On the Beach (1959)

Laughing Gravy
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
Laughing Gravy
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
Joined: 4:44 AM - Sep 01, 2005

4:06 PM - Aug 26, 2018 #1



On the Beach (1959) Prod. & Dir. Stanley Kramer
United Artists
134 min. / B&W / 1.66:1
DVD: MGM

ITB Strange Science Cinema #176

1964 (five years after the film was produced), and nuclear war has wiped out most of the life on earth; the survivors rally together in southern Australia, where the fallout has not yet reached, but within a few months, it will. Commander Gregory Peck, chief of the entire U.S. fleet (which is, these days, approximately one ship) takes his sub to San Francisco on a scientific expedition with Professor Fred Astaire, but Greg hates leaving girlfriend Ava Gardner behind. Not as much as seaman Tony Perkins hates leaving his wife and young baby behind, though. In the end, they're all doomed anyway.

Somber, gloomy adaptation of Nevil Shute's 1957 end-of-the-world novel, which I read a couple of years ago and enjoyed although it's also somber and gloomy. I like the book better; the movie's rather heavy-handed "there's still time to alter the future!" message falls with a thud, since the whole point of the picture is that the surviving humans are forced to cope with a doom that they didn't incite and didn't have any recourse to change. The BIG deal is that in the book the central conflict is that the Peck character is still loyal to his now-dead wife but in the movie, he's all over Ava like grease on bacon. A huge mistake.

Million-dollar Dialog:
Seaman: "Who do you think started it? The war, I mean?"
Prof. Astaire: "Albert Einstein."

Later, the Prof ruminates further: "Somewhere, some poor bloke probably looked at a radar screen and thought he saw something. He knew that if he hesitated one-thousands of a second his own country would be wiped off the map. So he pushed a button, and the world went crazy."

Interestingly, the sub finds no corpses anywhere... San Francisco's building and bridges (wrecked in the novel) are intact, but the streets are simply deserted. Hey, maybe it wasn't a nuclear war after all -- maybe it was robots from space!

The cast is superb... the Commander part calls for somebody extremely serious, and actors didn't get more serious than Mr. Peck. Miss Gardner is fine, Astaire is surprisingly good, and Anthony Perkins looks as though his mother is about to murder somebody (and his Australian accent comes and goes). Lovely newcomer Donna Anderson is Mrs. Perkins; Kramer would bring her back the following year for Inherit the Wind.

The DVD from MGM is fine; I believe this film is also available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time. It's a good movie (particularly if you enjoy endless presentations of Waltzing Matilda) and unique for its time, an end-of-the-world picture with an A-list cast.

ALSO ON THE PROGRAM

A trio of appropriate short subjects; in Duck and Cover a cartoon turtle teaches children to jump off their bicycles and bury their head against a concrete curb in case they see a bright nuclear flash in their town; the U.S. Department of Civil Defense advises families to protect themselves after a bomb blast by filling their living room with sandbags or old newspapers and huddling in the basement in Fallout: When and How to Protect Yourself; and then General Electric boasts of its contribution to the U.S. fleet of nuclear subs in The Atom goes to Sea.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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The Batman
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
The Batman
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
Joined: 5:34 PM - Sep 04, 2005

4:28 PM - Aug 27, 2018 #2

I don't know about Twilight Time, but there is a beautiful Blu-Ray of this from Kino.
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