Night of the Big Heat (film)

Night of the Big Heat is a 1967 British science fiction movie released by Planet Film Productions. Based on the 1959 novel of the same name by John Lymington, the film was directed by Terence Fisher, and starred Patrick Allen, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Jane Merrow.

Night of the Big Heat
Italian theatrical poster
Directed byTerence Fisher
Produced byTom Blakeley
Ronald Liles
Written byJane Baker
Pip Baker
Ronald Liles
Based onnovel Night of the Big Heat by John Lymington
StarringChristopher Lee
Patrick Allen
Peter Cushing
Sarah Lawson
Jane Merrow
Music byMalcolm Lockyer
CinematographyReginald H. Wyer
Edited byRod Nelson-Keys
Production
company
Planet Film Productions
Distributed byPlanet Film Distributors
Release date
May 1967 (UK)
1971 (USA)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Box office509,439 admissions (France)[1]

The film was released theatrically in the United States in the winter of 1971 by Maron Films as Island of the Burning Damned where it was paired up on a nationwide double bill with Godzilla's Revenge, but the poster art confused it with Island of Terror from 1966 which only starred Peter Cushing. The title was changed years later to Island Of The Burning Doomed for American television.

Plot

Jeff and Frankie Callum run The Swan, an inn on the remote island of Fara, somewhere off the Scottish coast. Jeff, a professional novelist, hires a secretary, but this turns out to be Angela Roberts, a younger woman with whom he had an affair some time before, and who has come to the island with the intent of luring Jeff away from his wife, or at least causing trouble in their marriage. The Callums moved to Fara Island so that Jeff could escape Angela's amorous advances (although as far as Frankie knows, it was to escape the tedium of city life on the mainland).

Not helping matters much is the fact that despite the fact it's the middle of winter, Fara Island is experiencing a stifling and inexplicable heat wave, with temperatures in the 90s and rising daily. It has become so hot that cars stall, beer bottles shatter, televisions explode, and telephones have ceased to work.

Into this tense situation comes Godfrey Hanson, a mysterious scientist from the mainland who rents a room at The Swan. Hanson spends his time exploring the island, setting up motion-sensitive cameras and taking soil samples. The locals, including the Callums, find this suspicious, especially since quite a lot more is happening on Fara than just the heat and Hanson's snooping.

A tramp is burned to death in a cave by something emitting a high-pitched whirring sound. Later, a farmer claims his sheep are all dead. Hanson examines the dead sheep and finds their corpses are badly burnt, whilst Swan regular Bob Hayward is attacked by something on the road while driving into town. He crashes after being blinded by a bright light, which also creates enough heat to ignite the car's petrol tank. Meanwhile, another pub regular, losing his mind because of the heat, attempts to attack Angela whilst she's working, but when she brains him with an ashtray he flees and ends up burned to death as well.

Jeff finally corners Hanson and demands answers from him. According to the scientist, Fara Island is the site of an invasion by extraterrestrials, whose extremely high temperature burns any living creature that gets too close to them. Jeff and Hanson resolve to stop the aliens with the help of local physician Dr. Vernon Stone.

Stone tries to get to Fara's radar station so he can alert the mainland of the invasion, but is waylaid by the aliens and killed. Hanson tries to makes it next, but witnesses the death of Stella Hayward, Bob's wife, and realises the aliens are attracted to light. At the radar station, he learns from meteorologist Ken Stanley and his colleague Foster that the aliens have already destroyed all their communications equipment, making it impossible to call for help.

Quickly formulating a plan, Hanson is joined by Jeff, Frankie and Angela at the radar station. He and Foster will set fire to bales of hay in a field, attracting the aliens, and then lob dynamite into the field, hopefully destroying them, whilst the others signal for help with flare pistols.

This plan quickly fails, and Foster and then Hanson are both killed. Surrounded by the deadly aliens, the situation looks hopeless when a sudden thunderstorm breaks. Unexpectedly the rain brings death to the aliens, and Jeff, Frankie, Angela and Ken all survive.

Cast

Production

The novel on which the film is based had been adapted for British television by ITV in 1960. It was intended to use the TV script with some embellishing, but it required several changes and writers Pip and Jane Baker were hired to work on it. Filming took place at Pinewood Studios, whilst exteriors for the pub around which the action takes place were filmed at The Swan Inn near Milton Keynes, which is today surrounded by housing rather than the fields seen in the film. The opening shots of what is referred to in the film as the island's meteorological station are actually of the transmitter station at Portland Bill, Dorset.[2]

References

  1. Box office information for Terence Fisher films in France at Box office Story
  2. John Hamilton, The British Independent Horror Film 1951-70 Hemlock Books 2013 p 162-166
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