Finally, earth is destroyed by nulear missiles, & one of the few safe
havens is Jim Maddison's (Paul Birch) house in a remote valley, which was built
there exactly to survive a nuclear blast, & where he & his daughter
Louise (Lori Nelson) soon have to (reluctantly) welcome an assortment of
strangers who have just happened to be in the valley when the bombas went boom:
gangster Tony (Touch Connors) & his sleazy but good-natured moll Ruby
(Adele Jergens), oldtimer & golddigger Pete (Raymond Hatton) with his
beloved mule Diablo & geologist Rick (Richard Denning), who has also rought
a heavily contaminated man, Radek (Paul Dubov) out of pity.
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Things of course get off with a bad start, when Tony wants to take control
of the procedeedings with his gun but is overpowered by good guy Rick, but from
here on wants revenge on Rick, which is of course not made any better when he
falls for Louise, who has become enamoured with Nick though. So Tony makes up a
plan to get back his gun & kill them all safe for himself (of course) &
Ruby (or Louise), to stretch the meager provisions Maddison has to offer.
But as if that alone wasn't bad enough, contaminated Radek starts to behave
ever stranger, & Rick & Jim soon find out he goes prowling the woods at
night o hunt for raw meat ... & that there are mutants outside that are
even hungrier for raw meat ... & who is saying they won't find out humans
are made of raw meat, too ?
Soon, Radek even kills Pete's mule Diablo, & his behaviour has taken a
turn to the violent side, so Rick & Jim have to shoot him.
Pete, learning about the fate of his mule, heads for the hills out of
sadness, despite the fact that the radioactive fog that enshrouds them will
prove lethal to humans (or even because of it), & he soon dies. Jim, who
was trying to stop him, has been getting enough of the fog too to leave him
bedridden & slowly dieing from ontamination ... at the worst possible time
though, as Tony has just killed Ruby in a fit of rage, Louise has been abducted
by a mutated monster (Paul Blaisdell), & while Rick has gone after her to
save her, Tony has gotten his hands on Jim's gone & has turned the tables
to his favour.
But while Rick, with his rifle, proves unable to stop the monster, a simple
- uncontaminated - rain kills it in no time, & so Louise is saved, &
Jim, having wisely hidden a second gun under his pillow, is able to stop Tony
just before he can shoot Rick. Then though Jim dies of both exhaustion &
contamination, & the last survivors Rick & Louise decide to follow some
radio signals they have received not long ago ...
The Day the World Ended, Roger Corman's first foray into the
post-nuclear end-of-the-world-genre (a genre Corman would later return to with
Last Woman on Earth), could
possibly be seen as a statement against the nuclear arms race, or even against
the Cold War as such - however it is doubtful (at best) that Corman intended to
make a thesis-film for the newly emerged American Releasing Corporation (later
called AIP), which started specialising in drive-in double features back
then. & of course, this film has all the usual ingredients of a drive in
(sci-fi-)movie: a monster, fist fights, a bit of gunplay, easily recognizable
heroes & villains, & script & direction which are more determined
to thrill audiences than to make them think ... & as such, The Day the
World Ended is of course completely charming.