Cinema Sunday: World Without End (1956)

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Title: World Without End

Distributor: Allied Artists

Writer: Edward Bernds

Director: Edward Bernds

Producer: Richard Heermance

Starring: Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, Rod Taylor, Nelson Leigh, Shawn Smith

Release: March 25, 1956

MPAA: PG

 

I’ve been dying to return to some Science Fiction, so why not return to the best decade for that genre, the 1950’s! The theme of space exploration was used heavily in this decade (and for the next couple), but for me, as long as the story is good, and the acting at least above average, it never gets old. This film has a solid cast, good sets, and a very good music score! Oh, and the first thing you see (even before the credits), is an atomic bomb detonating! C’mon, you know you’ve got a good movie on your hands when the beginning brings something that cool!

Well, rather than going on about this one for too long, I’ll just say that you should really see this film for no other reason than Rod Taylor, and a pack of gorgeous women! They have this film on Warner Archive now, so get over there and give it a watch!

 

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The film begins with a group of military men telling the Pentagon that a ship out in space has gone silent for a couple of days. A spokesperson then tells some reporters that they can’t give any information about it until they investigate further. This same spokesman, comforts a woman and her children, because apparently her husband is one of the men on the mission. Switching to a TV station, a man tells the world that the space mission near Mars may have ended in disaster, with the ship losing communications with Earth. Speaking of the ship, we see it hurtling through space, as the communications officer, Ellis (Rod Taylor The Time Machine, The Birds), informs the commander, Galbraithe (Nelson Leigh Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), that they still cannot connect with Earth. Along with the rest of the crew, science officer,  Borden (Hugh MarloweThe Day the Earth Stood Still), and engineer, Jaffee (Christopher Dark), they are all optimistic about their return to Earth. Just as they finish some a last pass by the red planet, they ready themselves for the long trip home. Suddenly, the ship is tossed all over the place, and the crew hangs on for dear life!

 

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After a crash landing, the crew believes they’ve landed on Mars or another nearby planet. As they look out the window, they see snow-covered mountaintops. They initially theorize, that they might be on Mars, but quickly discern that they are most certainly not. A Geiger counter tells them that there is some radiation, but nothing toxic. Ellis attempts to use the radio to contact someone, but gets static. The crew then packs up their gear, and heads out to explore this strange new world.

After walking for a while, they stop for a rest, and talk over a game plan. Jaffee is having a difficult time adjusting, and the rest of the crew wishes someone with a family hadn’t been allowed on the mission. They discover a cave, and upon exploring it, find a huge spiderweb. Ellis gets a bit too close though, and gets tangled up in it, then attacked by a huge spider! They wrestle with it, then shoot it at point-blank range. Another one tries to ambush them, but they put the kibosh to that one quickly with their pistols. Back outside, they find a clearing, but decide it will take too long to get anywhere else today, so they settle in for the night, and make camp.

 

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During the night, we see a group of savages surround the camp, and they viciously attack the crew. Eventually, Ellis gets to his sidearm, and puts a couple of them down, and the rest flee. They notice that the attackers seem to be part human, part animal. The next day, they grab their gear and head off for the clearing they saw the day before. They come upon a gravestone, and it is then that they realize that they have time traveled into Earth’s future. Borden tells the rest of the crew that they were caught up in a time dilation, and pierced the sound barrier, and traveled into the far-flung future. Jaffee is having a tough time dealing with the fact that his family is long dead. They believe that there must have been a giant catastrophe that decimated the world, years before their arrival. They also think that the beasts that attacked them earlier are mutated human beings.

As they search on, Borden sees some unnatural smoke, and volunteers to investigate. The rest of the crew talks about his family, that died in a plane crash years ago. Just as they finish talking, another group of mutates attacks Borden, but between his fighting prowess, and the others hooting, they manage to fight off the mutates for a while. The mutates outnumber them by a long-shot though, so they hide in a tunnel nearby. As they look around, they find a steel door, that is obviously man-made, and harboring something. Another steel door closes to seal off the cave, and then another opens, inviting them inside. They enter, and are almost immediately met by a man who asks them to follow him down a corridor. They are brought before a council that informs them that Armageddon ravaged the planet, and that they are all that’s left of the human race, along with the mutates. And also, that it is now the year 2508!

 

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As they get more familiar with each other, a door opens, and a beautiful woman enters, Garnet (Nancy Gates), and introduces herself as the leader’s daughter. She escorts the men to a room where they can relax, and then two other women, Deena (Lisa Montell), and Elaine (Shirley Patterson) . The weary explorers are at a loss for words. Galbraithe then asks the girls why they haven’t gone back above ground since the radiation levels are livable. She explains that they have come accustomed to living there, and that the mutates might kill them, so they’d rather live below in peace.

A few hours later, Galbraithe meets with the council to discuss some things, but they only want to talk about ancient history, and he wishes to discuss fixing the ship to explore the rest of the planet. One of the council members, Mories (Booth Coleman Planet of the Apes), is very skeptical about their intentions, and wants them to either conform or leave. The men take a tour of the complex, and Garnet gives Borden a “private tour” because they seem to be sweet on each other. There’s a bit of jealousy on the part of Mories, as he gives Borden the evil eye when he sees Garnet giving him so much attention.

 

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The crew repeatedly attempts to sway the council to rise to the surface, and defeat the mutates, and live as humans should, on top of the surface. The council seems to think the crew might have a point, but Mories keeps frightening them with stories of how they’ll be murdered by the mutates. The crew even asks to just be able to use some men to make it to their ship, and also use their factory to make weapons, but they are told that isn’t possible. Mories is then seen spying on them, and then tells the other council members that the crew is planning a coup. Garnet talks to her father, Timmek (Everett Glass), (the leader of the underground people), and tries to convince him that they are sincere, and just want harmony for all mankind.

 

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One of the other council members reports this to Mories, who then devises a plan to frame the crew for crimes against the council. He steals the weapons of the crew (that were confiscated earlier), and then hides them in their room, and accuses them of subterfuge. The council has a kangaroo court that finds them guilty, and they’re locked up and told that they’ll be thrown out with nothing more than what they had when they came to the community. As Mories was stealing the weapons though, he was discovered by one of the other council members, so he killed him to hide his actions. He blames the crew for that as well. The women don’t believe it though ( as they’ve fallen in love with the crew members), so they agree to help them escape. Unbeknownst to Mories, Deena saw him enter the room of the crew, and tries to report him, but he attacks her as well. She eventually recovers, and outs Mories.  He runs to the only place where he can get away, the outside world. Within seconds he’s savagely attacked and killed by the mutates.

 

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The council changes their mind, and agrees to help the crew with furnishing weapons and some men to help them make their way to the ship. Will they be able to fight off the mutates, and make it to the ship? Will they ever see the 20th century again? Only watching the movie will get you those answers!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

There’s no two ways to say this other than if you like Sci-Fi, you need to see this movie. It’s not as flashy as Forbidden Planet, but I’d guess that the budget was significantly less, so you’d have to factor that in the equation. The crew of the ship really do grow on you, and have you on their side from the beginning. Rod Taylor does a fantastic job at playing the young, cocky space-jocky type, and Hugh Marlowe and Nelson Leigh really excel at being the “father figure” types for the younger two crew members.  Of course you get some of the same tropes in this film that you get in most others of this period, but if you think about it, they’re still being used to this day in one way or another, so they can’t be labeled as tiresome in a movie from 1956.

The sets/locations for this film were pretty good, and really looked best in the outdoor scenes. The underground community set was solid as well, and looked like something straight out of a Star Trek episode (even though this movie predates that series by ten years!). There’s a bit of social commentary in the film but it doesn’t get too heavy or ridiculous. The music score (Leith Stevens), was very good, and I haven’t personally ever heard of this gentleman, but I’m definitely going to keep my eyes open and look for more of his work.

As I said above, either grab this film on DVD (you can get it in a double pack with Satellite in the Sky (1956) for around $12-15. Or if you have any kind of tablet, download the Warner Archive app, because you can get a month of free movies, where this flick is available as of now. Do yourself a favor, and give some of these classics a shot. They really did lay the foundation for the rest of the movies and TV shows for years to come in this genre!

 

 Click here for a clip!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Forbidden Planet (1956)

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Title: Forbidden Planet

Distributor: MGM

Writer: Irving Block & Allen Adler (Screenplay by Cyril Hume)

Director: Fred M. Wilcox

Producer: Nicholas Nayfack

Starring: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens

Released: April 1st, 1956

MPAA: PG

I’d like to begin by setting the record straight. This is the best sci-fi film ever made, and the 1950’s is the best decade ever for the genre, and it’s not up for debate. OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get down to dissecting –Forbidden Planet! The actors and cool science fiction elements really jettison this film into the atmosphere! Walter Pidgeon and Leslie Nielsen are incredible, and the lovely Anne Francis really ignites the picture when she steps into the light!

In 1956, this film wasn’t a media darling, but it did make money. It wasn’t until later, when it was re-released in 1972, that it started to gain momentum, and eventually become a cult classic! DVD sales have been fantastic, and it will forever occupy space on my DVR! For those of you who haven’t seen this flick yet, stop reading this, and get out there and buy it before continuing! Now, let us journey to the 23rd Century…

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The film opens with a space cruiser (United Planets C57-D), as it heads out into the far reaches of space. Once the ship nears it’s destination, it releases the explorers from “hyper-sleep”. They make contact with the planet below (Altair IV), and Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) tells them that everything is OK. Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen), informs him that even though everything is fine, they must land and do an inspection. Morbius warns the commander that he won’t be held responsible for anything that happens from here on out. Commander Adams tells him to supply them with landing coordinates, so they can safely land the ship.

Once they land, Commander Adams, Lt. Jerry Farman (Jack Kelly), and Doc Ostrow (Warren Stevens), are greeted by a transport vehicle that appears to be going at an alarming rate of speed towards them. They soon realize that it’s a robot (Robby the Robot-pic below with Walter Pidgeoon), and he was sent by Dr. Morbius to bring them to his home. Once there, Morbius assures them that everything is fine, but when they ask about the other colonists, Morbius pauses, then tells them a fantastic tale. He recounts how the other colonists were killed by some unforeseen planetary force, and as the last few tried to take off in the ship to go back to Earth, the ship was vaporized. He cannot explain how or why this happened, only that he and his wife were spared, and they shared a love for this strange new world.

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As they’re finishing up lunch, a beautiful woman appears, and Morbius then introduces his daughter (Anne Francis). Lt. Farman immediately tries to put the moves o her, but she’s too immature to figure it out. Morbius thinks everything is OK, but Commander Adams must contact Earth for further instructions because the other colonists being dead wasn’t in the plans. Morbius isn’t happy about that, but can’t do anything about it either.

The men return to the ship for the night, and as they slumber, some unknown entity enters the ship, and destroys their communication device. Commander Adams questions the guards the following morning, but they don’t give any insight about what happened. Doc Ostrow and Commander Adams question Morbius about it, and he reveals to them that he’s been studying an ancient civilization known as the “Krell”, that once occupied the planet, but were wiped out by some mysterious means. He also shows them some of the devices that they invented, one of those being an education device of some kind that can exponentially increase ones mental acumen (pic below). This is how he was intelligent enough to create “Robby”, and some of the advanced equipment around the house.

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The men convince Morbius to lend a hand in constructing a new communication device,and Robby lends a hand as well. The following night brings even more chaos, as Commander Adams orders extra security, but the Chief Engineer is killed. A footprint is left this time though, and the Doc makes a cast of it to try to gauge what they’re dealing with. The cast is tremendous, and goes against any and all scientific knowledge. While all of this is going down, Commander Adams and Morbius’ daughter, Alta, are falling in love. We then see a scene, where this giant invisible beast (pic below) attacks the camp of the explorers, and simultaneously Morbius is having a violent nightmare. Alta wakes him up, and the beast mysteriously disappears. Commander Adams and the Doc realize that one of them must use the alien educator to heighten their  mental power, and find a way to get off of the planet unharmed. They return to the home of Morbius to do that, but are stopped by Robby. Alta uses an override command to stop Robby, and Commander Adams and Alta talk about leaving the planet. While they talk, Doc goes into the lab, and takes the “brain boost”. Later, he stumbles out of the lab, and dies in Commander Adams arms. Just before he does, he reveals the secret of what killed the aliens and the colonists!

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Will Commander Adams and his fellow explorers escape alive? Or will they succumb to the same planetary force that kills everything in its path? Find out, when you watch…Forbidden Planet!!!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This is the best sci-fi movie ever, no question. Yeah, it does have a couple of loopholes in it, but again, this was made in 1956! Think about it, that’s almost 60 years ago! The acting was quite good by all the people involved, but Leslie Nielsen and Walter Pidgeon deserve the lion share of the credit. All the others were solid too though, and even the “eye candy”, Anne Francis was more than serviceable.  Heck, even Robby the Robot added some dialog! Not only that, but I’m sure back in the day, Robby was an astounding achievement on the big screen too!

The electronic music score was quite a change from any other movies of that generation. The set designs were absolutely astounding as well, but they were the most incredible during the special effects scene with the monster attacking through the force field. This classic film is a must watch for anyone that even has a mild interest in sci-fi or just classic cinema of yesteryear! Kudos to the men and women that brought us Forbidden Planet!