This British ‘hybrid’ thriller from 1954 features American actors Alex Nicol and Hillary Brooke plus South African-born Brit actor Sid James in the lead roles. Based on the novel ‘High Wray’ by Ken Hughes, THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE was produced as a B-feature by Hammer Films and shot at Bray Studios.

In the opening scene we see a car being driven along a country road. We then cut to a bar in which American pulp novelist Mark Kendrick (Alex Nicol) talks to a man who has just walked in – from the tone of the conversation and his slightly inebriated state we assume that he is about to reveal a rather unsavoury story… The film then goes into flashback and we see Mark spending some time in a hired cottage in the Lake District (in actuality it was Maidenhead nearby Hammer's Bray Studio's), struggling to complete his next novel. Hoping that the tranquillity of the Lake District keeps him away from sloe gin and blonde femme fatales, he then observes that in the house across the lake there seems to be a party going on every other night. Suddenly he receives a phone call from that very house, well, to be a little more precise the caller is Carol Forrest (Hillary Brooke) who wants to know if he can boat a few people across the lake for a big party thrown by her in the large building which she shares with her rich husband Beverly (Sid James) and her stepdaughter Andrea (Susan Stephen). Quite how Carol got Mark’s number we don’t know – anyway, after initially hesitating (the Forrests’ own launcher boat has broken down) he agrees and no sooner does he clap his eyes on the blonde stunner (Brooke was 40 at the time) than he is absolutely smitten. (“She may have been Lorelei luring sailors to their doom except she wasn’t combing her hair…”).

Carol, who really is a calculating femme fatale, invites Mark to the party as a ‘thank you’ for his help. After a few sarcastic remarks, mainly aimed at himself and his inappropriate clothing (“I might be mistaken for a Volga boatman”) he eventually accepts and enters the grand reception hall – only to see her openly flirting with piano player Vincent Gordon (Paul Carpenter) who happens to be… her lover. Making his exit, Mark meets Carol’s considerably older (and not very handsome) husband in his boat on the quay and the two practically become best pals on sight. So much so that Beverly insists that Mark return to the house with him for another drink. Not for the party but to get drunk on bourbon and play billiards until the early hours. Beverly explains to Mark his great love for Carol - who openly shows her 'affection' for Vincent and just about every other man she happens to fancy on a whim. On one occasion, Mark and Beverly witness Carol embracing her lover in a boat – clearly she doesn't give a damn. Few men would put up with this sort of behaviour but Carol, it appears, is able to put her spell on any man she fancies though her behaviour only increases the hatred which her stepdaughter Andrea feels towards her. During another occasion Andrea scolds her father for being a coward for putting up with his wife’s behaviour.

Never mind Andrea… soon Carol will ensnare our pulp writer into her conniving web and he rather likes it. In case you wonder how the sudden switch of loyalty comes about: Beverly is dying and tells Mark he has only about a year to live, however, seeing how his wife makes a mockery of him it is now his intention to cut her completely out of his will. Rather stupidly, Mark mentions this to Carol who is now aware that she will have to act fast in order to maintain her lavish lifestyle. Mark by the way (despite ALL the warning signs and there's plenty of them) is now so taken with Carol that he loses all focus on his work. As a consequence, his publishers think the first chapters of his next novel are rubbish and his agent (who tried his best) is forced to let him go. Mark, now broke and in need of a another publisher, even has to ask him for a fiver.
However, after he decides to take a train back to London (which he misses) he bumps into Beverly who invites him for one last boat trip and a few farewell drinks between friends. It turns out to be a boat trip that Mark won’t forget in a hurry thanks to the ultra-scheming and two-timing Carol…

Written and directed by Emmy-winning director Ken Hughes (probably best known for the 1970 historical drama ‘Cromwell’ although many would regard his 1963 crime film 'The Small World of Sammy Lee' as his classic), ‘The House Across the Lake’ is a competent noirish little piece. Hughes keeps it all going at a fair pace and there can be no complaints about the leads. Sid James (before his comic days) also shows his versatility (as he did a few years before in 'Last Holiday') as the doomed and benevolent Beverly while Hillary Brooke (a native New Yorker) convinces with her English accent. The ever-stylish Alan Wheatley is on board too as a clever police inspector but the film remains unsatisfactory due to its illogical conclusion. That said, the plot suffers from a number of loose ends throughout.

Seeing how the film’s running time is just a little over one hour, the good people at Network have thrown in some interesting Bonus Features including an insightful interview with the late Renee Glynne (RIP wherever your star shines now…) who had worked on the film as a ‘continuity supervisor' plus ‘The Dame Wore Tweed: Barry Foreshaw examines Brit Noir’. We’re also treated to an episode of the rather dated 1960s TV-series ‘Scotland Yard’ (episode: The Drayton Case) plus Image Gallery. There’s also a limited edition booklet written by Neil Sinyard. THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE is presented as a brand-new HD re-master on Blu-ray.