Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Heatwave Lasted Four Days

(Doug Jackson, 1974)
At the dawn of the era of Canadian sleaze, the National Film Board itself actually got a piece of the action with this film, originally serialized on CBC. Gordon Pinsent plays an amoral TV cameraman who neglects his family in favor of hard drinkin' and wooing bikini-clad teenagers. When he accidentally captures escaped convict Lawrence Dane on his news camera, he tries to play the situation to his advantage, but then things get complicated. In a sense this is the mirror-image of "The Silent Partner" - no one is particularly clever, and the ending is designed as a stern lesson that crime does not pay. Unfortunately the lack of shifting power dynamics between antihero and villain means that Pinsent, who is a great heel, doesn't really have that much to do; he simply disappears for a big chunk of the second half, tripping up the momentum as he cedes center stage to the criminals. The film-manipulation motif of the early scenes is not followed through, Al Waxman's news director disappears well before the climax, and the musical commentary is absurd. Still, while the film's moralizing anti-thriller posture is ultimately an annoyance, the film does have a decent bag of tricks - there's a respectable attention to internal logic, and a real sense of malevolent tension runs through it. Also, the costume and set design are 70s to the max, a genuine bonus.

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