Five, Actually Six, but Who’s Counting?

DATELINE: First Post-Apocalyptic Nuclear Movie

real star of Five Wright’s Eaglefeather

The 1951 unknown classic by Arch Oboler is called Five, about five survivors of a nuclear holocaust. It was way ahead of its time, but lost count somewhere in the post-apocalyptic shuffle. There are actually six survivors, including a black man, a baby, and a crypto-Nazi.

Director Arch Oboler was a radio writer and producer who went into movies. He was thought to be the poor man’s Orson Welles, and his movie productions were sporadic.

He used his Malibu estate to film the 1951 movie about a handful of people who come together to figure out what happened to the world. They actually surmise that it is genetic that they are immune to radiation, like those who were immune to the Black Death.

Director Oboler was a bit of a character, temperamental and an auteur who did what he wanted. His list of films is intriguing, but the real star of this low-budget film is Frank Lloyd Wright.

Yes, you got that Wright. Oboler had FLW build a mountain top aerie called Cliff House on his estate in 1941. Well, actually, they fought about it—and Eaglefeather became a truncated Wright home. Oboler filmed it from the backside to make it look smaller and more rustic.

The characters note that a rich man’s house is further down the Malibu coast: take that, Frank Lloyd Wright.

As you might expect, the film features Oboler’s particular political perspective. The villain of sorts climbed Mount Everest as a point of monumental ego, and the hero is a graduate of Harvard who specialized in literature. William Phipps has a recognizable face.

Susan Douglas is the innocent girl who goes back to the neutron bomb city to find her husband. She too is remarkable. But, the film has the feel of an early Twilight Zone episode. And, not surprisingly, Rod Serling loved Oboler’s films and used them for inspiration.

Called science fiction, the film is a character drama and low key with its racial angle and Transcendental approach. Fascinating movie.

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Fear & Desire Equals Twilight Zone Material

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP!

Stanley Kubrick is gone, but film archivists are digging up his film stock bones because audiences are desperate for fresh Kubrick material.

So, Kubrick’s first movie, a 1953 effort, has been given to the true believers. They may savor and ponder it now for a decade. We took in one viewing—and it was enough for us.

Filmed in the San Gabriel Mountains, this is a war movie in the vein of a Twilight Zone episode. Indeed, both Rod Serling and Kubrick started around the same time with war-themed tales. Each tries desperately to transcend his material.

So, this is really not an anti-Korean war movie, but a ponderous narrator tells us that the armies may speak English, but it could be Anyman’s War at Anytime. It looks like a bad episode of Vic Morrow’s tv series, Combat.

 Without a big budget and special effects, not even stock footage, Kubrick keeps his integrity intact. This film is done on Kubrick terms.

As writer, producer, director, editor, and so forth, Kubrick showed all the promise of a new Orson Welles in 1953. His hand-to-hand murder of soldiers at their supper is stunning, making spilled stew look like black-and-white spilled guts.

However, this is not Paths of Glory.

The storyline becomes extremely talky and totally unbelievable. One actor (Kenneth Harp) plays two roles, the leading officer and the opposing general. It is not to save money on actors.

Mercifully short, the film ends with ambiguity and mystery of life issues floating down the river. Yes, we would have been entranced to see Kubrick and Serling team up, even in their pre-success days.

 Now that would have been something.

Ossurworld’s William Russo has several movie books available on Amazon.com. You may want to sample ALFRED HITCHCOCK FRESHLY SHOWERED or MOVIE MASHUP! for additional reviews.