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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the ultimate Cold War film
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...
Published on June 20 2004 by Alejandra Vernon

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars HEAVY HANDED BUT HAUNTING IMAGES
Probably the most haunting of all movie beach scenes is in Stanly Kramer's heavy-handed 1959 anti-nuclear message movie in which a handful of characters await death via drifting radiation -- among them Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. A lone figure running down an otherwise empty Australian beach -- on what may be a humanless world -- is a hard image to shake. Escaping to...
Published on May 28 2002 by Robin Simmons


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the ultimate Cold War film, June 20 2004
This review is from: On the Beach (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
By 
Steven Cain (Temporal Quantum Pocket) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On the Beach (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
By 
This review is from: On the Beach (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
This review is from: On the Beach (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. We were TOTALLY sold out and the shelves were cleared of canned goods, bottled water, batteries, candles, -- you name it -- for stockpiling because of the panic and fear of immediate total nuclear war.
I've heard several accounts that the message presented in "On the Beach" had a highly positive effect to motivate our representatives in government to find a peaceful solution.
I hope politicans everywhere around the world will watch it today.
George in Texas
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Film of the Heart and Mind, Jan. 10 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: On the Beach (DVD)
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 earth way and, at the same time creating both personal and humanity oriented dilemmas.
It is a film worth seeing and, feeling. After the film, I walked out onto the porch and stared off into the distance with an ache in my heart.
It is worth mentioning something about the review written by Eric J. Paddon. He writes '...the reason why there never was another ground war horror...was "because" of the atomic bomb'.
This is militaristic-thinking (or non thinking) To make such a claim borders on idiocy. It may be his point of view but it is not, by any means certain; rather, it is highly debatable. I would like to mention that the author of the book, Nevil Shute was an aeronautical engineer and served in both World Wars as a Royal Navy commander.
Mr. Paddon also writes that the dooms day scenario was proved wrong. Sadly, this is not at all the case. We still have a long way to go before we can make such a claim. There are still 'a hell of a lot of hellish arms, capable of transforming our world into hell' out there. We need to worry about that! In fact, his implication seems to be the bad guy isn't around any longer, and that in itself is dangerous. The idea that '"we" have won and it's all over', is an attitude of smugness which appears partly to be what this film may be warning us against. This is no time in our history to fall asleep at the wheel.
An arms race is, well, an arms race, and races are not run alone. It is also a macabre sort of dance and, as the saying goes: it takes two to tango...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Still a powerful film, June 14 2003
By 
magellan (Santa Clara, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On the Beach (VHS Tape)
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 the U.S. and the Soviet Union was a very real possibility. Although there were think tanks like Hermann Kahn's Hudson Institute trying to figure out what would happen if the bombs actually fell someday, no-one really knew how bad the aftermath would be, and whether the north would be completely destroyed or not, and if so, whether the southern hemisphere would actually survive or not.
Whether the reality would have played out as depicted in the film, however, isn't that important now. What is important is that Kramer produced a well-acted and well-done film, weaving the stories of the different characters together into a powerful film about how the world might have ended. Peck turns in a classy performance as usual, but everyone is really excellent; Astaire, Gardner, and Perkins all turn in fine performances. Overall, still a fine film even after almost 45 years. Big Steve says rent it and don't Bogart the popcorn.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie, however depressing it may be, June 8 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: On the Beach (DVD)
On the Beach is much like the classic From Here to Eternity. Different story, however how an apocalyptic event is unfolding and how it effects these peoples lives is very similar. Peck is outstanding, Gardner a terrific supporter, Perkins in his second-best performance, all the acting is fabulous. Story is a little out there, however is quite frightening considering we have the power to make this film come true.
Peck is a submarine commander who has just landed ashore on the beautiful coast of Australia where the world's last survivors have been dreadfully awaiting the deadly radiation cloud caused by the war. He sees the radiation hasn't arrived yet so he and his crew emerge from the ocean and visit the town. Perkins is the Australian naval officer assigned to meet up with him and inform him of their condition. Gardner is the beautiful, constantly drunk woman who he quickly gains a loving relationship with. Jillian (i think thats his name) is her older ex-boyfriend whose dream of succeeding at the races is fulfilled in one of the most breath-taking racing scenes ever filmed. Depressing, however powerful message to the world about the awesome power the nuclear weapons have and what we can destroy by our own hands.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent movie, of it's own era., Nov. 4 2002
By 
Michael J. Keyes (Portland, OR USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: On the Beach (VHS Tape)
I suspect that the reason so many ... customer reviews of On the Beach are negative is that the expectations of today's audiences, particularly younger audiences, are entirely different from when this movie was released, in 1959.
The movie is based quite closely on Neville Shute's excellent novel, with just a few differences. The rather strange denial of impending death, shown by most of the characters in the book, has been wisely omitted from the movie. The scientist, John Osborne, has had his name changed to Julian in the film, and is given more depth, beautifully played by Fred Astaire.
I think today's movie goers have difficulty relating to this movie because it is not an action movie and it is not a science fiction movie. Yes, it deals with the last survivors of a nuclear war as they await their own deaths. But the genre of science fiction films requires that the heroes and/or heroines confront the Problem and conquer it, whether that Problem be giant ants, invading Martians, or mutant carnivorous plants. In On the Beach, it is made plain from the beginning of both the book and the movie that there will be no triumph or escape. Instead, the theme is the maintaining of human decency and integrity in the face of imminent death. This is not the sort of stuff for young audiences raised on Bruce Lee movies.
I think it is important, too, that today's young movie-goers watch this movie with the idea firmly in mind that people in 1959 believed that they might very well be the last generation of human beings, before a nuclear holocaust wiped us all out. I was nineteen when I first saw the film, just after its release to theaters and long before the advent of VHS and home video. It was powerful stuff back then, and I don't think there's any doubt that it was an important element in the nuclear disarmament movement.
I highly recommend this movie. The acting and direction are excellent, and it deals with powerful themes. But keep in mind that you'll be watching a film from another era, when books and movies were deliberately slower paced and the depth of characterization was considered to be much more important than fast paced action.
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4.0 out of 5 stars We Own It, So By Golly We're Going To USE It !, Sept. 5 2002
By 
J. Reynolds (Houston, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On the Beach (DVD)
I saw this long, depressing -- and excellent -- movie at a university media center a few years ago. That evening's guest star was the man who had provided the sound, including music, for "On The Beach." Numerous young movie-school college kids were on hand, and afterward they asked far too many questions (during competition to impress the professor).
The music director explained that, when this movie was made, the film production company had recently acquired the rights to the song "Waltzing Matilda," which explains why we hear it played and sung throughout the film... over and over and over again, with the chorus repeated over and over and over again, to the point you are sick of it.
Perhaps that was the intent -- to prompt simulated radiation sickness in the theater audience from playing a particular song until everyone wants to throw up from hearing it. If that's the case, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
"... and his ghost may be heard, as you ride beside the billabong...."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Still holds up, April 29 2002
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: On the Beach (DVD)
Wore out my VHS now working on the DVD. I am saddened that there are not a lot of DVD goodies on their film. Maybe one day there will be a criterion version.
Yes the book was written in the Cold War Era environment. Some characters are predictable or are portrayed as such so we can see how different people face or do not face the inevitable. Even those characters that change easily through some sort of epiphany can be predictable. The basic story in the book is that Albania sends a plan with a major country's markings and we retaliate. In the movie they changed it to some hotshot getting trigger-happy with a weapon that could only cause assured destruction. However the book not a pacifist (don't build bombs story). It could be a speculative fiction or just speculative.
Again the book On the Beach as most books is more complete in the characterization and description of the story. One the people is a cross of characters. The captain, Dwight Towers, is well trained and loyal to the U.S. to the end. He takes the sub out to international waters, as Australia is an ally, but not the U.S. Moira Davidson realizes that Dwight is married and helps him buy a pogo stick for the kid. She also decides to make something of herself by going to secretarial school. Others plan for next year.
The movie On the Beach (1959) stays fairly loyal to the feel, with a few minor changes. Some of the changes were necessary due to the difference in media. However others were a little distracting. They used major stars that overshadowed the character that they were playing. Ava Gardner was just a tad old for the part of Moira Davidson. However the movie still let the characters be real and predictable. Such as Dwight Towers, loyal to the U.S. takes his crew back to the US (not quite the book but still loyal to this command).
It is worth re-wathcing. But defiantly read the book.
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On the Beach
On the Beach by Stanley Kramer (DVD - 2003)
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