Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day the World Ended & She Creature [DVD] [1956] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

The day the world ended is a film I saw late at night and found it one of the most frightening I had ever seen, to the extent that I had nightmares about it and remembered scenes from it for the 45 years since I first saw it. The plot: a survivalist with experience - observations of horrible mutations after the H-Bomb explosion in the Pacific - has built a house protected by lead deposits and natural ridges. But there is a kink in his plan: a group of uninvited guests show up. With only enough food for himself, his daughter, and her missing fiancee, the danger of hunger increases tension between the group that includes a scientist and a crook with his stripper babe. But the scariest part is a man who survived in mutated form, with silvery atomic skin, who can walk through the radioactive mist to the outside world in search of the raw meat he craves, where, he assures the scientist, "wonderful things are happening, but you will all die." The mutated man returns at night because he has enemies on the outside. All the residents are unsure whether or not they will become like that man with the radiation that is sure to come with the next rains.

This kind of thing - of a infection from radioactive contamination that causes irreversible mutation - absolutely terrified me. There is one scene where a man emerges from the mist with clawed hands and three-toed feet, weeping from hunger because "the stronger ones" won't share their hunts with him. He became an image of feverish nightmare for me. Meanwhile, the daughter keeps hearing someone call to her, perhaps her missing fiancee, a presence who comes ever closer to the house. Though she has fallen for the scientist, she feels somehow beholden to the mysterious creature, who when revealed is (admittedly rather campily) monstrous and invulnerable until the scientist realizes that it fears the uncontaminated.

This is really great fun and brought me back to my childhood terror of nuclear holocaust. Radiation was such a mysterious thing then. The acting is also unusually good for low budget scifi of the 50s, with Connors (or Minnix) as the thuggish tough, but also Denning, who was in many 60s TV shows. Just this film is well worth the price of the dvd. It is by far my favorite of the Corman legacy.

Recommended with enthusiasm.

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