16 May 2009 | FilmFlaneur
A House worth a visit
In 1950, American producer Robert Lippert formed a business alliance with Hammer studios. Under the agreement, Lippert would provide American acting talent - frequently shop-worn stars or just supporting actors who fancied a profitable trip out of the country - while Hammer would supply the rest of the cast and the production facilities. Together they would split the profits. Famous for his concern with the bottom line, Lippert produced over 140 films between 1946 and 1955, characteristically genre pieces such as I Shot Jesse James or Rocketship XM. For the British deal, most of the films were noir-ish thrillers - and include this title.
Sidney James, a regular in this run of productions, appears in House Across The Lake. He plays successfully against type for once, as a millionaire in possession of a straying wife. Directed by Ken Hughes from his own novel, and who a year later also directed another highlight of James' career in Joe Macbeth (1955), as well as later Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) this taut, entirely successful noir thriller is one of the highlights of the Lippert-Hammer noir series (another is The Glass Cage - both available on DVD). A down-and-out writer (Alex Nichol) is invited across the lake to a rich household where he is naturally soon ensnared by a cunning fatale, leading to a waterborne death and inevitable double cross. Although the lure of sex is not quite as explicit as in The Flanagan Boy, which also appears as part of the Hammer series now reissued, House Across The Lake still manages to suggest perfectly satisfactorily the moral quagmire into which the urges of men lead them as well as an effective noir universe, which includes an extended flashback and, that archetypal device, the rueful voice-over. Recommended.