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Sony Pictures’ "Martini Movies" series, of which Five is one, consists of films clearly intended to be laughed at, not with; indeed, watching this 1951 turkey is like a Mystery Science Theater screening, except that you supply your own commentary. But give writer-director Arch Oboler credit for coming up with one of the earliest entries in the post-nuclear apocalypse genre. In this "story about the day after tomorrow," the titular five have survived the radioactive fallout that has effectively wiped out the rest of humanity and somehow ended up in the same place (Malibu, California; the shooting took place at Oboler’s home, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright). The five quickly become four, as an elderly banker succumbs to radiation sickness. That leaves a pregnant woman (Susan Douglas), a "philosopher" (William Phipps), an "explorer" (James Anderson), and a guy who was accompanying the banker; and since the latter is African-American and this is the early '50s, that means it’s up to the other two men, one a practical hard worker and the other a nonchalant layabout, to battle it out to see who’ll become Adam to the woman’s Eve. Not a whole lot happens in this "cheap honky-tonk of a world"--tensions mount; grass grows; they dance to a Strauss waltz--but there’s plenty of philosophizing about the new order and some reminiscing about the old one, most of it ludicrously melodramatic and pseudo-profound. Clearly this stuff is best apprehended with the help of a cocktail or two, and we are helpfully provided with two martini recipes to guide us through. Cheers! --Sam Graham
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The movie is exactly how I remember it from the first time I say it on TV over 30 years ago maybe close to 40 years. It is about a group of 5 people who gather in Arch Oboler's house (yes it was filmed in his Frank Loyld Wright house).
This movie will disappoint all of the five year old's out there because it is a slow moving introspective picture about the 5 who try and to some degree fail to live together in this house. The movie was made at a time when action was not the only prerequisite for a movie. There are no explosions and no real scenes of mass destruction and of course it is in black and white, so there is another reason for the 5 year old's to not like it. There are 4 men and one pregnant woman at the beginning and at the end it is more of and Adam and Eve beginning.
I'm usually on top of new classic releases, but this one escaped my attention until DVD Savant named it the top disc of 2009. I hadn't seen it since the third grade - Thanskgiving 1966 - and it made quite an impression on me at the time, so I thought I'd purchase it and see if it lived up to my memories. It did and then some. I can't really share any details of the story without giving anything away, except perhaps the character of the survivors. The woman is understandably obsessed with returning to the city and finding out for sure if her husband is dead or alive. Of the four men one is disqualified as a suitor because of his age, and another is disqualified because, after all, this is 1951 and he is African American and the woman is white. Of the two actually eligible suitors by 1951 standards, one is a brutish slob and the other is thoughtful and forward thinking, setting up a Cain and Abel dynamic between the two.
The film audio and video quality are excellent. From 2000 - 2005 Sony put out some of the more technically challenged classic film discs I've seen, but in the last three or four years they've really turned things around. Highly recommended for fans of 1950's sci-fi.
William Phipps is Michael, who survives only because he happens to be in an elevator in the Empire State building. He meets Roseanna (Susan Douglas), who similarly survives because she was rolled into a lead-lined X-Ray machine. Against all odds, they meet in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, where they must overcome the emotional baggage that each brings. He with loneliness, she with pregnancy and a desire to find her husband. Michael tries foolishly to kiss her and she repulses him. They work around this and slowly grow attached to each other. And all the while they talk. This talk is the ordinary stuff of life, ordinary only in the extraordinary circumstances of their new life. Far from viewing this torrent of words as pretentious, I saw it as a sincere desire to hold on to the fast evaporating vestiges of the post-war mindset. Soon they meet three other survivors, all of whom believe in the power of words to alter reality. At first these three talk of food. Then they shift to other topics, some of which are ignoble (blunt racism) while others are a disjointed attempt to hold onto the past life even against all logic. The camera work is grim and grainy, and in a film like this, it adds a powerful note of realism. FIVE begins with two, expands into five, then shrinks back to two. The ending is one that Rod Serling may have had in mind a decade later when he presented a TWILIGHT ZONE episode with Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery in a similarly themed post war Adam and Eve allegory.
FIVE is a brute demolition of the hope that in an emergency people will overcome their cultural and moral divides to reach a living compromise. In Arch Oboler's hands, the reality is unsettlingly different.
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