Cinema Sunday: Day The World Ended (1955)

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Title: Day The World Ended

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Lou Rusoff

Director: Roger Corman

Producer: Roger Corman

Starring: Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens, Mike Connors, Chet Huntley (narrator)

Released: December 1955

MPAA: Approved

 

 

As we roll into October, the threat of Halloween is here! Maybe a hockey-masked killer will visit or even the Boogeyman. Until then, I’d like to spotlight a great sci-fi film from the greatest era of said films (1950s-1960s). I mean, listen, you can never go wrong with an atomic disaster movie. The genre is full of great flicks from this era, and rightly so. It was a hot button topic back then (still is), and in its infancy. There was a lot of paranoia, and rightly so as it was a scary invention.

The most familiar face in this film is action/horror/sci-fi star, Richard Denning (Creature from the Black Lagoon). He was a stalwart of the film industry back in those days, and was your a-typical “macho man” of the films he was in. The rest of the cast is quirky in this one, and so was the entire film to be honest, but hey, isn’t that to be expected from Roger Corman?!? Alright, here we go…

 

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The film begins with a narrator (Chet Huntley) explaining that a nuclear holocaust has decimated the planet, and only a few pockets of people have survived. One of these people is Rick (no, not Grimes…Richard Denning!), and he spots a man who’s injured and suffering from radiation burns. He grabs the guy and throws him over his shoulder, caveman style. He heads for the nearest house he sees, but he’s behind a couple that are bolting for the same door. These two, Tony (Mike Connors) and Ruby (Adele Jergens) are very odd in the fact that they look like gangsters (Bonnie and Clyde?) from the 1920’s. Inside the home is a father, Jim Maddison (Paul Birch), and his daughter, Louise (Lori Nelson). They’re a couple of bumpkins that just want to be left alone. Ruby and Tony come knocking at the door, but Jim wont let them in at first. Tony then begins to shoot at the door, so Jim relents and lets them inside.

 

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Soon after, Rick shows up, and now the house is packed with unwanted guests. Jim tells his daughter that he didn’t want to take on any other survivors because he only has provisions for them. Now those provisions will be split four different ways. OK, make it five different ways after some old man and a jackass show up. The old-timer seems to be interested in nothing except the animal and making moonshine. Tensions are high for obvious reasons , but you also have everyone on edge even more because of Tony and his big mouth. Jim has his own gun and tells all the house guests to change their clothes and wash up because they might be contaminated.

 

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Right away, Rick and Tony butt heads. Rick gives Tony a whooping after they argue, and Tony vows revenge. A few weeks pass, and the guy that Rick brought into the house is exhibiting some strange symptoms from radiation poisoning. His face is starting to mutate, but into what, no one knows. He sneaks out every night to hunt for “meat” as he puts it. Rick is worried, and Jim thinks they should off him. The two women go swimming to relax for a while. Louise gets the creeps when she sees someone and believes she hears the person call her name. Ruby doesn’t see anybody but gets creeped out too, so they quickly leave.

 

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A few weeks later, and tensions are at an all time high, especially between Rick and Tony. Jim is on edge as well, because he knows it’s only a matter of time before they run out of food. Tony begins to hit on Louise, but Rick takes the exception to that because he and Louise have become an “item.” Rick and Tony get into another brawl, and Ruby tries to console Tony. He brushes her off, and we begin to see that he really doesn’t even care for her. He’s all about himself, and this will be a recurring theme throughout the film. Rick and Jim try to keep tabs on the irradiated man, but most nights they can’t keep up with him because he travels into an area that’s still full of radioactive activity. We (the viewers) do see him though, and one  night he gets surprised by a monstrosity near a wooded area, and he flees in fear for his life.

 

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Will the monster get to the survivors? Will Tony and Rick kill each other first? Will Louise be able to repopulate the Earth? Watch and get some of the answers!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This is one wacky film. I love the post-nuke world movies because not only do they represent something that at any time could be reality, but also they give you so many options. Zombies, freaks, giant monsters, etc. This film really tries to utilize the build up of tension. Some of the acting is hammy and even borders on the ridiculous, BUT, don’t sleep on this one. Richard Denning is still cool as a cucumber here and there are a couple of deaths were a little crazy as well.

One slight disappointment was the fact that the monster doesn’t really show up until very late in the film. The fact that it’s very cheesy doesn’t bother me one bit though. The sets were bland, as were most in this era. They just weren’t a big focus the majority of the time, as films relied on gimmicks, or atmosphere, or star power. You certainly had that with Denning, especially after his performance in Creature from the Black Lagoon. This picture obviously doesn’t have Richard Carlson or Julie Adams, but Denning, Nelson, and Jergens (image below) provided depth and sex appeal for sure!

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Black Scorpion (1957)

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Title: The Black Scorpion

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Writers: Robert Blees, David Duncan

Director: Edward Ludwig

Producers: Jack Dietz, Jack Melford

Starring: Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro

Released: October 1957

MPAA: PG

 

Continuing on with my giant bug/creatures theme, there’s no way you can have one without including this gem! Not only does it have solid actors, but it has one of the most beloved, and talented people to ever work in the film industry, Willis O’Brien! To say that this man was an innovator wouldn’t be giving him half of the credit he deserves. He was one of the best and earliest to use stop-motion animation, as you saw in the 1933 classic, King Kong. He had a young understudy later in his career you may have heard of…Ray Harryhausen! The two worked together on Mighty Joe Young (1949), and Ray’s career took off after that film. O’Brien’s career started to slow down though, but he still had enough in the tank to lend his genius to this movie!

This film is one that has a few Mexican actors in it, but it was filmed in Mexico, so it made total sense, unlike some movies of the times that are supposed to be taking place in a foreign country, yet all the actors are clearly Caucasian. Another interesting fact about this movie is that you don’t get the typical “radiation” answer for the rampaging creature(s) either. Alright, let us now proceed to the film.

 

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The movie begins with a volcano exploding, and subsequent earthquakes, that shake a rural area of Mexico, causing all sorts of destruction and mayhem. A narrator tells us that this has been going on for a long time in this area, and that it is getting worse. We next see the opening credits roll, followed by two men in Jeep, making their way towards the Mexican rural area that has been affected by the volcano. The two men, Geologists,  Dr. Hank Scott (Richard Denning), and Dr. Arturo Ramos (Carlos Rivas), remark about how desolate and empty the area looks. At one point, they stop and ask directions from a couple of telephone company workers. As they forge on, they hear a strange noise, that scares both men, but they move on towards the volcano.

 

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Eventually, they come upon a home (or business of some kind), and look around to ask for some water. They find a police car, that looks like its been ripped apart by something incredible. They hear a call come across the radio, and they answer it, telling the police on the other end that there’s been an accident, and that the policeman is nowhere to be found. As the two men walk around, they hear a rattlesnake, and investigate. They soon realize that it’s no snake, but rather a baby shaking a rattle. Hank picks up the baby (after pointing and waving his gun around in its face a few times), and they both get in the Jeep, and head for the nearest village. As they get ready to leave, something catches Arturo’s eye, and the two men make a hideous discovery. They find the policeman, dead, and his face looks as if he’s seen a ghost. They go back to the police car, and tell the other cops that they found the one officer, and that he’s dead, and that his gun was empty.

 

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The next day, they arrive at the village and are greeted by Father Delgado, who’s keeping track of the village until the government arrives to help. They have a meal together, and the priest talks about the locals, their situation, and the disappearance of some of the villagers. The following morning, the duo set out to see the volcano, even though the military warns them not to go to the site. As they near the site, Hank uses the binoculars to and spots a beautiful woman riding a horse. She falls off, and the two men go to help her out. They find out her name is Teresa Alvarez (Mara Corday), and that her family has lived here for many years (yet, she has a terrible accent). As Teresa cleans up, Arturo finds some Obsidian, but she couldn’t care less.

 

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Back at the village, hank and Arturo visit the local doctor/mad scientist guy, Dr. Delacruz  (Pascual García Peña). he’s doing an autopsy on the dead cop, and finds out that he died from some poison. he then shows them a plaster cast of a footprint that is absolutely huge, but not very recognizable. Teresa rounds up a few dozen villagers to help with the relief effort, and then she brings them to her home. After a meal, Arturo shows them something he’s found inside the Obsidian. There’s a scorpion inside it, and they break it open, and it’s still alive! Arturo wants to investigate why this happened, but Hank only wants to investigate Teresa. He’s just about ready to put the moves on her, when her telephone rings. She answers it, the telephone repair man who gave Hank and Arturo directions earlier, tells her that the line is fixed now. Just as he’s ready to hang up, he and the other two repair guys hear a bone-chilling shriek. Before they can even react, a giant scorpion emerges from the shadows, and devours both of them! It even picks up a car, and throws it down an embankment.

 

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The creature then makes its way to Teresa’s home, and the villagers, Hank, and Arturo try to stop it but their pistols and rifles are useless against the giant beast. They round everyone up, and head for the village in fear of the creature. The volcano erupts, and another earthquake devastates a few homes in the area. The couple of military guys that are present also attempt to shoot the creature, but once again, bullets prove to be ineffective. Night ends, and the creature retreats. The next morning, another official from the government shows up. Dr. Velasco (Carlos Muzquiz), and he theorizes that this creature has been kept alive, living under the volcano for centuries. The team sets out on an expedition to find the creatures lair. They do just that, and then Arturo and Hank descend into the cave, using a crane.

 

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Once they arrive in the depths of the cave, Arturo and Hank witness wonders never seen before by mankind. A giant worm, that looks prehistoric, then a spider the size of a Volkswagen appears, and nearly kills a little boy who stowed away with them. Initially, Dr. Velasco believes that they can use poison gas on the scorpion, but they eventually go a different route. Back down in the cave, Hank and Arturo see that there are more scorpions down there, and that they just haven’t fully matured yet. Then, suddenly, the big daddy shows up and tries to kill both of them! They barely escape, but then formulate a plan that they hope will work!

 

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Can Hank and Arturo solve the puzzle of how to stop the behemoth? Or will it destroy Mexico City in its next rampage? You must check it out to find the answers!

OK, here are my thoughts:

This is no exaggeration, when I say that Richard Denning (Creature from the Black Lagoon), Carlos Rivas, and Mara Corday (image below) are all great in this flick! Of course, you get your moments of the time where the “helpless” woman needs the men to come and save her, but overall, it was still a pretty good performance by these three lead actors. I felt that the little boy was more annoying than endearing, but he’s really inconsequential to the story anyway, so it doesn’t matter. There isn’t a lot of cigarette smoking in this one, which is astonishing actually.

 

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The crown jewel of this film though, is without a doubt, the stop motion work by Willis O’Brien. When the scorpion is crawling around, killing or terrorizing people, it looks fantastic. It does look fairly cheap up close (the face shots), but it was a very low-budget movie, so you have to give it a break. Seriously though, this is the best film so far of the movies I reviewed this month. It really is a strong film for one of this genre and budget. Richard Denning is one tough customer, and Mara Corday is absolutely gorgeous in this one!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)

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Title: Creature From The Black Lagoon

Distributor: Universal Studios

Writer: Maurice Zimm (Screenplay by Harry Essex & Arthur A. Ross)

Director: Jack Arnold

Producer: William Alland

Starring: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno, Ricou Browning

Released: February 12th, 1954

MPAA: PG (NR)

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First, let’s get something out of the way before we get to the synopsis, and then my thoughts. This film is one of those few, that are perfect. For its time, it was scary, intriguing, thought-provoking, and just an all around great experience. To movie lovers, it still is, and that will never change. This film stands the test of time. OK, now that we’ve got that aside, let’s get to it!

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Creature from the Black Lagoon was released in 1954, amidst the big sci-fi boom of the 1950’s. Many studios were putting out films with space exploration, otherworldly creatures, alien invasions, giant radiation mutated bugs, etc. It was definitely the best decade for new films of that genre. With household names like Richard Carlson, and the gorgeous Julie Adams! This movie was also very cool because it was filmed in 3-D! Alright, enough of the posturing, let’s get to the movie!

The film begins with a research party looking for fossils in the Amazon Basin. Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno), finds a fossil of a webbed hand, that appears to be part human, part amphibian. He rushes back to the institute where he works, and finds Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson -far right, image above), and his assistant/lover, Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams), as they are doing research at the institute on marine life. He shows them and two other doctors the fossil, and they all conclude that this might be an evolutionary missing link, and it must be found. They get Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning -far left, image above) to finance the trip, and head down to the Amazon Basin. While they’re away, two of Dr. Maia’s laborers are brutally attacked by some strange and mysterious creature!

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As the expedition arrives, they seek out the laborers, but find their bodies have been torn apart by something unseen. They dig for eight days, but find absolutely nothing. Mark is getting frustrated, but then David theorizes that some of this basin must have been washed away at some point, so they travel a little more down the river, to a lagoon. The boat (Rita), is captained by a man named Lucas, who seems to be a bit unscrupulous, but knows the waters very well. Mark and David head into the murky waters to check things out, and soon realize, that they are not alone. As they explore the depths of this mighty river, they find a fascinating creature, that looks half human and half amphibian. Mark shoots it with his harpoon gun, but it doesn’t even seem to faze the creature. It swims away, and the two men head back to the boat. They tell the others of this incredible creature, and they formulate a plan to capture it.

They fashion a cage from bamboo, and then use a drug that the captain uses to catch fish when the nets aren’t working to well. It’s a kind of powder that they spread through the water, and it will hopefully slow the creature down enough to be captured. Mark still wants to kill it, but David is adamantly against that action. As they put the plan into motion, the creature attempts to enter the boat, but is driven off by fire. It dives back into the river, and they follow it to its lair. It attacks Kay, but then falls to the ground, passing out from the drug. AS it regains consciousness in the cage aboard the ship, it sees Kay talking to one of the other scientists. The creatures strength returns, and it busts out of the cage easily. It savagely attacks the scientist, but gets lit on fire by a lamp. It retreats into the river, and the team is left in shock.

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Mark wants desperately to go after the creature, but David tells him that it’s too dangerous, and that they are leaving. As they proceed back up river, they see that their exit is blocked by a fallen tree. David thinks that it was the creatures doing, and he and Mark argue over a plan of action. As David tells him that he’s going to go into the water to tie a rope around the tree, so they can pull it out of the way with the ship’s wench, Mark attacks David, but ends up getting punched out by David. David then goes into the water, but is attacked by the creature. Luckily for him, Mark has decided to come into the water, and help. He uses his harpoon gun to fight off the creature’s attack, but eventually gets killed by it in the end. This leaves David and the others to find a way to stop the creature, and try get out alive!

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OK, here are my thoughts on the film:

As I said in the beginning, this film is perfect. The story is fantastic, but unlike a lot of horror, sci-fi movies, it doesn’t leave you guessing about what the creature looks like very long. Sometimes that can take all the suspense out of a movie, but it certainly does not in this one. The tension between Richard Carlson’s character and Richard Denning’s character is great! Throw in the gorgeous Julie Adams, and you have a really solid chemistry. Even Antonio Moreno and the others lend their strengths to the dialogue.

A great soundtrack, with an overall thunderous tone, gives a suspenseful feeling to this movie. I can’t imagine this one in color either, the black and white print is outstanding, and the 3-D “effects” were good for their time, no doubt. Honestly though, it could have easily done without that tag, but it was a sign of the times, so who cares. The underwater scenes in particular were really incredible. You can find this movie just about anywhere and for a decent price as well, so there’s no excuse to not own this classic Universal flick! With guys like Jack Arnold and William Alland!

Click here for the trailer!