Day the World Ended (1955)
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Paul Birch, his daughter and her boyfriend Richard Denning (The Creature From the Black Lagoon) are joined by an odd assortment of people in a small pocket that is still radiation free after a nuclear war. As time passes, they are gradually killed off one way or another, leaving two to start a new life.
The monster in this movie looks rubbery but rather frightening. The stars all take good parts and the music score is rather eeire.
This was released on video in Britain as part of the Drive-in Classics series which is long out of print. I was quite lucky to get hold of a copy.
This movie is a must see for 1950's sci-fi fans and I enjoyed it very much, despite the low budget.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
My uncle managed the Lyric Theater in Chester, Pennsylvania where such movies were standard fare, so I got to see the thing for free and, of course, returned at least a half-dozen times to steep myself in the awfulness of what might happen if I got horribly irradiated during an atomic war. I never got over feeling a bit creepy as the creature crawled through that irradiated haze of post-world's end night.
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"Day" is one of Roger Corman's first forays into low-tech, low-budget science fiction movies. His first effort is commendable; if only he had remembered his lessons when he made some of his more notable bombs. A Navy vet and his daughter are living in a home protected by a plot contrivance - it's basically sheltered from radiation from the surrounding mountains. Hills, mind you, that deadly radiation cannot get over, but are easily traveled by an old man and his burro.
Beyond that, it is an intriguing story of what happens when a little pocket of humanity survives mankind's worst nightmare. Mike "Touch" Connors does an interesting turn as a bad guy with a moll whose old enough to be his mother. Connors has the hots for the Navy vet's daughter, and would like to repopulate earth with her. Other stowaways include an archeologist and a man suffering from radiation poisoning. In this movie, radiation poisoning either kills you, turns you into a monster, or makes you look like Moe Howard.
Even with the end of the world, God is not left out. Notice that the Navy vet asks his daughter to marry the archeologist before they seek to restart humanity, as well as his later statement that, "I prayed and then I stopped worrying."
Sterno says "Day" is a great movie for a rainy Saturday afternoon.
I loved the music...very, very creepy and well timed. The monster, though stupid by modern standards, was all the rage in it's day.I remember the screams in the theater when it was first seen full view.
The story was rather frightening for the era, too. We all were thinking quite a lot about nuclear war happening to us right at home. People were really building bomb shelters int heir backyards...or had "escape kits" pre-loaded in their station wagons. Yes. It really was that bad.
I believe this film would be well worth re-watching, although, I have only seen it once again since I saw it on the big screen and the second showing it seemed a bit less spooky to me. But, the acting was good, the story was practical though of a totally unimaginable theme, and the monster, though rather "over the top", and a bit corny, was scary enough when combined with the well timed and creepy music.
I definitely would watch it again, just for the memories.
A motley group of people -- a rugged, self-reliant scientist father (burly Paul Birch; the pernicious extraterrestrial in Corman's fantastic '57 knock-out "Not of This Earth") and his comely teenage daughter (the lovely Lori Nelson), a stalwart true blue heroic geologist (dashing Richard Denning), a vicious strictly looking out for himself mob hoodlum (a perfectly hateful turn by Michael "Touch" Connors) and his brazen dime-store floozy ex-stripper moll (superbly played to the bold'n'brassy hilt by bosomy blonde broad Adele Jergens), a sweet, boozy elderly gold prospector (amiably doddering Raymond Hatton) and his faithful burro companion, and a gradually going crazy scar-faced half-man, half-mutant fellow (a twitchy Jonathan Haze; the hilariously meek milquetoast protagonist in Corman's cheapskate black comedy horror gem "The Little Shop of Horrors") -- hole up in a remote mountainside bunker immediately after a nuclear war occurs. The eclectic bunch bicker and quarrel with one another over the ever-diminishing supply of limited resources while a huge, ugly, crusty-skinned mutant with telepathic powers, a carnivorous appetite for human flesh, three googly eyes, a gnarled head with horns on top, three-clawed fingers and toes, and a most unpleasant demeanor (50's monster movie make-up expert Paul Blaisdell in an outrageously funky and messed-up suit) stalks the surrounding woodland area with the intent of abducting the luscious, eminently nubile and thus desirable Lori.
Although by today's standards it comes across as really slow and talky, with very little action and a noted emphasis on the increasingly tense interplay between the desperate characters, "The Day the World Ended" all the same still makes for an engrossingly seedy and rough-edged nickel'n'dime doomsday romp. Corman's lean, no-frills straightforward direction treats Lou Rusoff's unusually thoughtful, literate and intelligent script like a tightly constructed acting ensemble piece, with the uniformly sound performances by the tiny, able cast creating a good deal of the film's grungy, cut-to-the-bone effective suspense and relentlessly bleak tone. Jock Feindel's grainy, unadorned black and white cinematography gives the flick a spare, cramped, uncomfortably claustrophobic look while Ronald Stein's eerie, understated, unobtrusive score makes especially unnerving use of the always spacey sounding theremin. The admittedly absurd-looking mutant beast detracts somewhat from the otherwise nicely maintained scruffy verisimilitude, but nonetheless makes for a very cool and suitably menacing monster. The film also deserves praise for its frank, level-headed depiction of how people would act in the event of such a cataclysmic disaster (some would rise nobly to the challenge while others would devolve into savage, greedy animals), the colorfully drawn characters, Corman's sharply observant, non-judgmental point of view, its atmospheric handling of the desolate, mist-shrouded forest location, and an ambiguously "happy" ending. Overall, this modest trend-setting outing rates as pretty solid, if scrappy two-cent fun.
one another. One of the survivors has been affected by radiation and is horribly disfigured on one side of his face. It struck me as unusual that some of them appeared remarkably clean and well groomed for this sort of situation. The characters are varied and much of the conflict results from the contrasting personalities, especially in regard to the limited supplies and to geologist(Richard Denning's) and tough guy(Mike "Touch" Conner's, later TV's Mannix) heated competition over the young Nelson. Denning and Conners give the best performances in this film, Adele Jergens(Connor's girlfriend) also delivers an entertaining bit when reenacting her striptease dancing act. However, the interactive scenes within the house drag on and
on for most of the movie without a glimmer of the "mutant monster" (Paul Blaisdell); the monster finally appears after some foreshadowing, but is remarkably inept in its attack on Denning and Nelson and quickly dies from exposure to the "pure rain" that comes just in time. Anti-climatic; with Denning delivering the cliche', "Man created him, God destroyed him". Not much comic relief except for the ridiculous looking monster, who wouldn't frighten anyone but the very young (I saw it at a local drive-in when aged 12 or 13, and although it appeared interesting at the time to my youthful eyes, it was certainly not scary), and a laughable scene where Conners sticks his exposed hand out a window to collect rainwater in a container to see if it's contaminated by radiation. Some of the dialogue is atrocious, for example, one of the
characters suggests that human skin exposed to radiation could be called "atomic skin" - I rolled at that one. A one-time viewing of "The Day The World Ended" should be more than enough for most, except for perhaps the most ardent Corman fan.
And if they are running out of food, why didn't they butcher Diablo? After all, it was dead. And they could just pretend it was "deviled ham." Or would that have offended the SPCA?
And what evolutionary advantage do the mutants gain by having useless small "arms" growing out of their shoulders. Or was that just a fashion statement?
Denning (a geologist) and Connors (a crook) give their usual snappy performances in this movie, and Paul Birch (the fellow who owns the house that the cast of characters take refuge in) is given better direction, better lines, and a part that shows his strengths to much better advantage than the previous movie I saw him in ("Beast with 1,000,000 Eyes").
On the other hand, Corman's usual problems with pacing and energy and rhythm manifest themselves immediately. There are too many talky scenes that go nowhere (especially between Connor and the girlfriend);too many plot holes that the movie hopes we will overlook; too many badly choreographed action sequences (except for one beautifully staged scene where Denning/"Rick" fires a rifle at the advancing creature as the camera stays behind Ricks shoulder - that was NICELY done) and too many moments of glib hand waving pretending to be actual major movie elements (did you know that mutants with diamond hard skin are created by H-bomb blasts and die when exposed to non-poisoned water?) And if you're going to invoke God in a Doomsday scenario, you need to do it a lot more convincingly than Corman's screenplay does at the end.
Oh, and the monster is ridiculous. He's just another prototype/ variation of the Giant Pickle from "It Conquered The World". I'm not casting aspersions on Paul Blaisdell, I'm sure he did his best with no time and a tiny budget...but the monster is ridiculous.
Still, there was plenty to like about it. I always enjoy watching Richard Denning, Lori Nelson makes a great Barbie Doll, and there is a nice sense of claustrophobia and paranoia as the plot advances. Worth seeing once if you are interested in the history of Science Fiction movies, or Corman, or Giant Pickles.
Among the humans is a total sleaze-bag played by Mike "Touch" Connors (of "Mannix" fame). He constantly is threatening the others, acting like a thug and ogling the pretty young lady who wants nothing to do with him. My question, then, is why didn't they just shoot this guy?! At one point, he tries to take the leader's gun and then promises to kill them--yet they do nothing! So, he tries it again later--yet they do nothing! He even attempts to rape one of the women and murders another. You'd think that enough would be enough!! His character is simply a very broad caricature of a hoodlum--too broad. And, the rest of the folks are simply too stupid to live! In addition to Mr. Mannix, the contaminated guy develops a taste for fresh, raw meat and begins talking about the deaths of everyone there at his hand or those of his new 'friends'! Once again, you'd think they would just shoot this guy!
In many ways, this plot is a lot like the plot from the Vincent Price film "The Last Man on Earth"--but with stupid bug-eyed monsters. It's the normal survivors versus the mutants. Now that I think about it, it's also a bit like the horrible "Robot Monster"! The end result is quite stupid, though considering the film was made in only nine days on a shoestring budget, it isn't too bad--plus it has a certain kitsch value. It also had a few cool scenes--such as when Connors tosses one of them off a cliff! The basic idea wasn't bad, but shabby writing and a dumb monster sink this film.
I can't agree with some of the other comments that this had any aspect but a story to evoke laughter, rather than being thought-provoking --- in the 1950's, or now (even allowing for the Cold War/end-of-the -world jitters which sometimes occurred then.
Today, it provides not only humor, mostly corn-ball, but a pleasant nostalgia for the "B" movie black-and-white films from a half century ago and earlier.
I happened upon it after it had begun, not long before they found the one character who had passed-on, and had "atomic skin." At about the same time, another, (the "old miner") perished as he proceeded with his pick-ax into the "mist" surrounding his mine.
Richard Denning and Mike Conners (aka "Touch") are rivals for the affections of Lori Nelson. Denning is old enough to be her father, and in real-life, only two years younger than Paul Birch (her "father"). In the process, Conners, a crook, stabs and calmly tosses his girlfriend ("moll?") Adele Jergens off a cliff. He reminded me of Arnold Schwarzenegger dropping one of the villains from a similar height in "Commando." Jergens was a few years younger than Denning, but several older than Conners.
I also found amusing, viewing Nelson awakening in her tidy bedroom, in a neat pair of nightwear; it's the end of the world, and she looked like Sandra Dee in "Gidger" ready for another day of frolic.
Nelson also was enjoying a leisurely swim in the murky lake, also reminiscent of Gidget (or Annette) at the beach, shortly before becoming aware of the mutant monster lurking nearby.
During the proceedings, Paul Birch is shown to have more weaponry in his "storeroom" than a National Guard armory. He has M-1 rifles (the Army's primary infantry weapon then), and another comment here indicated another print version of the film referenced a Luger as well.
During one sequence, Denning fires the weapon, which in the film had less recoil that an air rifle. He hit the "mutant/creature" point-blank with several rounds, not even budging him/it an inch. Emptying an M-1 clip into even the largest of elephants would move him back, and with at least minimal recoil, even for the most-proficient marksman.
This movie is said in the trivia remarks to have been made in nine days. It was worthy viewing for its humor, but, frankly, a 9-hour shooting period would be believable. The cast was a credible group with extensive "B" film resumés (and later TV, as well). But nothing here evidenced any second takes, and nine hours should have been sufficient, with most of this to allow the actors who entered the lake to dry-off and dress.
The only thing of real note about this is the incredible amount of 'curtain acting' that goes on in it. One of the staple elements of bad and lo budget movie making of the period was the superabundant use of curtains in the set design. It was cheap. Finished with one set-up? Pull a curtain across, drop a different piece of furniture in front of it and you have a different location in minutes without having to move the camera or change the lighting.
'Curtain acting' is a skill in which the actor will get to comment on what's going on outside any building he happens to be in ("It looks like Rain", or "Here they come now, and it looks like they've got the sheriff with them!", that sort of stuff). He'll do this by standing to one side of the window - reaching across his body and lifting the curtain away from the window but along the axis of the shot - ie towards the camera - thus enabling him to pretend to look out and tell us what's happening off screen, without letting the audience see he's staring at the studio wall three inches away from his nose behind some cheap velvet curtains. There was a lot of that in this movie.
This futuristic look after the Apocalypse was shot on a shoestring and it shows, but Corman was a master at stretching things. A valley where Paul Birch and his daughter Lori Nelson have their ranch seems to have escaped the holocaust and some folks have arrived there for shelter that include an escaped convict Michael Connors and his moll stripper Adele Jergens, geologist Richard Denning, old prospector Raymond Hatton, and a strange man who has a taste for the radiated flesh of the dead animals around played by Paul Dubov.
Birch has a lot of supplies stored away probably he would be considered a survivalist today, but this is not a crew to think of the larger picture. Both Connors and Denning make a play for Nelson and Jergens is feeling rather frustrated. And there are some nasty mutant beings hanging around, but strangely not entering the valley.
Day The World Ended is a bit better than some of the low budget science fiction from the Fifties. The characters if not original are indeed entertaining.
Roger Corman could stretch a dollar better than most.
A father and his daughter are hunkering down in their remote house, fully prepared to survive the nuclear winter. Five survivors straggle down from the nuclear fog-bound hills and make it to the house. There are seven people in the house, but only enough supplies for three (the father and daughter were expecting her fiancée to join them).
At this point, the movie becomes a great little character study. The small time hood and the hero, Rick (Richard Denning), compete for the affection of the daughter, Louise (Lori Nelson). An ex-stripper tries to hang onto her man while the father tries to keep everyone in line. The dying guy, surprisingly, does not die, but begins to have strange longings for the nuclear fog and strong cravings for raw meat. An old prospector and his mule round out the cast. The father can't get anyone on the radio, so these folks might be all alone in the world, trapped in a small house, surrounded by poisonous fog.
The sets are by far the worst part of the movie. The house looks like a Palm Springs vacation home rented out for the weekend. It just does not look like the father and daughter live here (for a guy who was planning to survive a nuclear war you'd think he would at least remember to trick out his house!). The decor is dull, which is bad because we spend most of the movie looking at it. Oh and the curtains! All the windows are curtained. The characters spend lots of time peering out of the curtains (but we never see what they are looking at), and they enter and leave through curtained doors too. It just looks really cheap.
If some of the scenes took place in another room, especially one with survival gear, the film might have been much more interesting. I felt like I needed to see what a 50s survival bunker (or storeroom) might have looked like. After all, it was not unheard of for people to have converted basements or backyard bunkers during this time period. Unfortunately the movie was too cheap to show something that really needed to be shown.
The most interesting plot dynamic involves Louise. She has been hoping for her fiancée to arrive at the house, but he does not. Her father urges her to forget about him (and marry Rick within the week and get busy repopulating the earth). But she is not ready. At odd times Louise hears a strange psychic piping noise that seems like a voice calling her (no one else hears it) and she feels she is being watched.
It's not too long before the household realizes there is a monster on the prowl outside. And the father and Rick start coming up with theories of humans and animals mutating into monsters due to radiation. I don't think the monster looks any worse than most cheap monster-suits of this genre. At least the monster is somewhat mysterious. The monster uses its psychic piping noise to lure Louise out of the house. Will she be taken by the monster into the poisonous fog? Will the monster let her go? Can Rick kill the monster and save the girl with an army surplus M-1 rifle? Whatever happened to the fiancée?
The theme of the movie is survival, but with an emphasis on letting go of the past, letting go of the dead, and finding love and reasons to live in the midst of catastrophe. The only survivors in the movie are those able to let go and embrace a new future as the poisonous nuclear fog dissipates.
*Special Stars- Mike Connors is the Baddie. Richard Denning is the hero. Paul Birch plays the survivalist 'captain' of this motley crew.
*Theme- Man pollutes and God corrects.
*Based on- Jules Verne short story called, "In the Year 2889".Many Christian Bible stories.
*Trivia/location/goofs- Another 6 day made Roger Corman early film. Rocky canyon locations courtesy of Gower Canyon, Hollywood Hills. Look for the obvious man-made rock walls around the waterfall near the pond at the Sportsman Lodge Studio City. Was remade in the late 60's titled as the short story, In the year 2889.
*Emotion- A good dramatic film with build tension for the viewers. The ending is a huge let-down along with seeing the hidden monster in the full sunlight. The suit was a bad joke in film making.