A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema

By Charles P. Mitchell | Go to book overview

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959)

Rating: *** Threat: Radioactive isotope dust

MGM. Written by Ranald MacDougall based on a story by Ferdinand Reyher; Photographed by Harold J. Mazoratis; Special effects by A. Arnold Gillespie (mechanical), Lee Le Blanc & Matthew Yuricich (photographic); Edited by Harold Kress; Music by Miklós Rózsa; Produced by George Englund; Directed by Ranald MacDougall. B & W, 95 minutes.


ANNOTATED CAST LIST

Harry Belafonte (Ralph Burton, mine inspector); Inger Stevens (Sarah Crandall, survivor who hid in a decompression chamber); Mel Ferrer (Ben Thacker, survivor who journeys by boat from South America).


SYNOPSIS

This film is essentially a mainstream variation of Arch Oboler's Five (1951). Like that problematic production, The World, the Flesh and the Devil has much promise but falters along the way with a weak conclusion. The real letdown is that the production came very close to being a classic but missed grabbing the brass ring. Nonetheless, there is ample quality in it to warrant repeat viewings.

Ralph Burton is a young, black safety inspector checking out a closed section of a mine in Pennsylvania. Water is a major problem in this tunnel, and without the constant use of pumps it will soon flood. A cave-in traps Ralph, but he receives a signal from above, and soon he starts to hear the sounds of rescue machinery being used to extricate him. A number of days pass, and Ralph keeps up his spirits by singing and chatting to himself. He starts to panic, however, when the water pumps stop, the lights start to flicker and the sounds of rescue cease. Fearing the rising water level, Ralph desperately tries to dig out and squeezes through a hole into one passage and then another. He finally breaks through to a higher level where he locates a ladder to the surface. When he emerges into the sunlight, he exclaims, “I'm out! I'm out!” but finds no one at the mining complex. Ralph heads to the office and is shocked to see newspaper headlines proclaiming the end of the world. Millions of people were attempting to flee from a cloud of nuclear radiation, which was slowly blanketing the entire planet.

Burton locates a Geiger counter, but the radiation level seems normal. He fires a gun into the air, but there is no response. There are no bodies anywhere, and Ralph is perplexed. He selects a new car at an auto dealership and heads off to New York City. When he reaches the George Washington Bridge, it is impassable due to the many cars abandoned on the roadway. The Holland Tunnel is

-259-

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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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