• Classic Horrors Club

Movie of the Week: Day the World Ended (1955)

Day the World Ended (1955), the fourth film directed by Roger Corman and his first genre film, has some clever ideas and, for the low budgets and resourcefulness we know he’d continue utilizing throughout his career, is not bad. Neither is it necessarily good, though. I’d call it “average,” certainly not the best he’d later produce, but certainly not the worst.


How seriously you want to take it may depend on your personal perspective. Take the monster, for example, a human mutation quickly formed after atomic bombs obliterate all of Earth’s major cities. It has an arm-like appendage growing from each shoulder. If these are just the features of a monster, fine, but what if they are actual human arms, the only remaining evidence that it was once a human?


Such a subtle distinction, which might indicate Corman’s intentions, makes all the difference in the world. Of course, we don’t know how much guidance he gave master monster maker, Paul Blaisdell, but if it was just to make a scary monster, that’s one thing. If it was to represent the actual evolution of a human being, with a somewhat realistic reminder of what it used to be, that’s another.


Let’s assume it was the latter and look at how well Day the World Ended handles its grim subject matter. What are the implications of worldwide atomic destruction? First, we know that Jim Maddison (Paul Birch) and his daughter, Louise (Lori Nelson), survived because their home lies in a valley between cliffs that contain lead, which shielded them from the poisonous vapors of the explosion(s).


I’m no nuclear scientist, but I’ll buy that. It’s a little more suspicious that five other people would be in the same remote area and converge on the Maddison residence at the same time. Ah, but that’s to give us the human drama of conflicting personalities and beliefs, as well as the sexual tension among Louise, geologist Rick (Richard Denning), and thug Tony Lamont (Mike Connors.)


This human drama is fairly believable, although coincidental and engineered by writer Lou Rusoff, who a year later wrote It Conquered the World and The She-Creature, to provide all the right beats for the interpersonal conflicts that arise. The full implication of what has happened and what the future may bring is reflected in Ruby (Adele Jergens), Tony’s travelling companion and abused love interest.


She tries to bring some levity to a terrifying situation, and a boring one if you consider these may be the final seven people alive in the entire world. However, she’s the first to break down and cry when she realizes the futility of her efforts. She also reacts in perhaps the most believable way, sneaking out to sip some hooch with Pete (Raymond Hatton) and his donkey, Diablo.


Then there’s the aforementioned monster, probably the real reason we want to watch this movie. I’m not sure it would have mutated so fast, but, again, I’m no scientist. And I’m not sure it would be so easily destroyed with such little effort by the survivors, whose numbers have dwindled by the time it comes to destroy it. It is what it is, and it’s the most typical part of Day the World Ended.


With its short scenes, the movie’s 79-minute running time speeds along, even during its talky moments. The acting isn’t great, especially by Birch, who’s so matter-of-fact he’s almost monotone. Denning and Nelson are standouts, as you’d expect. It’s fun to see Mike (“Touch”) Connors in an early role. Finally, if you remember who he is or ever watched one of his newscasts, it’s wonderful to hear Chet Huntley as narrator.

Screenplay by Lou Rusoff

Directed by Roger Corman

Starring Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens, Mike Connors, Paul Birch, Raymond Hatton, Paul Dubov, Paul Blaisdell Released December, 1955 RT 79 min.

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