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4.3 out of 5 stars97
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 21 June 2004
This is the film that for me captures the terror I felt as a child, growing up at the height of the Cold War; it is bleak and intense, with scenes that are forever etched in my mind. It's one of the great films of that era ("Seven Days in May" and "Fail Safe" are others) that I can watch repeatedly, and their power and impact are never diminished.
Based on Nevil Shute's best seller, and brilliantly directed by Stanley Kramer, the use of sound effects combined with Ernest Gold's Oscar nominated score is very effective. Sometimes the simplest noise set against complete silence is ominous, and gives the feeling of the desolation of empty cities.
As time runs out, people try to avoid the "morbid discussion" of what awaits them, and some make the most of those precious days, weeks and months, like the elderly scientist Julian (in an exceptional performance by Fred Astaire), who completes his dream of being a race car driver.
Both strong and tender, Gregory Peck is fabulous as Dwight Towers, the commander of a submarine, who has trouble accepting that he is alive, while his family are victims of the "monstrous war". The woman who falls in love with him is Ava Gardner, who has spent far too much time being consoled by a bottle of brandy. The plot is filled out by Anthony Perkins and Donna Anderson, a young couple facing the fact that their baby has no future.
In the late 50s and early 60s, the scenario in this film was all too real; we face other dangers now, but there was something truly chilling about those Cold War years, and this film vividly brings back the memory of them. Total running time is 134 minutes.
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on 22 January 2001
This movie sums up the feelings and fears of the sixties in the shadow of the bomb, atomic war and aftermath. The story line is faultless as is the content. Each actor/actress is perfect for the roles they play, Gregory Peck being at his best. One of the very few movies that sticks to the original story, so rare. If you watch this movie and you are not deeply moved, I would say you are already dead. The pace of things is exactly right, leading up to the final shots, which must be termed as the most dramatic ending ever. I have watched this movie many times and I never cease to be moved. Although this movie is of my generation and times, my children watched it (age 20 and 22)and were as moved as much as me.
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on 7 November 2015
Whilst the content of the film is still hardhitting the quality of the print was not so good with vertical lines evident during the early scenes. It did improve but could have been better, which is why I marked it down from 5 stars.
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on 15 June 2010
no explosions,no dramatic music and no overpowering special effects but a quiet almost dignified telling of how a nuclear war wipes out humanity. (thats how the world will end not with a bang but a whimper and this film does just that)it may not be true to the book but really does leave you quiet at the end.Showing how people cope in their different ways as the radiation slowly,oh so slowly gradually comes even to australia.first rate
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on 4 November 2015
Just watched on the beach bluray Stanley Kramer made some brilliant films and this is one of them. The bluray has extras which the American bluray doesn't they don't make films live this anymore. Also what a great cast.
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on 18 March 2005
That is the message displayed on the Salvation Army banners as Humanity slips into extinction. There are no explosions, no bodies, no physical horror or special effects whatsoever....and more importantly, no hope. The plot is well covered by other reviewers, so I'm giving nothing else away.
This B/W 1959 film by Stanley Kramer based on a novel by Nevil (A Town Like Alice) Shute, will haunt you for the rest of your life. Not often repeated on afternoon TV, buy this DVD to show your children and grandchildren how really brave and talented film makers were, before they became a meaningless dross factory.
The only choreography that Fred Astaire oversees is the Dance of Death. He is simply sensational in this straight acting role as the scientist, Julian Osborne. All the suffering of the world is etched in every line on his face. Peck plays Peck, one of the greatest screen actors of the 20th Century expressing the qualities of leadership, integrity and vulnerability in Dwight Lionel Towers, commander of the American submarine USS Sawfish.Ava Gardner is perhaps a little old and glamorous for the role of Moira Davidson, Peck's love interest, but she does OK.
Pre Psycho, Anthony Perkins, as Lt. Cmdr. Peter Holmes, Royal Australian Navy, is devastating as he assists his wife and baby in mutual suicide in the privacy of their bedroom. This relays a horror, greater than anything in Hitchcock's vivid imagination.
This is a real film, about real issues and real people, by real actors. As I said before, buy it, it's probably the only chance you'll get to see this classic.
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on 21 December 2011
This is one of the all-time greats of the Neville Shute stories, and is as relevant now as ever. As you would expect from such a cast, the acting is perfact. One really annoying thing, however, is the non-stop strains and variations of "Waltzing Matilda", as if this Australians sing or listed to this song all the time!
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An adaptation of Nevil Shute's 1957 novel and released in 1959 but set in 1964, after a World War III nuclear exchange, the film was remarkably prescient, considering the Cuban missile crisis looming just over the horizon. It tells the story of, what is suggested to be, the last remaining humans alive awaiting, in Australia, their seemingly inevitable fate, as deadly radiation seeps ever further south.

The last remaining American submarine captained by Commander Dwight Towers (Gregory Peck) sails into Melbourne, having been submerged during the super powers' fatal exchange and falls under the command of the Royal Australian Navy. Towers is assigned a liaison officer, Lieutenant Peter Holmes (Anthony Perkins) who is married to a somewhat infantile and very naive wife, Mary (Donna Anderson). The couple have a young baby, Jennifer, frequently referred to but never seen. The couple throw a party for Towers and we are introduced to a couple of the other major players in the cast: scientist, Julian Osborn (Fred Astaire) and love interest, Moira Davidson (Ava Gardner). Towers and Davidson duly oblige and an embryonic relationship is established by him putting her to bed, alone, after she characteristically overdoes the alcohol intake.

A strange continuous but non-repeating Morse Code signal is picked up by what's left of the authorities and Tower's superior officer, Admiral Bridie (John Tate) orders him to take his sub to investigate: the origin of the signal is San Diego. With him go Osborn, to take appropriate measurements of radiation in the northern hemisphere. Holmes, who has to try to convince his wife, that if he doesn't return in time, she needs to administer the necessary `pills' to their daughter and herself, is also along for the ride. Initially, she reacts with characteristic naiveté and seems unable to face reality but eventually allows herself to be persuaded.

The film must have made for quite traumatic viewing at the time given its audience: the first in the history of the planet to live with, what must have seemed the very real prospect of imminent annihilation. The black and white cinematography adds to the feeling of stark reality and the score, by the Oscar nominated, Ernest Gold, packs a suitable punch in all the right places.

It makes for dismal viewing, especially the end, and along with other, typical of the time, Cold War offerings such as Fail Safe (1964) and the Bedford Incident (1965) paints a pretty depressing, doom-laden view of the future of human-kind. But then MAD was always a rather ironic way of ensuring posterity existed to view them!
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This book was written during the Cold War Era environment. Some characters are predictable or are portrayed as such so we can see how different people face or do not face the inevitable. Even those characters that change easily through some sort of epiphany can be predictable. The basic story in the book is that Albania sends a plan with a major country's markings and we retaliate. In the movie they changed it to some hotshot getting trigger-happy with a weapon that could only cause assured destruction. However the book not a pacifist (don't build bombs story). It could be a speculative fiction or just speculative.

Again the book On the Beach as most books is more complete in the characterization and description of the story. One the people is a cross of characters. The captain, Dwight Towers, is well trained and loyal to the U.S. to the end. He takes the sub out to international waters, as Australia is an ally, but not the U.S. Moira Davidson realizes that Dwight is married and helps him buy a pogo stick for the kid. She also decides to make something of herself by going to secretarial school. Others plan for next year.

The movie On the Beach (1959) stays fairly loyal to the feel, with a few minor changes. Some of the changes were necessary due to the difference in media. However others were a little distracting. They used major stars that overshadowed the character that they were playing. Ava Gardner was just a tad old for the part of Moira Davidson. However the movie still let the characters be real and predictable. Such as Dwight Towers, loyal to the U.S. takes his crew back to the US (not quite the book but still loyal to this command).

It is worth re-wathcing. But defiantly read the book.
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on 12 January 2014
I was very disappointed to find that this 2004 MGM edition DVD was not 16:9 widescreen as claimed in Amazon's product description, but rather the inferior 4:3 letterboxed format (which offers about half the resolution of a true 16:9 widescreen format). There is no way that I can get my Samsung TV to properly display 4:3 letterboxed DVDs (i.e. make the film content use the maximum screen space in the proper proportions). So that's why this is a 3 star DVD for me instead of 5. At least it's a dual layer (DVD-9) disc - some small compensation. It is also annoying that because this is a mono soundtrack they only provide audio to the centre speaker - as a prime example of how to present a mono soundtrack to best effect I cite the superb DVD of "A Night To Remember" - which used "3.0 mono" (feeding the same signal to left, centre and right speakers). It wouldn't only be us Australians who cringe at the excessive use of the song and music of "Waltzing Matilda" in this film - providing many with a very good reason for the human race to come to an end, but it does not ruin the film or diminish the drama and relevance of its message.
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