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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

THE GAMBLOER AND THE LADY (1952) HEAT WAVE (1954)

This is Volume Three in the Kit Parker/VCI Hammer Film Noir series, featuring low-budget two-fers made by the iconic British company before they found their particular niche in Sci-Fi and Horror. Produced in partnership with American Robert Lippert, they usually star a fading Hollywood ‘name’ and sometimes use a Hollywood director to call the shots, everything else is all U.K. In this set, most of the interest comes from the B-side, a dandy little James M. Cain rip-off called HEAT WAVE for no apparent reason. Ken Hughes, who went on to larger, though not necessarily better, things, pulls off the doom-laden flashback format with aplomb and some impressive low-key lensing from Walter Harvey. Alex Nicol, a sort of cross between Sterling Hayden & Ralph Meeker, plays a failing hack novelist drawn into an affair with a big, bad, beautiful blonde who’d like to see her rich old man die before he changes his will. What a shame that Alex has already buddied up with her old man. Then again, what’s a broke, horny fellow to do? Mighty familiar doings, but served up in a fast, tasty manner until they drop the ball right at the coda. GAMBLER has the bigger Hollywood name in Dane Clark and a decent storyline about an American entrepreneur in London who runs a few illegal, but classy gambling joints before he gets in over his head trying to fit in socially with his ritzy clientele. Kathleen Byron, the crazed nun from Powell & Pressburger’s BLACK NARCISSUS/’48, is his self-destructive ex, but the gal to watch is Naomi Chance, a positive ringer for Kate Winslet, as his new friend Lady Susan(!). Alas, the film, megged by Hollywood’s busiest hack, Sam Newfield (273 directing credits and dead at 64!), is lousy stuff with laughable character turns by some veddy, veddy bad British thesps and the threadbare look of a ‘50s anthology tv series. Nice opening teaser, though.

DOUBLE-BILL: Two near cousins, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE/’46 and DOUBLE INDEMNITY/'44, are probably too lux to put up next to HEAT WAVE. Instead, try Edgar Ulmer’s classic no-budget DETOUR/’45 which runs exactly one minute shorter at 67 minutes.



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