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On the Beach

Gregory Peck , Ava Gardner , Stanley Kramer    Unrated   VHS Tape
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Stanley Kramer's 1959 antiwar movie looks like everything Kramer did: subtle as a car wreck but undeniably affecting. Gregory Peck plays a submarine commander looking for survivors in Australia after a nuclear holocaust. Ava Gardner is among them and, somewhat improbably under the circumstances, becomes his love interest. Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins are among the characters awaiting death from the gradual spread of radiation from the north. One might scoff at Kramer's implicit finger-wagging about nuclear politics in this mad, mad, mad, mad world, but it is hard to stop watching this compelling drama all the same. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the ultimate Cold War film June 20 2004
Format:DVD
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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5.0 out of 5 stars The end of the world as we know it... June 13 2004
Format:DVD
An unforgettable movie that is as important and as powerful today as when it was first released.
Shute took his title from a stanza from T S Eliot's The Hollow Men:-
In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river...
The tumid (swollen) river is metaphorical, as is the beach, given that Eliot's bleak, desolate landscape is a spiritual one, as in his classic work, The Wasteland.
Shute's movie is utterly compelling all the way through, partly due to the subject matter, helped along by a stunning cast, and very capable production and direction.
The scene in which the Sub arrives in the US to check on the erratic morse signal was actually shot in Australia, as they could not obtain permission to film it in the US.
There was a very creditable 2000 Showtime version with Rachel Ward and Armand Assante, which was truer to the book, although set closer to present time, but the Peck version is still the definitive one.
You cannot top this movie for dramatic content, brilliantly delivered by Peck, Gardner, Perkins and Astaire above all.
Yes, this could still happen, and yes, nuclear deterrence may well have worked so far, but I always remember a line from Bob Dylan's "If God's On Our Side", which goes...
If God's on our side,
He'll stop the next war...
Maybe he did.
Peace y'all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Still A Good Movie Feb. 16 2004
Format:DVD
This movie is now a bit dated but it remains one of my favorites.
Some of the scenes in the movie, including the segment where the US submarine Sawfish visits a vacant and dead US west coast to investigate a Morse code signal, are among the finest scenes ever shot in a movie.
The movie involves the Captain (Gregory Peck) and crew of the US submarine Sawfish that finds itself in southern waters near Australia after a nuclear war has wiped out the northern hemisphere. Apparently the radiation levels were high enough to kill everyone in the upper half of the globe quickly. Now the winds are driving the radiation into the southern part of the globe but there are a number of months left to live before the radiation reaches Australia.
The movie is about Captain Dwight Towers (Gregory Peck) who seems unable or unwilling to accept that his wife and family back in the US are dead, along with Ava Gardner - his female companion in the movie - and locals played by Fred Astaire an amateur race car buff, and Anthony Perkins a member of the Australian navy.
It chronicles their months together until the end comes leaving us with vacant scenes of downtown Melbourne, Australia.
A very powerful movie.
Jack in Toronto
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful production on how "it really ends" Jan. 26 2004
By A Customer
Format:DVD
To me, the magnificance of the Nevil Shute "On the Beach" novel, and this movie, is that it is an honest, believeable account of the end of the world as seen by the remaining soon-to-die but maybe not survivors.
There are no heroics, there are no hysterics, there are no scenes of war: people try to cope, adapt, get along, and sometimes have hope in their own way -- often with humor -- but with the stark reality that they are all most likely to die because of man's weapons of self-destruction. Throughout, you're engaged and captivated with the believeable story lines and have to keep reminding yourself that the war is over -- and EVERYBODY lost, until the final scenes, when the effects of the nuclear radiation clouds finally reach Australia.
The movie's synopsis is available elsewhere on Amazon and is essentially accurate, so I won't bother. The cast is incredibly believeable. You'll find you'll establish a rapport with every character, no matter how small. And Fred Astair as the egg-head scientist is outstanding in this, his first dramatic role (and as a kid, I thought he had already died when I first saw the movie). But a remarkable performance that re-ignited his career :-)
Just as an aside, I do think the book and movie had a material effect of presenting the consequences of what was in store if we went to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
I read the book as a 12-year-old when it was available at the Dallas Public Library. I didn't know there was a movie until several years later. The book was published in 1958; the movie came out in 1959 -- the "On the Beach" stage was set for the future, 1964.
I was a bag boy at a local Kroger's grocery store during the Cuban missile crisis.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Spell binding and gripping and as subtle as a train wreck. Can't tear...
This film hits you like a freight train, and you just can't take your eyes off the screen. The characters are sympathetic - all of them - and you wonder what you'd do in a similar... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars On The Beach( Import)
This is one Movie I kept looking for was so pleased to get it, could of don't without the sub lines but enjoyed it all the same, an all time gret.
Published 2 months ago by Annie
4.0 out of 5 stars Great anti-war film
Great anti-war film. Very brave for it's era. Not everything has to have explosions and special effects to get the job done. A rare outing for Fred Astaire in a dramatic role. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mark Sherman
4.0 out of 5 stars An Oldie but a Goodie
In the days of the Cold War; in the days when there were two super powers in the world; and, in the days when the atomic bomb hung over the heads of the western world we all waited... Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2012 by Wayne G. Daley
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely spellbinding. Scared the h_ll out of me, then, and now.
I know there are some scientific discrepancies and that the sub is actually diesel and not nuclear, but I don't care. Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2012 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth viewing, even if not realistic
On the Beach fails the realism test in two ways: scientifically and behaviorally. The first is forgivable; 40+ years ago, there was less understanding of what nuclear war would do... Read more
Published on July 17 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars A Film of the Heart and Mind
Without going deeply into the details of the film, described well elsewhere, I would like to say it is well done in the sense of representing a possible future reality in a down to... Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars ON THE BEACH
This is one of the all time classics in every respect. Some consider the message anti-war. It's not really. Instead, Shute's making a statement of the human condition. Read more
Published on Dec 13 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Still a powerful film
Some people have said this film is dated, but remember, during the Cold War years of the 50's and 60's and even afterwards the specter of a possible nuclear conflagration between... Read more
Published on June 14 2003 by magellan
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