Day the World Ended (1955)

“There are two forms of life fighting for survival in this valley, and only one of them can win; it’s got to be us.”

After atomic warfare leaves most of the world dead, a rancher (Paul Birch), his grown daughter (Lori Nelson), a geologist (Richard Denning), a con (Mike Connors) and his moll (Adele Jurgens), a miner (Raymond Hatton) with a donkey, and an atomically scarred victim (Paul Dubov) struggle to survive while battling against unseen mutant forces.


Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary labels this post-apocalyptic survival tale “the first and best of Roger Corman’s fifties sci-fi films”, but I don’t quite agree with his second assertion; Corman’s Not of This Earth (1957) — about alien vampiric forces invading Southern California — holds my vote as his most creative and enjoyable outing in this genre. Nonetheless, Day the World Ended — which Peary posits is essentially “a combination of Key Largo and Five” — does have “a couple of scary scenes, good atmosphere, and a smart ending”. It’s especially interesting, as always, to see how Corman is able to make judicious use of his ultra-low budget: here, he effectively utilizes fog, shadows, and sound effects to forebode threatening forces, while pitting a conveniently motley crew of survivors against one another in claustrophobic quarters. Once the mutant monster (Paul Blaisdell) actually appears on-screen, the tone of the film suddenly turns undeniably silly; but Corman’s cast of reliable B-actors continue to take the situation so seriously that we’re willing to suspend our giggles and our disbelief.

Note: You may recognize handsome good-guy lead Richard Denning from The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) — a more “reputable” B-level variation on a similar theme.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An effectively told low-budget tale

Must See?
No, though fans of nuclear survival flicks (or Roger Corman’s films) will surely want to check it out.


One Response to “Day the World Ended (1955)”

  1. Not a must.

    First viewing.

    With sufficient ingenuity, speculative science-fiction in a pressure-cooker setting should almost be able to write itself. No such luck here. It’s never a good sign when an 80-minute movie feels twice the running time. The script is often clumsy (i.e., it’s odd when the stripper suddenly goes missing and no one says a word) and in search of a sense of urgency.

    Of course, such criticism is not likely to deter those interested in the genre’s history – and probably shouldn’t. Still, there’s little here that really satisfies. A film made on-the-run, as this one was, can have a bit of lasting ‘charm’, depending on its elements. This one…not so much. Tho it may have had a bit more punch when it was originally served up as grist for drive-in mills.

    Major drawback: tho Corman apparently did learn something from Val Lewton about the use of shadows when introducing the terror element, he really should have kept it that way with this monster: it simply looks like the work of a hyper-active child preparing for Halloween during arts-and-crafts hour.

    Agreed: ‘Not of This Earth’ is certainly a superior B-film.

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