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The version watched was the U.S. abortion which ran 54" out of the originals release of 105". Which was truncated down from 180"+ so a-lot of the film has gone missing. What is left is barely comprehensible since almost all of the original dialog is gone as well as any character development and sub-plots.
LA FIN Du MONDE (1931) THE END OF THE WORLD was Abel Gance's first sound feature. It is based on the 1894 Novel 'OMEGA: The Last Days of the World' by Camille Flammarion. The plot is how will Humanity react when informed that the Planet is going to be hit by a Comet in 114 Days. What follows is first disbelief, acceptance of the inevitable and how different facets of society react to the coming DOOM!
The Scientists led by Martial Novalic (Victor Francen) plan a rebirth of the World (if anybody survives) in their idealized vision of the UNIVERSAL REPUBLIC. Which appears to be a sort of Neo-Fascist governing body like 'Wings Over The World' in THINGS TO COME (1936). Most people run around in a montage of scenes like their heads were about to be chopped off. Some continue business as usual, literally, others decide the best way to check out is in a orgy of 'Booze & Sex' or religious resignation. The merits of each choice are left up to the viewer to decide. Somewhere in this mess is Jean Novalic (Abel Gance) Martial's Brother, for the most part he appears to have ended up on the cutting room floor.
It is a close run thing and the Comet passes through the Earths atmosphere missing the Planet but causing great damage in it's wake. The SFX scenes are poorly done even by early 1930's standards. What happens next is up to the viewers imagination for the film abruptly ends there. Gance's backers had run out of both faith and money, seized the film, trimming it with a meat Axe, which U.S. distributor Harold Auten (1934) added his incompetence.
The concept of the film was bold and very original for it's time though it is hard to tell how well it was executed from this version. Their knowledge of Comets was lacking compared to 21st Century sensibilities. There is certainly a political message here, though any time I hear/see the words UNIVERSAL REPUBLIC, I get nervous. Gance's version being a combination of the less savory aspects of Napoleon Bonaparte and the French Republic(s). Another Director/Producer saw some merits in this film, Cecil B. DeMille (C.B.) who was also considering WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1933) by Balmer & Wylie for filming. That may have been a not a bad idea. C.B. would have jettisoned the political baggage concentrated on the human story and the SFX scenes and made another commercial success.
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