DAY THE WORLD ENDED
Day the World Ended blatantly steals the basic set-up from Arch Obolers Five (1951), the very first film to deal with the nuclear holocaust and its aftermath. Five was a solemn and portentous affair concerning the tensions between five survivors of the nuclear holocaust gathered together in a house. Day the World Ended, although no less solemn and portentous in its own way, cheerfully subverts the plot to its own lurid pulp exploitation ends by sole dint of adding a three-eyed rubber monster to the proceedings. In so doing by transforming Obolers serious message-heavy work into the language of pulp Roger Corman unwittingly set the course for the post-holocaust B-movie for the rest of the decade, most of which drew from the cliches established here.
Day the World Ended is made on a painfully low budget. The photography and lighting is crude and Cormans camera set-ups are virtually static. The film almost takes place like a stage play in a single setting in the opening scene, the characters even make their entrance on cue one after the other like actors in a drawing room drama. It is a cheap and shoddy film. It is however conducted with an undeniable vigour and a conviction in itself. Paul Birch gives a fine hard-edged performance as the captain, and one does not doubt for a moment that everybody involved believed the pronouncements about the future that the film makes.
The films underlying sentiments are rather funny today. Who gets killed off and in what order is predictable the cranky prospector, followed by the hood, the cheap tramp and then the aging father leaving only the clean-cut hero and the blonde girl-next-door type to head off hand in hand and repopulate the future with, by implication, Caucasian babies and WASP values. Everything is seen in terms of Biblical provenance and passover and the ending with the hero and heroine walking off together is naturally seen with allusions to the Garden of Eden. The script trots out lines like There is a force more powerful than Man and in His infinite wisdom He has spared a few.
Day the World Ended is one 1950s film that has never been remade in the modern era, although there was Z-movie director Larry Buchanans cheap In the Year 2889 (1966). There was also The Day the World Ended (2001), a film produced for cable in the Creature Features series. However, the Creature Feature series only borrowed a stack of 1950s AIP B movie titles and this was an otherwise entirely unrelated film about a town terrorised by an alien monster. The title was also used for an Irwin Allen disaster movie The Day the World Ended aka When Time Ran Out (1980), which, despite the apocalyptic promise of the title, is only a dreary disaster about a volcanic eruption and has no science-fiction elements.
Roger Cormans other genre films as director are: It Conquered the World (1956), Not Of This Earth (1956), War of the Satellites (1956), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Journey to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957), The Undead (1957), Teenage Caveman (1958), A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Wasp Woman (1959), The House of Usher/The Fall of the House of Usher (1960), Last Woman on Earth (1960), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), Tower of London (1962), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Raven (1963), The Terror (1963), X The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), The Trip (1967), Gas; or It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It (1970) and Frankenstein Unbound (1990). Cormans World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011) is a documentary about Cormans career.