Interesting Content Ruined By A Disorganized Series Of Episo
rsoonsa | Lake Isabella, California | 03/24/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Additionally titled BURNING MAN and FLASH FIRE for its various releases, this Australian made film, shot in New South Wales is problematic for its producers from its outset due to several personality conflicts and extended shooting time that prematurely uses up its allocated budget, and although the storyline is at times nicely detailed, below standard post-production finishing and overmuch cutting jettisons the affair. Tom Skerritt plays as Howard Anderson, an American entrepreneur with a "passion for building" who is in process of erecting a tourist hotel in the Blue Mountains region, all the while unaware that his business partner, Julian Fane (Guy Doleman) has insured the incomplete structure for ten million dollars, far more than its actual worth, and plans its destruction as corollary to normal summer brush fires in order to collect a handsome sum through fraud. In line with this illicit scheme, Fane arranges for an arsonist to perform the incendiary deed, a young man who also happens to be the boyfriend of Anderson's daughter, and due to the future resort's being in the midst of a critical fire hazard sector (one of the many unexplained elements of the screenplay) Julian has every expectation that his dastardly design will come about without serious hindrance. As the local insurance firm victimized by the crime is majority owned by Fane, the policy's naturally skeptical underwriters, Lloyd's of London, deploy senior investigator George Engels (James Mason) to probe into the nature of the felony, made more sinister because of the death, possibly a homicide, of an insurance investigator (Wendy Hughes) who, in following clues was apparently coming close to the cause of the arson. The setting for the film is the week before Christmas, capstone of summer in the Antipodes, a dramatic background, but the links within the story are not smoothly compounded, resulting in the presentation of events that are rather difficult for a viewer to follow, a problem heightened by erratic editing, the mentioned heavy cutting, and poor sound and picture quality. Skerritt's semi-comatose and droning style is fatally invalidated by this dim sound processing but Mason is very effective, as ever, and enjoys the best dialogue with Hughes impressive as the too early written-out investigator; Doleman wins acting laurels with his performance as the malevolent Julian Fane."