Four astronauts returning from mankind's first mission to Mars enter a time warp and crash on a 26th Century Earth devastated by atomic war. Our heroes meet with hideous mutant cavemen, giant spiders, love-struck beauties in short dresses, and jealous old geezers in sparkly skullcaps as they struggle to save humanity and build a new world.
Hugh Marlowe ... John Borden
Nancy Gates ... Garnet
Nelson Leigh ... Dr. Eldon Galbraithe
Rod Taylor ... Herbert Ellis
Shirley Patterson ... Elaine (as Shawn Smith)
Lisa Montell ... Deena
Christopher Dark ... Henry 'Hank' Jaffe
Booth Colman ... Mories
Everett Glass ... Timmek
Stanley Fraser ... Elda
This fairly ambitious science fiction from minor studio Allied Artists used to be one of my favorite science fiction films when I was kid. This is an another one of those films I first saw on TV as kid and still recall with fondness and enjoy re-watching on video every now and then.The story of accidental time travel via space ship appealed to me. Although the idea of time travel was novel to films when it was first released in 1956, the story is obviously derived from the HG Wells novel "The Time Machine." The fact that the time travel is accidental instead of deliberate via a time machine, the mutants live above ground instead of below it and the normal people live underground instead on the surface didn't fool me when I was ten years when I first saw this film on TV.(I had already seen the George Pal version of THE TIME MACHINE and read the "Classics Illustrated" version of the novel.) Neither did it fool the estate of HG Wells, who filed a plagiarism suit against Allied Artists when this film was first released. I have never discovered the result of this suit however. Its somewhat ironic that both this plagiarized version of "The Time Machine" and George Pal's authorized version made a few years later, both star Rod Taylor.
While WORLD WITHOUT END is fairly entertaining film, it can not be considered one the great classic science fiction films from the 1950's. The film moves along a good pace, until director/writer Edward Bernds slows the story down and clutters up the film with scenes of "court intrigue." The names given to some of the characters shows some imagination. I thought the scenes of the rocket crashing in the snow, although obvious, looked attractive. Emile LaVinge's make up for the mutants is imaginative; no two mutants seems to have the same deformity. The Vargas designed costumes on the women are sexy. However, the mens costumes with the skull caps smacks of Flash Gorden in worst way. The giant spiders, to say the least are unconvincing. They are a gaudy blue and red color and look like pillows.
Despite the films faults, one should give credit to minor league studio Allied Artists, whom most of their previous science fiction films (and most those that came later) were low budget black and white quickies designed to fill the bottom half of a double bill, attempt to make something that would compete with the bigger budgeted science fiction movies being made by the big studios. The fact that they allowed for the added expense of shooting this film in Technicolor and Cinema Scope confirms this. Although not entirely successful, one could say that WORLD WITHOUT END was a nice try from a low rent studio.
This is the perhaps the best script from a writer's point of view of any of the 1950s low-budget "B" sci-fi films. Galactic fiction being beyond the capacities of Hollywood writers' imaginations, the best they could do is "futuristics", stories of apocalyptic, invaded, poisoned or plagued Earth. Larger budgets made possible color features such as "War of the Worlds"; and "When Worlds Collide"; others with less backing made "Kronos", "Earth Versus the Flying Saucers" and this gem of the genre. Here four astronauts who return from a mission to Mars are caught in the usual 'time warp'; and so they return to find a devastated Earth of the future--atomic war being the destructive force. The astronauts are led by dependable leading man Hugh Marlowe; the others are young Rod Taylor, Christopher Dark and announcer--voiced nice guy Nelson Leigh. They become involved with The Council, led by Everett Glass and run afoul of fine actor Booth Colman as a man jealous of their potency as political leaders and their genetic potential to please the local female population. Others in the cast include fine character actors Paul Brinegar and Herb Vigran. Borrowing a page from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Opar tales, author and director of the film, Edward Bernds, has introduced beast men, impotent males and gorgeous women who seem seem almost to belong to a different race. The three lovelies are played by capable leading lady Nancy Gates, Lisa Montell and Shawn Smith. What sets this film apart is fine music by Leigh Harline, intelligent sets, enjoyably-revealing costumes for the ladies and its dialogue and interestingly-developed characters. The four astronauts learn about the new society of wrecked Earth, its problems and hopes, as we do, adding to the impact of the story. Dark has a good part as he mourns his lost family; the older Leigh enjoys his status as a sought-after-male and scientist, Taylor is stalwart and promising but battles his Australian accent. Marlowe makes everyone else look better as usual by his intelligence and ability to handle adventure-level dialogue. The action climax sets the four up to be the leaders of a new and perhaps better world, with the beast men at bay and affairs of the heart settled admirably-- and Dark in charge of the children who are the hope of a rebuilt Earth... I cannot recommend this exercise in clever low-budget sci-fi film-making too highly. This is an exciting and interesting narrative.
I saw this film for the first time when I was about 8 years of age and never forgot a lot of the issues raised during the plot. The first 15 minutes or so, the viewer is shown a rocket traveling from Martian orbit which subsequently takes off suddenly at a fantastic undefined velocity. The special effects imply that it is going through some sort of convulsion or warp. The rocket eventually crashes on some planet.
After the astronauts start to explore the "unknown" planet, they encounter some unearthly phenomena such as a surface reading of elevated background radiation that would be uncharacteristic of comparable measurements on earth. Tnen, inside a cave, they encounter a giant spider (a staple of 1950s SF, somewhat hokey here) which would be impossible on the earth that they knew. Sunsequently, they meet a group of savage humanoids that could be throwbacks to a stone age era. Now, the key point which I never forgot - a visit to an abandoned cemetery that contains monuments dating back to at least the 20th century on earth. This shocking detail reveals that they have somehow returned to earth, but not the earth that they knew. Then, they discover the grave of someone who lived from the years 1985 - 2068 !!! (The astronauts went into space around 1957) The concept of time dilation dates back to the Einstein Special Theory of Relativity and I have been fascinated by the possibility ever since. The astronauts try to speculate about the velocity that they actually attained, beyond 100 miles / second - or, was it 1000 miles/second, 10000 miles/second, or faster still (the velocity of light is 186,000 miles/ second at which fundamental physical concepts such as length, mass, and time undergo fantastic values in magnitude). As one approaches the velocity of light, time becomes asymptotic and at actual light speed, time is reduced to 0. According to physicists, light speed is the absolute limit in the universe. That is why concepts such as warps in space-time are being discussed as possible methods of achieving faster than light conditions. In any case, the astronauts discover that sometime between their departure in 1957 and their appearance on earth several centuries later, there was some horrific atomic world war that decimated civilization as they knew it.
The astronauts are chased into a cave by the savages in another encounter where they meet descendants of survivors of the atomic war living underground. At this point, the plot starts to focus on human interactions and the various behavioral passions and characteristics (including human frailties and weaknesses such as mistrust and jealousy) that seem to be universals in any era of the history of mankind, from ancient times to the present, to the future time of the year 2508. The girls in the movie are all knockouts (especially the bare-legged ones) which are a staple of 1950s SF (such as in "Missile to the Moon", "Queen of Outer Space", and others). After a number of debates followed by an act of treachery by one of the men from the future, the astronauts finally convince the subterranean people to let them fight their way to the surface, fight off the savages, and establish a base upon which the underground people can rebuild civilization.
As the future men and women from the year 2508 rebuild civilization, would they be able to control their negative passions in order to create a world at peace? Or once re-established on the surface, would new kingdoms, principalities, and nations take root again followed by the usual cycles of peace and war ? The saga of human history is marked by cycles of rise and fall and then subsequent rise and fall. Is this all we humans can do ? Or can we do better ? Can the human race rise above the flaws and frailties that made the atomic war (and all of the wars before it) possible ? Or can we learn to put intellect above violence and put an end to war forever ? Would this imply that Homo Sapiens would really learn to live up to its name. The term "Homo Sapiens" means "wise man". How "wise" are men who slaughter each other in cycles of wars that have come close to destroying entire segments of the population ? How "wise" would we actually be to destroy the earth and us with it ? There is nothing "wise" about taking another human life. Wars have plagued us humans from ancient times to the present. Can we eventually learn to control our lower instincts and passions in order to make war impossible? Can we truly create a civilized human order at peace with itself? These are questions that function as the subtext of the movie.
* This film was produced directly by Allied Artists (formerly Monogram). It was made in hopes of shedding their "poverty row" image. It was given a larger budget and shot in color and Cinemascope and ran a full reel longer than their usual 60-70 minute fare. Allied Artists was able to book it under percentage contracts rather than flat rates.