Saturday, March 22, 2014

Day The World Ended!

Day the World Ended is an oddball movie. It is one of the gloomiest visions of life after the utter destruction of society and at the same time one that shows very little of that actual destruction. The latter of course because of budget concerns. This movie is famous or perhaps infamous because it was directed by Roger Corman, and it has a number of distinctive Corman touches. Likewise the movie features one of Paul Blaisdell's most ludicrous monster designs, which like many of his costumes looks pretty good on the posters but not a sharp on screen.

 Spoilers below.

The story is pretty simple. A ragamuffin collection of humans (all white) find their way into a valley after the nuclear destruction of the world. The valley has been spared immediate doom because of some geographical peculiarities, and proves to be a habitat that Jim Maddison (Paul Birch) and his daughter Louise (Lori Nelson) have chosen to ride out the end. Another man, the girl's boyfriend is supposed to join them, but doesn't make it. Those who do show up are  Tony Lamont  (Mike "Touch" Connors) and Ruby (Adele Jergens a real bombshell on the downside of a long career), a small time gangster and his stripper girlfriend. Also showing are gold prospector Pete (Raymond Hatton) and his donkey Diablo.  The final pair of survivors is made up of Rick (Richard Denning, as always earnest and dour) and Radek (Paul Dubov), the latter a man horribly mutated by the radiation which is seeps across the world, save for this pocket valley.

Rick very quickly assumes his role as hero-of-the-day, spouting Biblical musings and giving the jilted Louise someone to focus her attentions on. This gang survive, arguing in the house, amazingly untouched by the tumult beyond the valley, and in the neatly maintained yard, also amazingly untouched. They gambol in the local lake, which looks suspiciously like a set-decorated swimming pool, and they mostly pass the time while mutants roam the night killing and eating -- shock-- raw meat. Why this latter detail is so shocking escapes me, but its suggestion of uncivilized behavior strikes the folks as really really bad. There's quite a bit of talk about a nuclear test Jim witnessed which produced mutant animals, the same kind which seem to be prowling the night. The story tumbles along with Ruby going on about how she misses the stares of men on the stage and Tony wondering why he's not in charge. Then they begin to die and the story comes to a conclusion.

This isn't really a great movie by any means, but it does strangely have an effectively somber tone and a grim tale to relate, albeit at a very slovenly pace. When the marquee monster, a mutant who can communicate with Lori in some weird way, shows up the action picks up, but barely. I assume the mutant is supposed to be Lori's boyfriend who didn't make it, but this is never stated directly. The rains come, rains which promise destruction but the movie might have other plans.

It's worth a look.

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