A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema

By Charles P. Mitchell | Go to book overview

Five (1951)

Rating: * Threat: Nuclear radiation

Columbia. Written by Arch Oboler; Photographed by Louis Clyde Stoumen; Edited by John Hoffman; Music by Henry Russell; Produced & directed by Arch Oboler. B & W, 93 minutes.


ANNOTATED CAST LIST

William Phipps (Michael Rogan, Empire State Building tour guide); Susan Douglas (Roseanne Rogers, pregnant woman); James Anderson (Eric Rohmer, world explorer); Charles Lampkin (Charles, bank guard); Earl Lee (Oliver P. Barnstapte, bank cashier).


SYNOPSIS

Five was the first motion picture to deal with the destruction of the world through nuclear warfare. Arch Oboler produced, wrote and directed this film on a shoestring budget. Unfortunately, the film is so ponderous, dreary and dull that only a handful of fans will have the patience to sit through the entire picture.

The film opens with the detonation of a nuclear bomb. It is unclear if there was a nuclear conflict or if a new type of bomb was simply tested, which produced a deadly cloud of radiation that blanketed the world. There are shots showing London, Paris, Moscow and New York City being swallowed by a radioactive cloud, but without any blast damage. An aerial shot eventually zeros in on a lone woman staggering along a dirt highway in the mountains. She looks at a car stopped in the road, observing that the body of the driver is a mere skeleton. She continues to wander until she enters a small town. She calls out, but no one responds. A newspaper posted outside a store bears the headline, “World Annihilation Feared by Scientists, Savant Warns against New Bomb Use.”

The woman eventually wanders to a small house perched on a hilltop. A tall, bearded man appears after she enters the structure. They stare at each other in disbelief, and the woman passes out. She remains in shock for several days and is unresponsive to the man, who introduces himself as Michael Rogan. He was at work as a tour guide at the Empire State Building when the radiation enveloped Manhattan. He was knocked unconscious, and when he awoke, he was the only individual left alive in New York City. He traveled to other cities but found only dead people. The woman finally breaks her silence, asking “Where?” as Michael leaves to go hunting. He goes out of habit even though there is nothing to hunt. That night the woman, who is named Roseanne, tells Michael that she was in the X-ray room of a hospital when the radiation annihilated all life in the city. All her other memories are a complete blur. They try to start a new life together, but when Michael tries to embrace her, she rejects him, men-

-74-

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