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.”

Synopsis:
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.

Genres:

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.

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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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