The House Across The Lake is a Hammer Film; you may recognize Hammer as purveyor of all those wonderful horror films from the 50s, 60s and 70s. You know the ones I mean, most of them starred either Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing (often both), with many directed by the criminally underappreciated Terence Fisher. Hammer weren’t just a horror studio though. They made all types of films including comedies, dramas and many a straight up thriller.
This leads me to ‘House Across the Lake’. Back in them there olden days, film studios from the UK would often approach production houses from across the pond to help increase the budget and market of their visual wares. These films would often be dressed up to appear as American films and would be littered with American almost/has been stars.
‘House Across the Lake’ is a great example of this, aping Hollywood B movie noir so much that for the first half of the film it is only the appearance of a certain Sidney James in a rare dramatic role that gives you an inkling the film is British.
Starring Alex Nicol (who incidentally directed the woefully bad horror ‘The Screaming skull’) as Mark Kendricks, washed up pulp novelist, booze hound and incorrigible womaniser who has slunk off to Lake Windermere to get away from the bottle and the bitches to finish his novel.
Unfortunately for him, on the other side of the lake are Beverly and Carol Forest a millionaire husband and his (apparently) beautiful wife, he makes the money and drinks the booze. She spends the money, sleeps around and also drinks the booze. Before long Kendrick finds himself drinking booze with them and is slowly drawn into their twisted marriage and ‘House Across the Lake’ becomes a of tale of sex, murder jealously and…booze.
That sounds pretty cool when I write it down but unfortunately ‘House Across the Lake’ falls a little flat, its characters and premise a hodge-podge of classic films like Double Indemnity’, ‘The Third Man’ and ‘The Lady from Shanghai’ but it fails to build any of the suspense and excitement that ooze from every pore of those awesome bastards, choosing instead to dwell in the dark shadows of cliché and mediocrity. Much of this is down to the script which drips with ‘on the nose’ dialogue as the characters rush to tell you exactly what they are feeling without any subtlety or hint of a subtext, sucking all life out of the movie and leaving the viewer bored stiff.
Amusingly this lack of decent writing is actually mirrored in two scenes, first Kendrick regrettably sends of some work he knows to be substandard and a second where he is fired from his publisher for being rubbish. I’d like to think this is an admission of guilt by writer/director Ken Hughes, who did do some good stuff in his day including ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’.
Personally I am glad to have seen this film but if you’re not a completest follower of film noir and black and white thrillers or even fervent Sid James fan (who for the record is pretty good in a straight role) I would give this one a miss and watch the classics.
The House Across The Lake is released on DVD on August 18