A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema

By Charles P. Mitchell | Go to book overview

On the Beach (1959)

Rating: ***** Threat: Radiation sickness

United Artists. Written by John Paxton based on the novel On the Beach by Nevil Shute; Photographed by Guiseppe Rotunno; Special effects by Lee Zavitz & Linwood G. Dunn; Edited by Frederic Knudtson; Music by Ernest Gold; Produced & directed by Stanley Kramer. B & W, 134 minutes.


ANNOTATED CAST LIST

Gregory Peck (Dwight Lionel Towers, American submarine captain); Ava Gardner (Moira Davidson, Australian socialite); Anthony Perkins (Lt. Peter Holmes, Australian liaison officer to Towers); Donna Anderson (Mary, his wife); Katherine Hills (Jennifer, their baby); Fred Astaire (Julian Osborne, nuclear scientist); John Tate (Adm. Bridie, head of Australian Navy); Lola Brooks (Lt. Osgood, his assistant); Guy Doleman (Bob Farrel, first officer of the Sawfish); Peter Williams (Jorgenson, professor with theory of fallout dissipation); Peter O'Shaughnessy (his associate); John Meillon (Ralph Swain, yeoman who jumps ship in San Francisco); Joe McCormick (Ackerman, first sailor to get radiation sickness); Kevin Brennan (Dr. King, physician who treats Ackerman); Lou Vernon (Davidson, Moira's father); Harp McGuire (Sundstrom, sailor who explores the San Diego refinery); Ken Wayne (Benson, requisitions officer on the Sawfish); Richard Meikle (Davis); Keith Eden (Dr. Fletcher, government physician who informs Holmes about the suicide pills); Basil Buller-Murphy (Sir Douglas Froude, Mary's uncle); Jim Barrett (Chrysler, Australian officer on the carrier Melborne); Frank Gatcliff (radio officer); John Royle (his supervisor); Ken Baumgartner (chief petty officer on the Sawfish); Stuart Finch (Jones, communications operator on the Sawfish); Lucian Endicott (planesman on the Sawfish); Jack Boyer (medic on the Sawfish); Jerry Ian Seals (Fogarty, crewman on the Sawfish); Harvey Adams (Sykes); Grant Taylor (Morgan, Holmes party guest); Rita Paunceford (Holmes party guest); Audine Leith (Betty, Holmes party guest); Paddy Moran (Pastoral Club member concerned about the wine supply); C. Harding Brown (Dykers, Billiards player at Pastoral Club); John Casson (Salvation Army preacher); Cary Paul Peck (boy); Dale Van Sickel (stunt driver for Fred Astaire).


SYNOPSIS

This film is perhaps the first and foremost example of mainstream apocalyptic cinema. It is a film made even more intense by the low-key delivery of most of the cast. There are few histrionics in this cerebral approach. The story portrays no mass rioting, no reverting to the law of the jungle as civilization fades away. There is little genuine action in the picture as most of the drama is internal, and

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