The House Across the Lake (1954) | DVD review - Sultry British film noir from the legendary Hammer studios


HYPNOTIC… FASCINATING… Novelist Mark Kendrick (Alex Nicol) becomes attracted to Carol Forrest (Hillary Brooke), the predatory trophy wife of his wealthy financier neighbour Beverly (Sidney James), who resides in a grand lakeside manor called High Wray with his devoted daughter Andrea (Susan Stephen). When Carol finishes her blatant affair with pianist Vincent (Paul Carpenter), Carol moves onto Mark who, having lost a crucial publishing deal, becomes easy prey when she plots to do away with her husband...

House Across the Lake (1954)

…A LURE TO ALL WHO CROSSED HER PATH The House Across the Lake (opens in new tab) (1954) is an early feature by writer-director Ken Hughes (opens in new tab) (of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fame), adapted from his own novel High Wray. This strongly cast British noir (called Heat Wave in the US), was one of a series of now highly regarded B-movies jointly financed by Hammer Films and famed US producer Robert L Lippert (Valley of Eagles (opens in new tab)).

Sympathetic performances by Susan Stephen (opens in new tab) and a pre-Carry On Sidney James (opens in new tab) outshine those given by Hollywood imports Alex Nicol (opens in new tab), playing the Robert Taylor-styled boozy pulp writer, and Abbott & Costello regular Hillary Brooke (opens in new tab), whose blonde femme fatale evokes the likes of Lana Turner or Barbara Stanwyck. Alan Wheatley, who'd go to play the Sheriff of Notttingham in TV's The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1955, plays the homicide detective determined to get to the bottom of the murder, which is told in flashback.

Made with more polish than usual for a British B, The House Across the Lake (opens in new tab) bristles and crackles with jibes at adultery, womanly wiles and how ‘sooner or later everybody wants something from somebody’, and boasts a sultry theme tune from composer Ivor Slaney (Here Comes the Double Deckers) that’s film noir personified.

Shot at Bray Studios, the exteriors make good use of the Grade II listed Downs Place (which would appear in such classic Hammer horrors fare as The Curse of Frankenstein (opens in new tab) and The Mummy (opens in new tab)) as well as the front porch of the neighbouring Victorian Gothic country house Oakley Court (aka Frank-N-Furter’s castle in The Rocky Horror Picture Show).

House Across the Lake (1954)

THE UK DVD RELEASE Part of Network Distributing’s The British Film collection The House Across the Lake (opens in new tab)