show the invading forces to be akin to lava, which is not a particularly frightening villain or deserving of the reaction it obtains.

A rather dull storyline based around the love triangle of Jeff – Angela – Frankie is the only aspect of the film particularly worthy of note purely because of its appalling gender politics. Angela tries her best to win back Jeff after their dalliance on the mainland, showing little remorse for what this might mean for Frankie. In one particularly nasty scene Angela mocks Frankie for Jeff’s infidelities after Frankie (unaware of Jeff’s relationship with Angela) tries to warn her to keep away from her man, suggesting that women cannot trust each other as they will always be competing for the loyalty of a man. Jeff, meanwhile, shows that he’s not worthy of either woman by being completely without any respectable personality traits. When Frankie does find out about the love affair, for Jeff keeps bigheat2insisting on kissing Angela (or shaking her violently) when Frankie is in the next room, Jeff declares ‘She was a slut and I wanted her… she’s no more than a common slut. She never meant a thing to me and she never will.’ This shows Jeff in quite a revealing light: he is unable to control his own penis and subsequently blames the woman for his inability to not sleep with her.

In fact, the most troubling aspect of the film comes through the characterisation of, and the way people react to, Angela. As Jeff’s former lover she is persistent in pursuing him from the big city lights to the middle of nowhere: he is apparently so amazing that she is solely focused in getting him back. She could indeed be a precursor to Glenn Close’s bunny boiler, if Jeff was not giving her such mixed signals. He demands that she leave before groping and gratuitously kissing her, leaving poor old Angela confused, as well she might be. Whilst Jeff is seemingly unable to resist her charms, the blame is placed solely on Angela’s shoulders. The character is hyper-sexualised, taking her clothes off at any opportune moment, and as such what is Jeff to do but pounce on her whenever he can? This bigheat1indeed comes to a head later in the film when two regulars at the inn first notice Angela. They look her up and down as if she is a piece of meat and subsequently one of them tries to rape her, which the film seemingly tries to blame on a mixture of the heat and Angela’s sexuality.

The film therefore agrees with Jeff’s line that Angela is a slut, and as a consequence, deserves whatever happens to her. Unfortunately this gender dynamic is the only thing that makes this film worthy of any kind of note. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee fans will find this a must see simply because the acting greats grace the film with their presence, but there is not much more here for most viewers.