If there was one dream-team during the 1960s, it was Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and director Terence Fisher. Alone, they all did great works and together, no matter the combination, they made magic – mostly for Hammer Studios. So assumedly, you would think that when the three of them got together to make a movie featuring both horror and science-fiction elements that it would be automatic gold. Sadly, while it was not really a bad film overall, it was less than exciting. Maybe it was the source material or maybe it was the script by a plethora of writers that did it, but for whatever reason, while it was not exactly a boring film, you kind of wished there was a bit more going on. For the most part, the movie just trundled along until the final act until it finally picked up and by then, it was just a little bit too late.
There were some interesting scenes of course, a few of them involving the lovely Jane Merrow who comes to town in search of her lover played by Patrick Allen who just so happens to be a married man and one of the leads of this picture. Merrow plays quite the vixen which eventually leads to that famous line by Allen, ‘She’s a slut and I wanted her body,’ and really spices things up for a while in the absence of any real action. That might be a bit of a misnomer, for there is a bit of action sprinkled throughout the film to keep things moving along and to emphasize the alien threat that faces them all. Nobody might even know that there were aliens around if not for the irrepressible heat – uncanny due to the fact that it is supposed to be the middle of winter and here everyone is sweating like there is no tomorrow. Christopher Lee plays a scientist who has discovered said aliens and is currently conducting an investigation – a lot of good that does all the men and livestock that have paid the price for him taking his time.
This was definitely not one of Lee’s better performances, the man being quite wooden for the most part and frankly looking fairly uncomfortable. Perhaps filming in the actual dead of winter and pretending to be hot, covered in gel to simulate sweat was a factor in that, or maybe he just realized that this was not the best of films for his talents. Cushing on the other hand was as suave as ever and even during the extreme heat of the situation, the man still wore a full suit. The best performance of the film had to go to Allen though, getting some of the best material to work with in the ensemble cast. At times he seemed like the leading man he was supposed to be and at others, a man torn by the passions of the past coming back to the forefront thanks to the reappearance of Merrow into his life.
The special effects were decent and nothing that could be called ground-breaking and when it comes down to it, Fisher delivered a really decent, enjoyable picture. It could have had just a bit more horror present and maybe a bit more punch to make it truly memorable, but it was by no means a waste of time. While Night of the Big Heat is an all right movie, if offered a choice, watch a Hammer film over this one and see these men in their element doing what they do best.
3 out of 5