American “hack novelist” Mark Kendrick (Alex Nicol) sits at a yacht club bar and relates what amounts to a confessional to an unseen stranger (though the intended effect is that he is breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience). His story is a typical one for film noirs- overly so -involving an icy seductress of a wife, convenient circumstances which impulsively turn to murder and the usual duplicitous double crosses between supposed lovers. If there’s a lesson to be learned from film noirs, apparently it’s to never trust a married blonde.
“The House Across the Lake” is a strictly by-the-numbers low rent imitation James M. Cain tale of murder and deception, with the aping of the blonde femme fatale formula adhered to in such a rigorously obedient fashion that the predictable plot turns are practically announced in the dialogue so as to not cause undo stress or consternation to the viewer by the threat of any story development that might generate a hint of surprise. This British noir (yes Virginia, they do exist) by Ken Hughes (which he adapted from his own 1952 novel High Wray), is comprised of unmistakable echoes of seemingly half of Hollywood’s morally corrupt output from the 40’s including (but certainly not limited to) “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, “Double Indemnity” and “The Lady From Shanghai”, though the resulting mix serves as evidence that no matter how fine the initial ingredients, imitation is no proof of equitable quality, with even the limpid and uninspired voiceover narration (the overuse of this particular genre ingredient seems present here to vainly grant the simplistic narrative an illusion of structural complexity) emphasizing the strain Hughes’ script is under to provide a fresh coat of color to an already shopworn premise.
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I agree that ‘British Noir’ very much existed. But even as an Englishman, I would say that it is mostly best avoided.
Best wishes, Pete.