World Without End (1956)


Every year I rant and rave about how genius AIP was as a film studio. Gearing their releases towards teenagers (i.e. the people with the most disposable income) decades before either the music business or the rest of Hollywood figured it out. But AIP wasn’t alone in their dominance; there were others vying for the throne. Allied Artists was another studio making movies specifically designed for teenagers; only Allied Artists never managed to shine as bright as AIP. Tonight’s feature, World Without End, might hold the clues as to why they failed.

World Without End - End of the World, Beginning of Our Story

World Without End starts off with an atomic blast, followed by a manned rocket ship surveying Mars. Everything a studio would need to manufacture a teenager’s wet dream. Why didn’t it work? It’s just too damn depressing.

The first downer we’re hit with is Henry Jaffee’s (Christopher Dark) wife and family, waiting for him at Mission Command. Yes, they’re waiting for him, knowing full well that he’s on a spaceship circling Mars. Probably not going to be home tonight kiddo. What’s more depressing than disappointed kids? Hank himself! His first sentiment related to his shipmates is how disappointed he is with not being able to land on Mars.

World Without End - We Won't Need Oxygen Tanks

But you’re making history by mapping Mars they retort. You’ll be back on the next mission to land they add. No matter, Hank wants to land now, and I’m sure his petulant attitude is going to anger the Gods of Hollywood filmmaking who will then punish him. By projecting his ship into the future after going an astonishing 100 miles per second!

Okay, the scientists on board the spaceship are impressed by their speed here, but I’m not sure I share their enthusiasm. Okay, let’s assume that they left when Mars and Earth are in opposition, meaning at their closest distance, 33.9 million miles, (Thanks!) At 100 miles/second, and 60 seconds in a minute, it will still take our heros over 94 hours at that breakneck speed to return to Earth. So our scientists spent nearly four days laying around the ship unconscious before crashing into a snowbank on what they assume is Earth. Or Mars. Frankly they’re not too sure.

Damn, that’s a lot of math to be doing when I’m really supposed to be watching bad movies. Something I’d expect from America’s top astronaut-scientists, not from me. Okay, maybe not from Doc (Nelson Leigh) either, as he guesses that the atmosphere they’ve landed in seems to be like Earth’s, so let’s skip putting on those cumbersome oxygen tanks guys!

World Without End - Hey Look, a Gun!

Or Hank, who gets mauled by a giant mutant spider after stumbling into its equally ginormous web.

Maybe the world’s fate truly is resting on my mathematics ability, as the crew here isn’t seeming too competent. Sure Doc figures out that if they’ve travelled 12 miles in four hours, then they’re moving at three miles per hour. (He actually does explain his math here.) So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that when they come across their first cave, Doc urges them in to explore, “By all means, nature keeps most of its ancient secrets in caves.”

World Without End - Giant Spider Attack

Do you know what else nature keeps in caves, Doc? Bears, bats, and wall-climbing cannibalistic humans. Maybe you should figure out what the local fauna looks like before you start invading their turf. Especially when local fauna includes the aforementioned mutant spiders.

World Without End - Fools Jump In...

Poor Hank. First ripped to shreds by the spiders, then beaten up by a roving gang of Cyclopsian barbarians after one of the party’s geniuses (probably Doc) decides to have them camp on the ground. Oh no, ignore sleeping in the trees where you’d be protected from any animal that passes by, and instead sleep out in the middle of a field.

It’s almost unfair that they manage to kill one of the barbarians, yet the barbarians are unable to grievously wound any of them.

World Without End - World's Destroyed

World Without End should be praised and studied for its proper pacing. Every 10 minutes we’re treated to a new scene, a new threat. First our party’s in outer space, next fighting spiders, then dealing with depression (Hank takes the fact that his family died 500 years ago while he aged four days very hard), barbarians, until finally meeting up with future Earth’s ruling class.

Future Earth’s leaders all live underground, away from the harassment of the mutants. They grow everything they need, and thus aren’t too supportive of Doc’s proposed mission to repair his ship so that his team can do (more) reconnaissance. Doc and company don’t exactly help their case by insulting the puny future Earthlings who don’t have that can-do American attitude that has done so much in ruining the world.

World Without End - Future Leaders

“Here they are, 500 years [in the future], no strength, no guts, no nothing.”

So Hank, Doc, and the rest propose to teach their weakling descendants how to be tough. The only problem being Mories (Booth Colman), who, jealous of all the affection the heroic newcomers get from the womenfolk, attempts to frame them for murder. Mories steals their weapons from storage, plants the guns in their chamber, and kills a man during the theft.

All these machinations only make our heros look more heroic in the end; as they don’t lose their cool when accused, accept their punishment, quietly awaiting vindication. (Actually, they align more with their weaker, timid future selves with all this passive behavior.) Their savior arrives in the form of their silent servant girl, who witnessed Mories plant the handgun, and gets beaten for it. Amazingly, in this supposedly hyper-logical future, there are no trials. Instead just accusations that the tribunal either accepts or denies. No levying of evidence or first-hand accounts; it’s however presses their charges hardest.

World Without End - Makeshift Bazooka

Freed from their unjust sentence by an equally unjust trial, Doc and the gang repay society by manufacturing a bazooka (bizarrely because handguns were too tough to manufacture) to fight off Naga (Mickey Simpson), the head barbarian. Sticks and stones being a poor choice against heavy artillery, the barbarians quickly surrender; allowing Doc, Hank and the rest of the gang to rebuild society; reuniting the mutants with their non-mutated brothers.

World Without End - KaBoom!

(I rip on Doc a lot here, and he does say some foolish things, but, in all fairness, he does do a pretty good job at explaining Einstein’s relativity theory too, so maybe all that time spend earning his Ph.D wasn’t entirely wasted.)


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