My feature review of Sony’s release of Arch Oboler’s Five is now up at the Turner Classic Movies website.
Arch Oboler’s Five is not the first end-of-the-world film, but it is the first American film to end it all by nuclear holocaust. Five opens on the familiar mushroom cloud followed by a montage of the wonders of the world and the landmarks of civilization, which are scrubbed free of human habitation with a few simple visual effects and the savage scream of a whipping wind. The title, as you likely guessed, refers the number of people in the cast, but as the winds die down there is just a single, lone woman (Susan Douglas) dazed and terrified and stumbling through the abandoned relics of human habitation desperate to find another human. When, after taking refuge in handsome house on a hill, she finally finds a fellow survivor (William Phipps), she falls into a state of shock. (The scene calls to mind the opening of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead fifteen year later; one wonders if it’s a matter of inspiration or simply a shared sense of terror.)
They are the first two of the five who slowly converge on the home in wilderness: Roseanne (Douglas), a pregnant woman desperate to know if her husband survived; Michael (Phipps), a working class philosopher ready to build a home far away from the dead cities; Charles (Charles Lampkin), a black ex-G.I. who worked in a menial position at a bank with the aged Mr. Barnstaple (Earl Lee), who has sunk into a state of denial; and German mountain climber Eric (James Anderson), an arrogant racist with delusions of genetic superiority. For all they (or we) know, they are the only humans left alive in world.
Read the complete feature at TCM.com here.