Heatwave! (1974)

Since this ABC Movie of the Week uses an exclamation mark in its title, it’s safe to assume that this is no ordinary heatwave. If it was your routine heatwave, people would simply be sweating, short tempered, whining about their air conditioning not working and moaning about water restrictions. In short, it would be summer. Assigning the heatwave the dreaded Category 5 of punctuation though takes things to next level sizzle!

Heat-related catastrophes from such an intense and extended period of extreme temperatures would surely be breathtaking to behold. Roads buckling and buildings melting! Thirsty animals attacking humans in search of something, anything, to drink – even if it’s our blood! Crazed citizens pummeling each at Walmart for the last fan in stock! (Ok – that was actually just footage from last year’s Black Friday sale.) Even people boiling and catching fire right there in the streets!

Heatwave! though induces heatstroke in the viewer, but not from its torrent of torrid tragedies. Instead, none of this happens at all and the film reduces its alleged heatwave to a series of scenes of various shortages, brown outs, shots of a time and temperature sign telling us its really hot and characters perpetually drenched in sweat while complaining about the heat. So, it turns out to be a movie about summer. There was an instance of Bonnie Bedelia supposedly being menaced by a racoon in the woods, but even her wimpy husband thought that was laughable.

Bedelia is Laura, a woman who is eight months pregnant and married to Frank. Frank is a stockbroker who is in such a perpetually bad mood, the movie’s biggest mystery is why Laura ever went out on a second date with him, let alone marrying and starting a family with him. His sour disposition is nicely complimented by being such a timid turd that he allows he and his wife to get carjacked by an unarmed elderly man! (Would you be at all surprised to find out that he was driving a VW Bug?)

Facing the unrelenting heat in the city and with Frank’s business shut down, they decide to drive up to the cabin in the mountains that Laura’s parents have. Surely it will be cooler up there, right? And surely you checked the weather up there before you left, right? And you made sure you had enough gas? And took some water? Nah, that sounds like Navy SEALs type planning to me! He’s just douche in an ugly tie who can’t even get promoted to junior broker at work!

Enter the beer salesman! The beer salesman is a colorful chap Laura and Frank run into at a diner on the way to the cabin. He gives them several bottles of beer, which I am pretty sure is just what Laura’s obstetrician prescribed for a gal in her third trimester on such a sultry day. While the beer salesman’s presence in the film is utter nonsense and serves no purpose (except as a frothy deus ex machina later), he is only the second most laughable development.

Following a long, tedious, almost deadly tromp through the woods (especially for the viewer!) to their cabin, Laura goes into labor and with the help of the local doctor, delivers a premature son into this blazing world! But without an incubator, the baby will die! So does Frank do what any determined father would do and steal the beer salesman’s car and drives his baby and wife to wherever the nearest hospital is? Or does he suddenly become MacGyver and declare that he is going to build an incubator!

Heatwave! suffers from an unlikable and ineffective main character in Frank, who by the time he inexplicably shrugs all that off to construct an advanced medical device from a fish tank, fan, mini-fridge and cloth, has completely lost the audience. While Bedelia makes for a sympathetic Laura, maintaining her optimism and trying to be strong for her worthless husband, she can’t also overcome the movie’s plot, parched as it is for a nice tall cool drink of excitement, suspense or surprise.

The movie really goes nowhere, whatever crisis Frank and Laura have to endure are almost purely self-inflicted and the result of bad decision making. Mindlessly traveling to a remote area when she’s that pregnant and the weather is that bad just begs for some type of script rewrite to put them in a situation that doesn’t just leave you shaking your head at how dumb they are.

With the minimal effort made to demonstrate the heatwave’s effects (their clothes are soaked) and so much time spent on Frank and Laura doing nothing but traveling by car and foot, any entertainment value to be had evaporates like a mirage in the blistering sun. Viewers in search of a toasty treat that delivers should instead head over to The Twilight Zone which handled a heatwave in much better fashion in its “The Midnight Sun” episode and did so in almost one third the time.

© 2019 MonsterHunter

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