Tag Archives: Ava Gardner

On the Beach and other cinematic dystopias

the_omega_man_large_04A few weeks ago I watched Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film On the Beach for the first time. It’s been on my mind constantly since.

I read the book by Nevil Shute, on which the film is based, soon after leaving school. At the time I was deeply involved in the anti-uranium and peace movements and, not surprisingly, its message about the danger of nuclear conflict resonated strongly.

For those who have not seen Kramer’s film (or read Shute’s book), it is set in the aftermath of an accidental nuclear war triggered by unnamed rogue state with access to atomic bombs. All life on the planet has been extinguished except for Australia and we are on borrowed time, waiting as a huge radioactive cloud slowly makes its way towards us. The cast, which includes Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, in a rare dramatic role, and Anthony Perkins pre his performance in the blockbuster, Psycho, is terrific.

There are so many things about the film that make it a truly terrifying experience, despite the fact it was made over fifty years ago. The scenes set in a totally dead and still San Francisco and the sense of utter despondency when the crew of the US submarine find the real source of the Morse code message they had hoped would lead them to survivors, are riveting.… Read more

The Killers 1964 & 1946

The following is posted as part of Furious Cinema’s Scenes of the Crime Blog-a-Thon. It originally appeared in the Fall 2012 edition of Noir City.

One short story, Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers, which appeared in 1927, two film versions.  Robert Siodmak directed the first in 1946. Don Siegel helmed the later in 1964. Both films begin with the premise of Hemingway’s 2951 word piece; two anonymous professional killers hired to murder a man, but in most other respects are completely different.

Siodmak’s movie opens, to the accompaniment of Miklos Rozsa’s brassy jazz score, with the arrival of the killers in a small town. It’s night and all we see are their silhouettes backlit by streetlights. First they check the filling station. Finding it closed, they cross the road, go into Henry’s Diner. You can tell they’re professionals, each enters a different way, cutting off any possibility of their quarry escaping.

In the space of a few minutes, Al (Charles McGraw) and Max (William Conrad), establish a sense of menace and disorientation as good as any classic noir cinema has to offer. After rubbishing the diner’s food and the customer’s small town ways, they tell George, the man behind the counter:

“I tell you what we’re going to do, we’re going to kill the Swede.”

“What are you going to kill him for?

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