In the Year 2889 (1967)
In the Year 2889 is a product of American International Television, crud-shovellers of the highest degree, who drug many a Gamera and Godzilla movie across the Pacific to America. It's also a Larry Buchanan production, a man who bought several yachts and mansions making egregiously bad, but cheap, b-movies. With these two twin hammers of chunky goodness, our movie is sure to be a winner! And, yes, it's a total rip-off of Corman's The Day the World Ended from 1956. Who cares?
I picked this movie partly because I just finished reading Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, an excellent novel of post-holocaust survival. In the book, as in our movie, an isolated farmstead survives the End Of The World As We Know It, though human nature eventually dooms the survivors as well. Not surprisingly, the book is a million times better than this crappy movie.
And now on to our show...
First off, this movie DOES NOT take place in 2889, it takes place in 1967. They want us to think the setting is 900 years in the future, but nothing we see implies that at all. It's just a way to sound all sci-fi cool and I simply will not tolerate that kind of silliness.
Well, the bastards finally did it. They pushed the button, lots of buttons, actually, and nuked the hell out of the planet. A bunch of stock footage atomic explosions opens our film, echoing booms and ominously powerful music on the soundtrack. Total nuclear war, mutual assured destruction, all that and more.
The film setting is a house in an isolated valley somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, though this entire movie is filmed at a big Spanish-style ranch house in the Dallas, Texas area. Living here are an old man and his hot young daughter (that's a whole other movie...).
Former US Navy Captain John Ramsey is played by sixtysomething actor Neil Fletcher, who played military authority figures in b-movie disasters Mars Needs Women, Zontar, The Thing From Venus and Beyond the Time Barrier. He's just a portly old man with a bad comb-over and trousers pulled up way too high. Just going to call him the Old Man.
The Old Man.
Joanna Ramsey is played by 21-year old Charla Doherty, a small time actress who pretty much disappeared after this movie. She's a fairly attractive woman, with a face like Shelly Long and 1960s hair. Just going to call her the Daughter for now.
We're told that this house, nestled in a secluded valley in the mountains, was protected from the nearest nuclear booms. It's position, lead-filled hills, and the favorable winds kept most of the fallout away and the mountains blocked any blast effects. The Old Man has been planning for ten years how to survive a nuclear war, so I assume he picked a location far enough away from population centers or military installations that he didn't have to worry about spillover damage, and removed from refugee evacuation routes enough that the risks of being swamped by hordes of desperate and hungry people were low. Some of his plans are fairly weak, however, as he only has enough food for three people for a few months.
A neat diorama of the house.
The Old Man does have a small Sony transistor radio (with a nine-inch antenna at most) which he uses to determine that there are few, if any, survivors in the world. He calls it a shortwave radio several times, but you can't really call it that once you see it. He claims to have lost contact with Paris and London, as well as Los Angeles. There is no government, no military, no America anymore. Certainly, he was expecting a different kind of post-apocalypse than most people, one where he would be allowed to live in peace while the world healed itself. And as we shall see, while the hordes never materialize, a number of refugees do find his isolated house.
Hmmm...not a very big antenna.
Suddenly, there's a knocking at the door! The Old Man doesn't want to open it, but the Daughter does, thinking it to be her missing fiance Larry. It's not, of course, but in stumbles two men, brothers who were caught in a nuclear blast. Older brother Granger has been badly injured by radiation, his face a mass of flesh-eating pussing scars and red-tinged flash burns. His younger brother Steve is amazingly immaculate and clean-cut, a geologist by trade who knew of the "special properties" of this valley and came here after the bombs dropped.
Granger is played by fortysomething actor Max Anderson, another nondescript face in a sea of underpaid extras and bit part actors. He looks like Dennis Quaid with a buzz cut.
Steve is played 22-year old Paul Peterson, a pretty boy former child actor, who by the 1960s was slumming in schlocky b-movies to pay the rent. He's a prime example of burnout at a young age, an all-too-common fate for child actors. Steve is a skinny, fancy-pants kid with absolutely perfect hair and teeth, who looks like he should be running down a beach with Annette Funachello. In every scene he looks like he just stepped out of make-up and wardrobe, which is a bit out of place in a post-nuclear war movie.
Over the Old Man's objections, his kindhearted Daughter refuses to turn them away, especially the wounded man. The fact that he's still alive is amazing, as the Old Man's Geiger counter reads high enough that Granger should have been dead long ago. Despite this, he's taken upstairs to rest while Steve tries to get the Old Man to relax. The Old Man, clearly feeling like his carefully laid plans for survival are being tossed under the bus, sits heavily in a chair and sighs a lot.
And now there's another knock at the door! The Old Man really doesn't want to let these newcomers in either, but one of them shoots the door lock with a small automatic pistol. The Old Man has a big hefty revolver and gets the drop on these two, a man and a woman. Despite reservations, the Old Man's Daughter again convinces him to let these two people in the house. They are Mickey and Jada.
Jada is played by 26-year old English actress Quinn O'Hara (cool name), who would go on to appear in mostly sleazy sexploitation films after this one. She's a thin redhead with impressive boobs.
Mickey is played by thirtysomething actor Hugh Feagin, another forgettable bit part actor struggling to make a living in Hollywood. He's a creepy-looking dude, kinda like Crispin Glover in Charlie's Angels.
There's going to be trouble with Mickey, we can tell from minute one. He's arrogant, brash and slick-talking. He seems out of touch with reality, still claiming that he has to get to LA for a business deal, despite the very real possibility that LA is just a smoking crater now. His relationship with Jada is also volatile, as he treats her badly and seems to have a general disregard for all women.
And to round out our ensemble cast, from out of the woods stumbles an alcoholic rancher named Tim, played by 47-year old Billy Thurman, a b-movie veteran known for playing sheriffs in such classics as Creature From Black Lake, Gator Bait, and Zontar, The Thing From Venus. He's a big, stereotypical farmer-type with a cowboy hat and scruffy beard.
Ok, so now we have our seven cast members, five men and two women. Clearly, there's going to be a ton of internal conflict in our group, as we have such widely disparate personalities and motivations. We see that the Old Man has "elected" himself the leader based on his experience (and it's his house!), and has appointed Steve as his second. This doesn't sit well with Mickey, who believes that he should be in charge due to his swarthy manliness.
Weeks pass, tempers flare, food runs thin, arguments and attempted assaults are common, and things are generally not going well. Trapped in this valley, with limited resources and no clear plan for the future, it's only a matter of time before they all break.
To make the situation worse, out beyond the hills there are mutants, former humans whose genetic makeup has been altered by radiation exposure. One of these makes its way down into the valley, to lurk around the edges of the house at night, making everyone leery and afraid. The Old Man has something of an explanation for these mutants. It seems that he was involved with some atomic test in the Pacific (the "Matsuo Test"), where animals were mutated into killer beasts by the radiation. The results were hushed up by the government, but the Old Man has some sketches and his vivid memory of those mutant animals. He's sure that some humans were affected the same way, and a number of them are now shambling monsters in the area.
The Old Man's drawings of one of the mutants he saw after the atomic tests.
Despite the fact that the script says they're here almost a month, it's my suggestion that this movie was shot in as little as two days. They use one camera throughout, and a limited number of similar set-ups inside the house and at select points out in the woods. As is typical with these types of movies, there are also very few costume changes. The men, in fact, never change their basic outfit's the entire movie, while the girls get a couple of changes each (including several scenes of them in bathing suits!).
This is definately not something you expect to see in a post-nuclear war movie...
I was going to go scene-by-scene here, but this movie drags along so slowly that I think I will just give summaries of our seven cast members, explaining in general what happens to them.
Granger, despite his massive dose of radiation, recovers quickly. But he has changed, become something not quite human. He now needs "raw meat" and takes to prowling out in the woods all night, catching game and eating it raw. While he poses no danger to the rest of the people, he remains a constant worry and a potential threat. The Old Man and Steve speculate that Granger is now a "stage one mutant", progressing towards the state where he will become a monster. The Old Man wants to kill him if they catch him, but Steve can't bring himself to do it. In the end, the find Granger out in the woods one day, dead of an attack by another mutant man.
Tim the alcoholic rancher is never more than a background character, and is clearly the most expendable of the cast. He has two jugs of homebrewed whiskey that he brought with him from his ranch, and he does little more than sneak off to sip his booze, hit on Jada, and sweat a lot. In the end, after the Old Man breaks his last jug in a fit of anger, Tim stumbles out of the house and climbs the hill to go back to his ranch and his still. He's never seen again.
Mickey and Jada are the unstable elements here, and it's no surprise that neither survive. Jada becomes insanely jealous that Mickey is lusting after the much younger and prettier Daughter, and takes to drinking to excess with Tim out in the woods. In the end, after confronting Mickey about his feelings for the Daughter, Mickey drowns her in the pool!
Mickey remains the oily snake throughout the film, constantly looking for an opportunity to take control. He makes numerous plays at getting a weapon, or making a lock pick for the food storeroom, or trying to rape the Daughter, who he has fallen for hard. They really should have just shot him in the head the day he arrived, but perhaps out of some sense of preserving humanity, they allow him to stay around and cause trouble. In the end, the Old Man shoots Mickey dead after he makes a final effort at taking over.
The Old Man himself struggles all movie to remain in control, to keep his plan working despite all the problems and internal conflicts. He also wears the same pair of khaki pants and shirt for the whole movie, looking a bit like Higgins from Magnum PI at times.
He's alternately kind and coldhearted, never quite sure if he should just shoot everyone but his Daughter and go on, or try and rebuild the human race with the hand he has been dealt. In the end he lives, and presumably has a chance to see some grandkids.
His Daughter spends most of the film being emotionally distraught and nervously twitchy. Conflicted with her growing attraction to Steve, hounded by the lecherous Mickey, and haunted by the memories of her missing fiance Larry, she's lucky not to go insane. In one of the film's better plot points, the Daughter constantly feels like the mutant out in the woods near the house is "calling to her", speaking in her mind in a voice only she can hear. In the end, she states that the mutant is Larry! They even have a meeting towards the end, out in the woods, where the hideously deformed Larry attempts to carry his bride off. She's "saved" by Steve and his fancy Luger with the 30-shot magazine (cool), and presumably goes on to live and procreate with Steve.
Steve is the film's designated hero, and the only one who remains stalwart and dependable throughout. His hair also stays perfectly trimmed and styled, and his white jeans and burgundy turtleneck remain spotless, showing him to be the best of the best. His growing love for the Daughter drives most of his actions, bringing him into frequent conflict with Mickey. In the end, he rescues the Daughter from the mutant creature, and the two of them go on to make babies and plant crops and stuff.
That's the softest look of gushy love I've ever seen.
The movie ends on a positive note, as the rains finally come, bringing unexpectedly clean water to the valley. They had long feared that the rain would be radioactive and kill them all, but it tests pure. The fresh water also drives off the mutant humans, who seem to be afraid of water for some reason. Poor Larry just melts in a puff of smoke. Just the Old Man, his Daughter and Steve remain alive at movie's end, and we're left to wonder how they lived the rest of their days. The actual ending is a sudden cut and a title card that reads "The Beginning".
"Rah! I'm Larry the mutant fiance! I want my ring back, you cheating bitch!"
Bonus! Some handy statistics for you:
10: Number of nuclear explosions.
9: Number of humans, mutant or normal, who have roles in this film.
6: Number of those who are dead by movie's end.
7: Number of cigarettes smoked by our cast (all by Steve).
7: Number of pistol rounds fired.
2: Number of times the Daughter is almost raped.
Written in October 2005 by Nathan Decker
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