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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
One great film!
BUT, I wish I would have read the reviews on amazon.com about this Kino Lorber Blu-ray release before I bought it. At about the 60 minute mark the audio sound went out of sync with the visual part, by varying degrees, until the end of the film. I found it overall, every annoying to watch. This same issue has been quoted in a number of other reviews on many websites.
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.
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
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Starts slower than I remember but the last half an hour left a lump in my throat. Fred Astaire's acting in this movie was every bit as good as his dancing. Read morePublished 16 months ago by MarkSamuel
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 morePublished 20 months ago by Keith in Canada
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 20 months ago by Annie
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 morePublished 22 months ago by Mark Sherman
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 morePublished on Feb. 12 2012 by Wayne G. Daley