Films To Warm Your Winter

It was obvious back in November when Mother Nature dumped the first load of snow on the state that this winter would be a long one.

Depending on your attitude toward driving in blizzards, shoveling snow and scraping the car, this can seem like the beginning of being stuck in a refrigerator for four months.

In the interests of promoting regional sanity and feelings of warmth and spiritual well-being, we offer a way out, a mental vacation from the chills and inconveniences imposed by Old Man Winter.

For the price of a video rental, you can transport yourself to a tropical state of mind, visit idyllic resorts or islands, and feel the vicarious, seductive thrill of warm trade winds on unsweatered flesh.

Here is a list of warming cinematic getaways. Sure they only last an hour or two at a time, but long winter nights were made for double features.

To Have and Have Not - You can't talk about heat - tropical or otherwise - and not bring up Howard Hawks' film of the Ernest Hemingway novel. Humphrey Bogart is a boat captain; Lauren Bacall is a wayward young lady; and the French Resistance needs help in Martinique. Anybody got a match?

Key Largo - Bogie and Bacall raise the temperature again in John Huston's 1948 noir classic. Edward G. Robinson is the gangster who takes hostages inside a Florida hotel during a tropical storm.

The African Queen - Bogie and Huston teamed up again in this 1951 favorite. Bogart plays a boat captain to Katharine Hepburn's spinster, and the two navigate a river in the Belgian Congo (where the film was shot on location), and they outwit Germans, the elements and one another along the way.

Swept Away - Lina Wertmuller's iconic 1975 Italian picture finds a slovenly sailor (Giancarlo Giannini) marooned on a deserted island with his bossy, spoiled employer (Mariangela Melato). This exploration of dominance and submission in romantic relationships is in no way to be confused with the waterlogged Madonna/Guy Ritchie remake.

A Streetcar Named Desire - Young Marlon Brando in a muscle shirt bellowing "Stella" ... need we say more? Elia Kazan's 1951 screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams' hothouse drama features Brando as the animalistic Stanley Kowalski, Kim Hunter as his wife Stella, and Vivien Leigh as his fragile sister-in-law Blanche Dubois.

Blue Hawaii - Director Norman Taurog filmed this seaside chestnut in 1961. Elvis croons "I Can't Help Falling in Love." Angela Lansbury co-stars as Elvis' mother. What else do you need to know?

The Black Stallion - Filmed by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and written by Melissa Mathison from the classic children's book by Walter Farley, the 1979 film of a shipwrecked young boy and an untamable black stallion is a magnificent adventure for all ages. Carroll Ballard directs.

The Big Easy - Police corruption in New Orleans is the subject of Jim McBride's 1987 bayou-country thriller, but it's really about the sizzling chemistry between Dennis Quaid's cop and Ellen Barkin's straight-laced assistant D.A.

Body Heat - Kathleen Turner made a mercury-spiking screen debut in Lawrence Kasdan's 1981 homage to the femme fatale films of the 1940s. William Hurt is the hapless Florida lawyer who is a perfect patsy to Turner's scheming seductress.

Steam - Set in Italy and Turkey, Ferzan Ozpetek's lyrically scripted and filmed movie begins as Alessandro Gassman's Italian yuppie is bequeathed an abandoned Turkish bath in Istanbul. His efforts to dispatch with his inheritance and return to his wife in Italy set in motion a tale of self-discovery and sexual awakening involving another man.

Out of Africa - In Sydney Pollack's 1985 adaptation of the memoir of Isak Dinesen, Meryl Streep plays the author who moves from Denmark to Africa with her husband (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and promptly falls in love with a British adventurer (Robert Redford).

Blue Crush - John Stockwell's surfer-girl movie kept audiences cool at the cineplex this summer, and now it generates the warmth of a Hawaiian sunset. As serious surfer girl Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) prepares for a critical competition, she finds herself slightly off-balance in a romance with a football player (Matthew Davis).

Beach Blanket Bingo - Flashback to the groovy '60s with Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello and Linda Evans in the fifth and best-known "Beach Party" flick. Did somebody say "far out"?

Six Days, Seven Nights - Most critics dissed this romantic comedy pairing Harrison Ford and Anne Heche, but Heche gives a great performance and the script has its moments. The premise finds Heche's pampered New York magazine editor stranded on a tropical island with Ford's burned-out bush pilot. Add water snakes, pirates and an uptight fiancé, and guess what happens?

Cast Away - If sentimentality floats your boat, this 2000 Robert Zemeckis film about a type-A business exec marooned on a Pacific island with nothing more than a soccer ball called Wilson for company might be just the thing.