3 user 3 critic

Shelf Life (1993)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, Musical
In 1963, a paranoid middle-class couple locks themselves and their small kids in their nuclear fallout shelter. 30 years later, their oblivious son and two daughters still survive there playing absurd games. A play-based dark comedy.




Add Image Add an image

Do you have any images for this title?

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Private Parts (1972)
Comedy | Horror | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Young Cheryl moves into her estranged aunt Martha's rundown King Edward Hotel. One of its offbeat residents, disturbed photographer George, takes special interest in her. Cheryl begins suspecting that a resident was murdered.

Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: Ayn Ruymen, Lucille Benson, John Ventantonio
The Longshot (1986)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  

Four losers borrow money from gangsters to bet on a "sure thing", but lose. The gangsters go after them to get their money.

Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: Tim Conway, Jack Weston, Harvey Korman
Comedy | Crime | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  

Tabloid reporter Lois Thornedyke and her photographer Barry Denver stumble upon evidence of a sex scandal, blackmail and political conspiracy that may involve her love interest Franklyn - the saintly Mayor of New York City.

Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: Nancy Allen, Don Peoples, Catherine Schultz
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

The widow's houseboy and the divorcee's chauffeur bet on which will bed the other's employer first.

Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: Jacqueline Bisset, Ray Sharkey, Mary Woronov
Eating Raoul (1982)
Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A relatively boring Los Angeles couple discover a bizarre, if not murderous way to get funding for opening a restaurant.

Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Robert Beltran
Comedy | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

A group of unscrupulous characters seek buried treasure in the old west.

Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: Tab Hunter, Divine, Lainie Kazan
Carquake! (1976)
Action | Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  

This is another story of the secret Coast to Coast auto race across America The only rule is, the first to finish is the winner. Naturally, anyone driving 55 isn't going to win. They'll ... See full summary »

Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: David Carradine, Bill McKinney, Veronica Hamel
Action | Comedy | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

In a dystopian future, a cross country automobile race requires contestants to run down innocent pedestrians to gain points that are tallied based on each kill's brutality.

Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: David Carradine, Sylvester Stallone, Simone Griffeth
Shelf Life (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

In this dark comedy of petty office politics in a library, it's the head librarian versus the fresh-out-of-rehab book shelver in an all-out, deadly war of the wills.

Director: Tamar Halpern
Stars: Betsy Brandt, Elisa Bocanegra, Joe Smith
Short | Comedy | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A woman suspects that someone has clandestinely been filming her life and that her friends and acquaintences are seeing the movies in secret screenings.

Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: Amy Vane, Philip Carlson, Barry Dennen
Perfect Fit (2001)
Comedy | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5/10 X  

An aimless young man turns to murder in order to satisfy the desires of his new girlfriend, a narcissistic blue jean fetishist.

Director: Donald P. Borchers
Stars: Alexander Polinsky, Maria Ford, Renée Humphrey
Naughty Nurse (1969)
Comedy | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

A doctor and nurse sneak away for a kinky encounter, only to be interrupted by a cop...with a secret of his own.

Director: Paul Bartel
Stars: Valorie Armstrong, Ron Grathwohl, Christopher St. John


Cast overview:
Andrea Stein ...
Pam / Mrs. St. Cloud
Scotty / Mr. St. Cloud
Various Apparitions
Justin Houchin ...
Young Scotty
Young Pam (as Shelby Allison Lindley)
Jazz Britany ...
Young Tina


On November 22, 1963, Mister and Misses St. Cloud hear about the tragic assassination of the President of the United States John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Consumed with paranoia and believing that WWIII is now inevitable, they take their small children Tina, Pam and Scotty and hide with them in their fallout shelter, never to leave it again. By 1993, the parents had died but their three grownup manchildren still live in the nuclear bomb shelter alone without any human contact. They've developed their own rules and rituals based on their fading memories of the life above, their old records that still work and whatever they catch on TV, when some station's signal reaches them now and then for a few moments. Most of their day is spent in play sessions, in which they act out various common activities like going to school, eating out or staging musical numbers. They love to dance, sing and on occasion wrestle. Sometimes they even play their parents and reenact the parents' speeches to them. At ...

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | Musical


Not Rated




Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


See  »

Did You Know?


Last film directed by Paul Bartel. See more »


Referenced in Blast from the Past (1999) See more »


Flute Ballet
Performed by O-Lan Jones
Composed by O-Lan Jones
Produced by Andy Paley
Arranged by Matthew McCauley
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Great, but not cinematic
15 June 2015 | by (Austin, Tx) – See all my reviews

This is a charming and sometimes uncomfortable play with great and convincing performances, but it cannot overcome being a stage play, and it is not cinematic. Most of Bartel's work is fairly cerebral chaos, and this is no exception. The story goes somewhere, but the camera does not. Lots of angles and the cutting cannot set the camera free of the confines of the fallout shelter.

Think of this as the prequel to "Blast from the Past." Most of the script is the shelter occupants replaying scripts they have written for themselves with snippets of misinterpreted stuff they have got from the outside world. This leaves many fill-in-the-blanks-for-yourself holes in the storyline, which is the source of much of the humor.

If you really like Bartel, you will like this. But if you need everything spoon-fed and all the bundles tied up, this won't be your cup of tea.

Disclaimer: this review is based on a VHR copy of the director's cut which was a gift from the director before it was released on video.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
shelf life myfriendnutty
Discuss Shelf Life (1993) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: