Though it's fashionable to dismiss Stanley Kramer's socially conscious movies of the 1950s and '60s, he and his collaborators knew how to slam home a message and his 1959 version of Neville Shute's novel On the Beach is a perfect example. After a stalemate over the blockading of Taiwan, Red China and the United States engage in nuclear warfare. Once the weapons hit their targets, the inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere are wiped out. Australia is temporarily spared the awful effects of toxic fallout, but a great poisonous cloud is drifting towards Melbourne. Captain Dwight Towers (Armand Assante) of the submarine USS Charleston and his crew answer a distress call from the Australian government: Professor Alan Nordstrum (Charles Tingwell) believe that unpoisoned territory above the 60th parallel might be able to support
human life, though consultant Dr. Julian Osborne (Bryan Brown) disagrees. The government hopes Towers will undertake a reconnaissance mission, and that if he finds habitable conditions his submarine could return to Melbourne and transport selected civilians and officers to the unpolluted area. While details of the proposed evacuation are being ironed out, Towers spends the weekend with naval liaison Lt. Peter Holmes (Grant Bowler), his wife, Mary (Jacqueline McKenzie), and their daughter. Mary's irresponsible barfly sister, Moira (Rachel Ward), shows up unannounced and even though Towers has just lost his wife and children to the nuclear holocaust, he's powerfully attracted to her. During the USS Charleston's subsequent voyage, Towers' crew picks up a transmission from a computer in Anchorage; but ironically, the greeting has been traveling automatically from the computer of a dead news reporter. The sailors abandon all hope in Alaska and by the time they reach their devastated hometown, San Francisco, one crew member has decided to debark and die there. The rest of the crew returns to Melbourne, where Towers opts to spend his final days with Moira as his men succumb to radiation sickness. Dr. Osborne chooses to crash his sports car and Holmes dispenses suicide pills to his wife and baby as the end draws nigh. While the material is a disturbing as ever, Russell Mulcahy's remake of On the Beach fails to improve on Kramer's version despite its generous running time, which permits a more leisurely contemplation of the last days of man on Earth.
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- Released: 2000
- Review: Though it's fashionable to dismiss Stanley Kramer's socially conscious movies of the 1950s and '60s, he and his collaborators knew how to slam home a message and his 1959 version of Neville Shute's novel On the Beach is a perfect example. After a stalemate… (more)