A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema

By Charles P. Mitchell | Go to book overview

Overview: Cinematic Visions of the Apocalypse

A basic definition of apocalyptic cinema is a motion picture that depicts a credible threat to the continuing existence of humankind as a species or the existence of Earth as a planet capable of supporting human life. The genre of apocalyptic cinema is closely related to, yet distinct from, a similar genre primarily known as post-apocalyptic cinema, which concentrates on survivors of a catastrophic event struggling to reestablish a livable society. In order to be classified as an apocalyptic film, the event threatening the extinction of humanity has to be presented within the story. If this catastrophe occurs prior to the events depicted on the screen, the film is post-apocalyptic. Naturally there can be a blurring of the lines of these two genres, and a number of pictures can legitimately be labeled as both. In Deluge (1933), for example, the first half of the story is clearly apocalyptic and the second half is post-apocalyptic. The same is true of the television mini-series based on the novel The Stand by Stephen King. The first episode is apocalyptic while the remaining three episodes are post-apocalyptic. Two novels by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer also serve to illustrate the difference. When Worlds Collide is apocalyptic, and After Worlds Collide is post-apocalyptic. Unfortunately in general criticism, the distinctions between apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic categories are often been overlooked.

Apocalyptic films can be classified into seven specific categories: Religious or Supernatural; Celestial Collision; Solar or Orbital Disruption; Nuclear War and Radioactive Fallout; Germ Warfare or Pestilence; Alien Device or Invasion; and Scientific Miscalculation. An eighth category, Miscellaneous, is somewhat of a grab bag that required to account for a few oddball titles outside these regular categories. A few films, such as Virus (1980), combine elements from several categories. A close examination of each grouping defines the unusual scope and breadth of the apocalyptic genre.

-xi-

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A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Overview: Cinematic Visions of the Apocalypse xi
  • A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema: Fifty Films in Depth 1
  • The 27th Day (1957) 3
  • Armageddon (1998) 10
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) 17
  • Crack in the World (1965) 22
  • The Dawn of the Dead (1978) 27
  • The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) 33
  • The Day the Sky Exploded (1958/61) 40
  • Day the World Ended (1956) 44
  • Deep Impact (1998) 48
  • Deluge (1933) 54
  • Doomsday Machine (1967/72) 59
  • Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) 63
  • The End of the World (1930/34) 70
  • Five (1951) 74
  • Holocaust 2000 (1978) 78
  • The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) 83
  • Kronos (1957) 88
  • The Last Man on Earth (1964) 93
  • The Last War (1961) 98
  • The Last Wave (1977) 103
  • The Last Woman on Earth (1960) 108
  • Lifeforce (1985) 112
  • The Lost Missile (1958) 117
  • The Magnetic Monster (1953) 122
  • The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936) 127
  • Mars Attacks! (1996) 133
  • Meteor (1979) 139
  • Moonraker (1979) 145
  • The Night the World Exploded (1957) 152
  • Noah's Ark (1929) 157
  • No Blade of Grass (1970) 162
  • No Survivors Please (1964) 168
  • One Night Stand (1984) 172
  • On the Beach (1959) 177
  • Quiet Earth (1985) 184
  • Robot Monster (1953) 189
  • Runestone (1991) 194
  • The Satan Bug (1965) 199
  • The Seventh Sign (1988) 205
  • Solar Crisis (1990) 210
  • Star Trek—the Motion Picture (1978) 214
  • Target Earth (1953) 221
  • Them! (1954) 226
  • Virus (1980) 231
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961) 238
  • The War of the Worlds (1953) 243
  • When Worlds Collide (1951) 249
  • Where Have All the People Gone? (1974) 255
  • The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) 259
  • Zarkorr the Invader (1996) 265
  • Appendices 269
  • Appendix A 271
  • Appendix B 279
  • Appendix C 283
  • Index 285
  • About the Author 311
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