Saturday, 19 September 2015

World Without End (1956)

Well-paced but derivative low-budget futuristic Sci-Fi film

Directed by Edward Bernds
Produced by Richard Heermance
Screenplay by Edward Bernds
Story by Edward Bernds
Music by Leith Stevens
Cinematography: Ellsworth Fredricks
Edited by Eda Warren
Distributed by Allied Artists Pictures Corporation
Running time: 80 min. 


Hugh Marlowe: John Borden
Nancy Gates: Garnet
Nelson Leigh: Dr. Eldon Galbraithe
Rod Taylor: Herbert Ellis
Shirley Patterson: Elaine
Lisa Montell: Deena
Christopher Dark: Henry 'Hank' Jaffe
Booth Colman: Mories
Everett Glass: Timmek
Stanley Fraser: Elda

Clip from "World Without End."

What If? an alternate reality; 

It’s the mid 1950’s and it’s another day at Allied Artists. We find Producer Ritchie striding down a corridor and looking forward to escaping from the endless rounds of meetings and the pressing need to come up with an idea for a new picture. Perhaps over a bite to eat and a liquid refreshment or three, he might cobble together a much-needed idea for his next film.

Suddenly a whirling bundle of nervous energy in the form of ideas-man and all-rounder, Eddie bears down on the hapless Ritchie. Yep, Eddie with yet another idea for yet another film for Richie to squash with a placating and patronizing pat on the shoulder......

Spoilers Follow.......

Eddie: Ritch! I got it!

Ritchie: Yellow fever? Dysentery?

Eddie: A great idea for the best film you’re ever gonna’ produce!

Ritchie: I don’t have time for this right now Eddie……

Eddie: ….It starts off with an atomic explosion as the opening credits roll….

Ritchie: What does?

Eddie: The film you’re gonna produce. It’s a science fiction! And what better way to begin it than with what people fear the most….the fear of an atomic war!

Ritchie: Your sense of originality never fails to astound me. A science fiction and atomic warfare. Gee, no one has ever come up with that idea before, genius!

Eddie: No! No! It’s more than that. Just give me five minutes of your time and I’ll explain…..Please Ritch….You won’t regret it!

Ritchie: I’ll regret the five minutes of my life I’ll waste along with the indigestion you’ll end up giving me….

Eddie: Off to lunch are we? OK, so the film I have in mind is about a bunch of astronauts returning from the first voyage into space……….

Much against Producer Ritchie’s better judgement, he along with the whirling dervish Eddie in tow, head off to lunch and what he expects to be the longest five minutes of his life.

Eddie:….on the way back from Mars the astronauts are caught ………

Ritchie: Whoa! “Back from Mars?” You said it was supposed to be the first voyage into space and they’re coming all the way back from Mars? I could understand being in Earth orbit or even going to the moon, but Mars!

Eddie: Well, they did it in that science fiction film Rocketship X-M something or other several years ago, didn’t they? And then there was that other film, Flight To Mars, don’t forget!

Ritchie: I can see I’m going to really love this! You better back up a bit and start from the start coz’ I sure as heck don’t like the start you started with…

And so Eddie eagerly begins telling Ritchie about the film’s story and is barely able to keep pace with the images that keep popping up in his mind depicting possible key scenes from this future cinematic triumph of his…..

Eddie: Well, picture this: A group of military guys are huddled around a radio set trying to reestablish contact with rocket ship XRM. See, I stuck an ‘R’ between the ‘X’ and ‘M’

Ritchie: Oh God!

Eddie: Meanwhile at the Pentagon, concern is beginning to mount over the lack of contact with a character I named as Doctor Eldon Galbraithe and his crew. The last message from the ship was abruptly cut off mid in mid-sentence and fears grow that some kind of disaster has occurred.

Ritchie: Not bad.

Eddie: A TV news presenter then informs the audience that man's first flight into space may have ended in disaster as the last message from the crew was received as the ship entered Mars orbit and nothing has been heard from them since.

Ritchie: OK. A bit of a mystery. Kinda gets my attention.

Eddie: That’s the spirit, Ritch! So, next we cut to a scene of a rocket on an approach course to the planet Mars. The radio operator called Herb Ellis who I figure could be played by Rod Taylor, reports to Dr. Galbraithe played by say, Nelson Leigh, that contact with Earth is lost. It is not the equipment that’s faulty seeing that the signal was lost as the ship entered Mars' magnetic field.

Ritchie: Rod Taylor? Assuming he’s available, he’s one of these up and coming hungry actors who’ll try to steal every scene. Where’s he from anyway? Austria? Australia? New Zealand? England?

Eddie: Doesn’t matter. If he hasn’t got one already, we’ll give him an English accent that’s sufficiently non-American and friendly sounding but doesn’t require subtitles. A clearly identifiable ally of the good ole’ US of A!

Anyway, Galbraithe gets crew member John Borden, played by none other than Hugh Marlowe to check the viewer. From orbit unidentified strange green surface markings are spotted….

Ritchie: Did you say, Hugh Marlowe? Look, he’s already appeared in The Day the Earth Stood Still and Earth Vs the Flying Saucers. How do you think he would feel not being a leading man as such but instead finds himself cast as just part of a crew and with the likes of Taylor prancing about all over the place?

Eddie: It’ll be fine. It’s work isn’t it? Anyhow, Dr. Galbraithe then orders Henry Jaffe played by I would suggest, Christopher Dark to set a course back to Earth seeing as they are not to land on Mars but only perform a recon mission involving a couple of orbits of Mars and then return to Earth with their findings. 

Ritchie: What? No encounters with meteors as per usual?

Eddie: Hey, you wanted originality! Now get this: As the ship leaves Mars orbit, whammo! It’s hit by a strange time dilation effect that causes the ship to accelerate. The crew struggles to slow the ship down but is pinned by the irresistible G forces.

Ritchie: You know that these sorts of special effects cost money?

Eddie: Not a problem! We can use small models and jiggle them up and down. Heck, we can even use footage from films like Flight to Mars. Put that all together in a Technicolor and Cinemascope production and trust me, it’ll all look as good as Conquest of Space!

Ritchie: You’ll forgive me if I don’t quite share your optimism.

Eddie: How about this for a bit of mystery to keep the troops interested and you feeling optimistic: As far as anybody knows the crew has awoken to find that they have landed somewhere up on snow covered mountains on Mars near one of the planet’s poles. The problem is that the gravity feels too strong and there seems to be an atmosphere outside. However, the radiation count is about three times higher than would be expected on Earth. Herb gives the radio a try but is unable to detect any evidence of any radio broadcasts at all!

Ritchie: So what do they decide to do?

Eddie: The crew decides to head down the mountain and explore. We can have one of the crew such as Herb set up expectations in the minds of the audience by mentioning that if they're on Venus, they might run into some high domed types that might kill them with ray guns and that they only have old revolvers to stop them.

Ritchie: Guns? On a space recon mission?

Eddie: Oh, come on Ritch! You gotta have guns! It’s our constitutional right to bear arms and shoot stuff, isn’t it? What if the crew is attacked? Are they gonna throw food rations at the little green men?

Ritchie: You’re using up your five minutes and I’ve started on my first drink….

Eddie: OK. So as the crew are resting, one of them stumbles on a cave and they decide to explore it. As they delve deeper, they discover spider webs. No guesses as to what attacks Herb……a giant spider!

Ritchie: I’m….astounded. I hope you’re not figuring on us having a Ray Harryhausen spider! Could blow our budget. Although it would look convincing as it slowly munches on Rod Taylor and leaves a desiccated husk…..

Eddie: Ah, we’ll be able to knock up a giant stuffed or rubber toy spider and float it in on a wire. Trust me, it’ll look like the real thing! You’re too cynical and skeptical Ritch. Just keep an open mind….

Ritchie: I’ve ordered my second drink and you only have one more minute to go before the doors of my mind shut in your face!

Eddie: Right. Now we see how the guns come in handy. After fighting off the giant spiders, the crew continue their hike down the mountain and later stop to make camp. While they sleep, they are ambushed by……

Ritchie: More giant stuffed or rubber toys?

Eddie: No. They’re attacked by a bunch of deformed-looking caveman creatures. The crew manages to drive the attackers off and kill one of the creatures.

Ritchie: Well, we’ve got lots of ugly extras we can use who’ll work for next to nothing. Anyways, where the hell is the crew supposed to be and why am I still here listening to you?

Eddie: Take it easy, Ritch. Third drink already? Better pace yourself! Remember you only gave me…ten minutes to explain this film idea to you and we’ve got more ground to cover.

At day break the crew moves further down the mountain until they come across the ruins of a graveyard. Where are they? Obviously on Earth and here’s the important bit….. the dates on the tombstones make it plain that our boys have wound up in Earth’s future!

At this point we can throw in some sciency-sounding gobbledygook suggesting that if you can move fast enough you can affect time, enabling you to move backwards into the past. Just have to make it sound plausible. After all, the instruments on the rocket ship failed at 100 miles per second, but they may have been travelling much faster. Hey presto! There you have it! Thank you mister Einstein or one of yous other egg-heads!

Ritchie: Yeah, but how far into the future have they gone and what’s happened in the meantime. The audience’ll wanna know. I wanna know!

Eddie: On one of the oldest gravestones they do find a date, 2188, and even the oldest of the gravestones looks old. Galbraithe conjectures that a nuclear war has resulted in the high background radiation, and it would take a couple of centuries before conditions would return to normal. It appears that they are in the Rockies in either Colorado or New Mexico, a very historically appropriate location if I do say so myself.

As the crew goes to investigate, a column of smoke which is obviously “man-made” is spotted. Borden is suddenly attacked by group of the human mutants. The rest of the party rescues Borden and they all manage to take shelter in a cave and take stock of their situation.

Ritchie: Hey! Wait a minute! Didn’t Rocketship XYZ have strange human-like caveman Martian mutants chasing the crew and chucking rocks at them?

Eddie: Rocketship XM did have them. But here’s where our…YOUR…film takes a far more interesting turn: Is the crew trapped or have they found a place of refuge? While exploring the cave they stumble across a steel barrier blocking access to the rest of the tunnel. As if in invitation another barrier slides into place and the first barrier opens. The crew’s only option is to accept the invitation to enter…..

Ritchie: Hold that thought while I get another drink. Sure you won’t have one? No? Anyways, I been thinkin’. Where are the gals in this film? A films gotta have gals. Lots of ‘em! Not drivin’ rocketships and such in space of course or being locked away for months with a bunch of men in a tin can. But there’s gotta be gals, Eddie….

Eddie: Of course, Ritch. After all, what’s Rod Taylor gonna do with his time on Mars or wherever he is? Anyway, in Rocketship XM, Osa Massen held her own throughout the male dominated film. And what about Donna Martell who played Colonel Briteis in Project Moonbase?

So after the crew follows a long tunnel, they enter a room where a voice instructs them to leave all their weapons and packs behind and enter into another tunnel. They are then confronted by humans who all wear futuristic-looking attire. The crew seems to be facing some kind of court, tribunal or council.

An elder by the name of Timmek, who should be played by none other than Everett Glass, questions the crew as to why they are here. Borden explains their circumstances and Timmek explains to them that in the intervening years there had been a civilization-destroying atomic war. Timmek also informs them that it is the year 2508AD.

Ritchie: Do they have dames in 2508AD?

Eddie: Well, I was thinking that we could have actress, Nancy Gates playing a character called Garnet; Shirley Patterson playing one called Elaine; and Lisa Montell playing the role of Deena. Now imagine these lovely ladies wearing outfits like the ones in Flight To Mars! Might even use the same costumes! Legs galore, Ritch!

Ritchie: Just like the cigar and cigarette gals in Vegas! Or them French chambermaids! I’ll drink to that Eddie! Hey, we could even use the same or similar sets from Flight to Mars too!

Eddie: Sure. Boy, time seems to fly by when you’re having fun. Still, you did give me only 15 to 20 minutes to explain my concept, so I’ll press on.

The crew learns from Garnet that all their food is produced underground due to the high levels of radiation. Also, her people have not conquered the surface due to having become tired of war and this sentiment or tradition has established itself over succeeding generations.

Garnet also explains that the servant girl, Deena is from the surface. She had been saved when she was rejected by the mutant humans on the surface.

Borden later conjectures that those who survived the war, turned their technology inwards, only developing what they needed to survive. They would therefore be of little assistance to the newcomers.

The next day Galbraithe explains to the underground survivors at a council meeting that he wants to repair the ship in order to explore the rest of the planet to see if there are other surviving colonies. His idea is rejected by the council. The underground dwellers have no weapons much less any desire to fight the surface mutants in order to retrieve the newcomers’ ship.

Ritchie: Gutless bastards! They’re yeller!

Eddie: Not so loud, Ritch. Well, the people underground seem have lost their desire to strive along with any pioneering spirit to break out of their subterranean confinement and spread further afield. In fact, the underground colony is getting smaller with fewer healthy babies being born. It is later discovered that there are only 14 children out of a population of 2000. It is felt that the colony may not even have more than more generation left to go.

Ritchie: We seem to have reached a dead end here. Nice story so far, Eddie but your time is up and I’m a busy, busy man in need of a big idea for a film…..

Eddie: Hang on. The half hour isn’t up yet and the waiter’s bringing you another drink. Finish that while I tell you what happens next.

It’s time to add a bit of a complicating factor to the proceedings. You see, I have this other character called Mories who would suit the likes of actor, Booth Colman to a tee. Garnet explains he will probably succeed her father as leader of the council, and it is assumed by all and sundry that Garnet would be his partner. Enter….JEALOUSY!

After Garnet takes Borden to a tunnel that leads outside, she comments on the beauty of the Moon and Borden suddenly grabs hold of her and kisses her. Garnet then declares her love for him but Borden says that eventually he will have to leave. Garnet won’t hear of this and pleads with him to stay with her in the colony.

Ritchie: Ah, a bit of mushy sentimental stuff, eh?

Eddie: Mories meanwhile has being doing a bit spy work and is aware of Borden’s intentions toward Garnet. He figures he could throw a spanner in the works by telling the council that the newcomers’ intentions are detrimental to the colony and that the council should ignore their requests

Ritchie: That could be a problem. Speakin’ of plobrems, problems….I don’t feel so great…

Eddie: And here’s another problem: Deena’s interest in Herb! A bit later Deena sees Herb in a clinch with another woman and becomes jealous. “Hell hath no fury!”

At the council meeting Galbraithe argues his case for expansion upwards to the surface and to invite anyone in the colony who wants to join them in this expansion. Mories argues that the newcomers are intent on enslaving everyone in the colony. The council finally decides to vote against Galbraithe’s proposal.

Ritchie: Well I’m not surprised! Who’d want to give up a safe and comfortable life with more beautiful women than you could shake a stick at and go live on the surface to be attacked by ugly mutants! I know the hell I wouldn’t.

Eddie: Yeah, but the point is that there should be more to life than just comfort and safety! Later that night Mories manages to steal the newcomers’ guns but accidentally kills one of the councilmen in the process. He then conceals the gun in the men's quarters and goes to inform the council about the theft of the weapons. He hasn’t figured on Deena being aware of what has taken place.

The council soon go to the men’s quarters and discover the hidden guns. Timmek then orders the arrest of the men who are now implicated in not just the theft of the weapons but also in the councilman’s murder. All the while this is taking place, Deena just hangs back and says nothing of what she knows about what really happened.

At the council chamber the men are given a guilty verdict and are sentenced to be banished from the city being permitted to take only what they came with.

Ritchie: Well, that’s a bit lenient! I’d have them tied to stakes and left to the mercy of the mutants! Now that’d be something you could get your teeth into.

Eddie: Sure Rich, great idea. Anyway, Deena understands the gravity of the situation for the men and goes to see Timmek. While she’s waiting to see him, Mories attacks her and unsuccessfully tries to kill her. After his failed attempt to murder Deena, Mories escapes and heads for the surface. Deena reveals what has happened and they follow the escaping Mories through the tunnels to the outside world only to witness him being killed by the beasts.

Ritchie: Ah, getting his just desserts! Gotta like that.

Eddie: You’ll like this part too. Lots of shooting and blowing stuff up. After the council apologizes for what has happened, some 20 men volunteer to go out to surface with the crew. But first the crew hit on the idea of building a bazooka to kill the mutants on the surface.

The four men go outside and unleash carnage and in the process capture a surface dweller that is not mutated like the others. The captive tells Deena that the leader of the beasts will likely take the others back to the caves in order to make it more difficult for the humans to launch an attack on them.

Once at the hiding place of the mutants Jaffe, while checking out the location, is speared in the back by the mutants but is rescued by Herb during the ensuing skirmish. The leader of the beasts announces that he has killed many of Deena’s people and that he is prepared to kill all of them. Deena has informed the crew that the beasts follow a leader, who is chosen for his ability to fight off any rivals. If they could kill the leader then they would have control of the rest of the mutants. Borden gets Deena to relay a message that the leader is a coward and that Borden will fight the leader ‘mano a mutanto’ using just an axe and a knife.

Ritchie: I bet Marlow would like that! Ida thought Taylor woulda’ done it bare-chested and all! Got a mind to stick him in a film and send him off in time in some far flung future where some mutants getta hold of him and……

Eddie: No, this is Marlow’s moment. Anyway, the leader accepts the challenge and after a bit of toing and froing, Borden kills the leader. Borden is now recognized as the chief of the tribe. All hail the chief!

Months pass and the colony has moved to live on the surface and even the former mutated surface-dwelling humans have been incorporated into the new colony.

This is the rebirth of human civilization. And all it took was people from the mid- 20th century with their violence and their guns to help those who renounced violence and guns to reclaim their heritage. Ironic ain’t it, Ritch? Ritch?

It appears that producer Ritchie has fallen face forward onto half a plate of uneaten spaghetti. Eddie did warn him to pace himself…….

It turns out that Ritchie did in fact go on to produce the film based on Eddie’s insistence that he wholeheartedly agreed to do so at their luncheon meeting prior to him losing consciousness, due obviously to something he ate – “just desserts” perhaps?

Amazingly enough, all the actors and actresses suggested by Eddie were available and leapt at the chance to appear in…..Ritchie’s film. Rod Taylor did the most leaping about for some reason.

And what of Eddie? He not only wrote the story; he not only wrote the screenplay for the film, he also directed the film. And what was the film called? It was titled;

And yes, Rod Taylor did bare his chest!

Points Of Interest

The film, World Without End does at least try to present the viewer with an interesting subtext. It allows us to wonder whether we can rise above our human frailties and weaknesses and use our intellect to rid our planet of violence and war. Are we Homo Sapiens in fact true to our name, “wise men?”

We cannot, however, escape the many logical, continuity and consistency holes in the film that wind up making it look like celluloid Swiss cheese. Here are a few;

While in orbit around Mars, blue sky enters from the ship’s viewing windows.

Also while in orbit, it is determined that Mars' magnetic field is interfering with radio transmissions. Herb declares that they will regain transmission after they leave orbit. A short time later, not actually having left orbit, Galbraithe orders, “Herb, when you regain transmission, tell them we're making two more trips around Mars.” Almost abruptly, the ship’s rockets fire and Dr. Galbraithe observes, “Mars. There she goes...fading into the distance.” Doesn’t quite tie in, does it?

John issues the command to “reverse rockets” – a feat that can’t be performed by a rocket engine.

At one point the crew are pushed into their reclining chairs by the G-forces. Consequently, Herb is unable to sit up to reach the controls. One would think some thought might have gone into a more efficient design to compensate for such eventualities.

The ship eventually comes to rest on its side in a snow bank. In answer to the question as to whether they’ll be able to take off again, Dr. Gailbraith replies, “We won't know until we check for damage.” How does one launch a rocket from that position?

Later on during the crew’s exploration of the planet, Dr. Galbraithe touches a door and immediately declares, "This is like no metal on Earth." How could anyone make such a snap determination?

In a marvelous bit of irony John makes a comment worthy of even the staunchest of 19th century British Imperialists or American colonists: “But they're savages. In any fight, the civilized man must win.” John seems to have forgotten who was chasing whom on the surface and who is now residing (cowering) underground!

At the film’s end, why on earth would Mories dash off outside? The councilmen were quite lenient and probably would have imprisoned him. Instead, he trades this in for a self-inflicted death sentence. Timmek might well say, “This lesson has shown us that fear is the only thing that leads to death.” So does stupidity!

After an attempt is made to make a gun, the barrel is split wide open when it is fired. So why is it that after this obvious failure, it is decided to make a bazooka of all things? Why not a tank or Sabre jet?

After discovering one of the mutants who had tried to leave his pack lying dead with a spear stuck in his back. Herb, angrily calls the perpetrators of the act, “Those murdering swine!” Ironic and hypocritical considering how Herb and his pals have been roaming around the countryside blowing the heck out of anything that moves and seeming to enjoy it as if they’re on a turkey shoot!

And so it goes on - our little world….. 

without end!

©Chris Christopoulos 2015

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