The Movie (1.5/5)
I love the early 50s, as it was a time when everyone jumped on-board the widescreen bandwagon. Suddenly, we went from a time period when everything was essentially jumbo sized squares, to where there were films composed with all sorts of lenses and aspect ratios in mind; my personal favorite due to the distinctive distortive qualities and grandiose width is Fox’s Cinemascope. The earliest mainstream application of anamorphic lenses in cinema, the process, through it’s now commonplace 2x anamorphic image squeeze onto a 1.33:1 native aspect ratio film frame, created these beautiful 2.66:1 aspect ratio images, that, although slightly cropped over the years to make room for soundtracks, lends an air of respectability and prestige to these early films that used the process. They were embraced by auteurs and risk takers alike, bringing forth the ideology that wider is better, or at least better than television! So, the question with today’s film, Allied Artists’ 1956 science fiction film World Without End, is this: can the Cinemascope lens add prestige and respectability to a 50s B-movie? Let’s find out.
World Without End is a science fiction film that drops us into the mission of four astronauts from Earth who have been sent on a reconnaissance mission to Mars in order to take some rudimentary observations of the planet. Having accomplished their goal, they set out to begin the return voyage, only to enter a space warp caused by equipment failure that returns them to Earth nearly 500 years in the future. Recovering from nuclear devastation, they find a world they no longer recognize, one filled with mutant savages, giant creatures, and the last of mankind hidden away in underground bunkers. Together with the helps of a select few of these guarded humans, they must fight their way to the surface in order to bring humanity back to the surface in order to reclaim the planet, and as a result, stop the mutants from ruining what’s left of Earth.
From end to end, World Without End is a cheese fest of the worst kind. It takes itself way too seriously, especially in its interpretation of the laws of science, and preaches a weird ideology that favors violence and destruction over a peaceful solution and negotiation. It presents us with a world that has been destroyed by man’s thirst for power through weaponry, and then decides the best way to fix everything is to start building weapons again. It’s poorly acted, has terrible special effects, and seems to contradict all of the ideals that 50s sci-fi seemed to stand for even in its lowest production value presentations.
One of the main plot points of this film is that these astronauts want to reclaim the Earth, and begin repopulating the surface. To do this, they require the help of a futuristic society that has locked themselves away, preferring to practice a peaceful way of life that no longer develops weapons or tolerates violence. It’s an oppressive kind of society that has strange rules concerning the treatment of women and class structures, but rather than focus on the interesting hypocrisies that exist at the center of this society, our astronauts decide the best way to reverse things is to begin waging war almost immediately. These men, who proclaim themselves to be scientists, would rather kill off the new dominant species on the surface than study them and try and work with them. They go for the nuclear option almost immediately, pushing for the construction of guns and ammo, which angers many of the existing residents, causing all sorts of backlash and controversy between our protagonists and these people.
World Without End is such a crude movie, with our four leads, played by Hugh Marlowe, Nelson Leigh, Rod Taylor, and Christopher Dark picked for their atypical Hollywood male attributes rather than their acting abilities as they stomp through the feature, making lewd remarks about the two female leads, played by Lisa Montell and Nancy Gates, and preaching war and violence to reverse humanity’s destruction of Earth as we know it. Their performances are so wooden that they sometimes blend into the trees of the forests they explore, chewing up as much scenery as possible around them. The special effects they act against are all practical, but under the Cinemascope lens they look cheap and unconvincing, like they were pulled from a high school’s prop department and just sorta thrown together.
At the end of the day, I guess the answer to my question no. No, you cannot give a B-movie, especially a bad one as this features ends up being, any sort of prestige by shooting it in Cinemascope. World Without End might have charm to some, especially as it builds into a messy, action packed climax, but I found it brutish and ultimately uninteresting. The years have been incredibly poor to films like these, and this one is no except. By the time I was done, I rather wished the world DID end.
The Video (4/5)
Shot on 4-perf 35mm film with Cinemascope anamorphic lenses, World Without End was originally presented in theaters using the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Presented in 1080p and sourced from a new HD master created by Warner Archive, the film is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
For such a low budget, oft forgotten film, World Without End looks better than it has any right to be. Although it does suffer from some of the inherent resolution issues of the classic Cinemascope issues due to the film stock used and the horizontal desqueeze process, the film is generally a sharp, pleasant experience. Color is excellent, with excellent greens and yellows throughout, and a healthy layer of film grain that adds a delightful photochemical texture to the image. It has been expertly cleaned by the Archive crew, and looks spotless for a film that probably hasn’t seen the best of days in storage. It looks pretty good, all things considered.
The Audio (3.5/5)
Originally presented on film prints with a mono optical soundtrack, World Without End is presented in DTS-Master Audio 2.0 mono sound.
World Without End was a low budget movie, and it sounds about how you’d expect for a 50s mono production. Dialogue is easy to understand and dynamics are pretty standard across the board, and sound effects, no matter how cheesy they are, register with clarity. I don’t have much else to add here, other than that it’s a clean sounding track, free of any pops or distortion.
Special Features/Packaging (1.5/5)
Released to home video by Warner Archive, World Without End is packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. The front artwork features a reframing of one of the film’s release posters, featuring one of the film’s female leads looking angrily outwards, and the other struggling with a mutant while generic, but colorful and interesting sci-fi war goes on in the background. The back features a shot from the film, and a bite sized reproduction of another film poster, as well as a paragraph about the film, theatrical credits, and the technical specs for the release. The packaging for this release is business in front, boredom in the back. Surprisingly weak for an Archive release.
This release has no extras whatsoever. It’s a B-movie. What did you expect?
Technical Specs (click for technical FAQs)
Region Coding: None
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
DTS-Master Audio 2.0 mono (English)
Runtime: 80 minutes
I didn’t like World Without End at all. It just wasn’t my style, and while I can see the appeal for B-movie junkies, most of us will be more than content to skip this aggressive, misguided attempt at showing how we can solve all of the apocalyptic woes of the post-world of 2508 with guns and bazookas. Luckily for fans, the film looks and sounds good in this new HD presentation of the film, but not much else. I’m usually pretty lenient on Archive releases, as they’re beautiful products of passion for lesser known films, but this one just couldn’t pull me in. Oooph.