World Without End
Cast & Crew
In 1957, the American space agency loses contact with the first manned explorer rocket, MRX, and the crew under the command of Dr. Eldon Galbraithe is feared lost. Onboard the MRX, Eldon, engineer Henry Jaffee, radioman Herbert Ellis and scientist John Borden worry about the loss of radio contact with Earth, but after completing their second successful orbit around the planet Mars, plot their return journey home. Shortly after the rockets ignite, however, MRX hits inexplicable and violent turbulence, forcing the ship to accelerate to fantastically high speeds. The crew lapses into unconsciousness as the ship falls into a planet's atmosphere and crashes into a snow covered valley. When the men revive they are surprised to discover that although their instruments register a slight radiation reading, gravity and oxygen also register on the unknown planet. After analyzing the ship's damage, Eldon decides that they are unable to make repairs and should explore their surroundings. Armed with supplies and pistols, the men set off and after traveling several hours in an earth-like environment, discover a cave. Inside, the men come upon a huge web and moments later, are attacked by two giant spiders that they manage to fight off. At dusk, the men set up camp in a clearing, unaware that they are being watched by numerous, grotesque, one-eyed creatures who later attack them. The men kill two of the three attackers and, upon examining the corpses, are stunned by the creatures' similarity to humans. The next morning, the men find a series of markers that they are shocked to realize as gravestones. Upon seeing stones with dates far into the future and many marked "2188," Eldon concludes that they have been propelled into Earth's future, in the aftermath of some cataclysmic disaster. Continuing on, the men are again attacked by the Cyclops creatures and forced to seek refuge in another cave where they find a strange metallic wall that opens, revealing a long, constructed hallway. The men follow the hallway to a room where they are directed by a voice from a loudspeaker to leave their weapons and supplies and proceed into a large, conference-style room. There, to the men's amazement, a group of elderly human men greet them. The leader introduces himself as Timmek and confirms Eldon's conjecture that the men are on the Earth of their future, in the year 2508. Timmek explains that centuries earlier the planet was nearly destroyed by a worldwide atomic war and the radiation fall-out caused strange mutations of insects, animals and humans, the worst of which are the primitive Cyclops people. Those unaffected were forced underground where over the years they created a safe, comfortable world. Timmek then introduces the men to his beautiful daughter Garnet, who escorts the men to a room provided for them. Under questioning, Garnet reveals that her people have remained below ground despite the dissipation of radiation because of their fear of the violent Cyclops people. When John suggests that the scientifically advanced humans could easily destroy the primitive Cyclops, Garnet declares that her people loathe war. Later, John inquires about another woman attending them, Deena, who appears different from the others. Garnet explains that not all the humans above ground remain affected by the radioactive past, that many developed normally only to be killed at birth or early childhood by the Cyclops. Deena grew to adulthood, escaped the savages and was rescued by the underground people. That evening, Hank marvels at the community's development, but John points out that they are limited by their refusal to consider living on the outside. The men also note that the underground men are all weak and elderly, while the woman are vibrant and attractive. Meeting with Timmek and other council members the next day, Eldon asks for assistance in repairing MRX in order to fulfill the men's duty and explore the rest of the planet. Mories, a high council member, expresses unease with the request and points out the men will be besieged by the Cyclops on the outside. When Eldon suggests the undergrounders could help them, Mories steadfastly refuses to become embroiled in violence, but Timmek agrees to consider the matter. Meanwhile John and Garnet grow friendly, as another woman, Elaine, and Deena pursue Herb. After touring the community, Hank reports that the lack of very young children suggests the undergrounders may be dying out. After the council refuses Eldon's request, the men learn from Elaine and Garnet that Mories' great fear of change and violence has paralyzed the undergrounders. Determined to repair MRX, Eldon decides to ask for help in making additional weapons so that they might fight off the Cyclops and return to their ship. Unknown to the men, Mories overhears their plans and reports to Timmek that the men are intent on a brutal takeover. When the men make their request to Timmek and the council, Mories declares they intend to make slaves of the undergrounders and the council fearfully rejects the request. Afterward, Garnet pleads with her father to reconsider and he remains uncertain. Concerned that Timmek may relent, Mories urges council member James, who is keeping the men's guns in his room, to remain steadfast. Mories then breaks into James's room to get the guns and when James attempts to interfere, strikes him down. Mories then plants the guns in the men's room, unaware that Deena is watching. Upon learning of James's violent death, Timmek suspects Eldon and the others and upon finding the guns in their rooms, orders them released to the outside with only their supplies and extra food. Meanwhile Deena seeks to speak with Timmek, but is attacked by Mories. Discovered semi-conscious by the others, Deena relates that Mories has framed the men and Timmek orders his apprehension. Terrified, Mories flees outside where he is attacked and killed by the Cyclops. Timmek and the council apologize to the men and agree to provide help in developing a weapon to drive out the Cyclops. Once the bazooka-like weapon is developed, the men, joined by Deena, go out in search of the Cyclops and engage in numerous skirmishes until John demands a hand-to-hand fight with their leader, Naga. John succeeds in killing Naga, thus frightening and scattering the remains Cyclops. Months later, the men have convinced Timmek's people to join the surviving, non-mutants outsiders and begin human life anew.
Allen K. Wood
World Without End
Bernds' efficiency brought him to the attention of producer Richard Heermans at Allied Artists, which had risen from the ashes of Poverty Row's defunct Monogram Pictures. Looking to compete in the market for Technicolor science fiction films after the example of Paramount's Destination Moon (1950) and War of the Worlds (1954), Heermans tasked Bernds to craft a likeminded sci-fi adventure built around a few minutes of space travel footage cribbed from Monogram's Flight to Mars (1951). Unaccustomed to the genre, Bernds crammed for the assignment by speed reading Arthur C. Clarke's 1950 Interplanetary Flight: An Introduction to Astronautics, and employed Albert Einstein's theories on time relativity in crafting World Without End (1956) - the tale of American astronauts who crash land on a hostile planet lousy in monsters and mutants while returning from an expedition to Mars. Shooting in both Technicolor and CinemaScope, Bernds expected an uptake in quality but Heermans proved tight-fisted and resistant to his casting ideas of Sterling Hayden for the role of expedition commander John Borden. Unable to afford Hayden, Bernds' countered with Frank Lovejoy. Instead, he was given Hugh Marlowe.
Hugh Marlowe came to World Without End with a respectable cinematic pedigree, having played a prominent supporting role in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Academy Award-winning All About Eve (1950) and paid his genre dues in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Though Marlowe routinely played dependable, four-square types, Bernds found the actor lazy and unprofessional, rarely knowing his lines and prone to wandering off the set while on location at Chatsworth's Iverson Ranch (which stood in for the alien terra). More to Bernds' liking was 26 year-old Australian actor Rod Taylor, at that point new to Hollywood and eager to please. Taylor would swiftly land a long-term MGM contract and enjoy quality supporting parts in Giant (1956) and Raintree County (1957) en route to international stardom in such films as The Time Machine (1960) and The Birds (1963). Bernds also benefited from the professionalism of his production artist Alberto Vargas, whose curvy "Vargas Girls" had graced the nose of many a WWII bomber, and his dialogue director - a wiry Californian named Sam Peckinpah - later the director of such distinctive action films as Ride the High Country (1962), Major Dundee (1965), and The Wild Bunch (1969).
Sent to theatres on a double bill with Indestructible Man, starring Lon Chaney, Jr., World Without End was sufficiently successful for the estate of H. G. Wells to initiate a plagiarism lawsuit against Allied Artists for copyright infringement. The similarities to Wells' 1895 novel The Time Machine are inescapable- protagonists who time-slip to the future, where civilization is divided between the surface of the earth and its cavernous substrata, its population split between the able-bodied ancestors of man and hideous mutants (or "mutates," as Bernds script refers to them) - but it remains unknown what the result of that litigation might have been. The film was never withdrawn from circulation and even set a sci-fi precedent: Universal's The Mole People (1956) depicted modern day travelers stumbling upon a feudal subterranean Dystopia (complete with hideous monsters), American International Pictures' The Time Travelers (1964) mixed time travel and mutants, and 20th Century Fox's Planet of the Apes (1968), based on French writer Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel, exploited the same third act zinger. Fifth-billed Rod Taylor would later star in George Pal's 1960 adaptation of The Time Machine and villain Booth Colman assumed the role of orangutan antagonist Dr. Zaius for the short-lived Planet of the Apes television series.
By Richard Harland Smith
Interview with Edward Bernds by Tom Weaver, Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Filmmakers (McFarland & Company, 2006)
Interview with Booth Colman by Tom Weaver, I Was a Monster Movie Maker: Conversations with 22 SF and Horror Filmmakers (McFarland & Company, 2001)
Keep Watching the Skies!: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, the 21st Century Edition by Bill Warren (McFarland & Company, 2010)
World Without End
World Without End/Satellite in the Sky - WORLD WITHOUT END & SATELLITE IN THE SKY - Warner Bros. Sci-Fi Double Feature on DVD
World Without End is a real oddity. It was written and directed by jack-of-all trades journeyman Edward Bernds, a veteran of the B-picture industry. As that market imploded he fanned out into westerns, Sci-Fi teen exploitation and Three Stooges features. His movie relocates H.G. Wells' The Time Machine into a rocket ship, but most of the screen time is spent within skimpy Allied Artists sets and location work at Stony Point in the NW corner of the San Fernando Valley. The 'exotic future society' on view isn't much different from lost kingdoms in adventure tales from the Arabian Knights to Tarzan movies, and the main theme is that we coddled Americans need to get tough and fight for our place in the sun. As an added thrill, Bernds' movie exploits the 'space babe' idea from groaners like Cat Women of the Moon. These futuristic pin-ups look great in abbreviated outfits designed by none other than girlie artist Alberto Vargas.
Synopsis: Mars explorers John Borden, Eldon Galbraithe, Herbert Ellis and Hank Jaffe (Hugh Marlowe, Nelson Leigh, Rod Taylor & Christopher Dark) undergo a freak acceleration on their trip home, and are catapulted back to Earth through a dimensional portal. They awaken on a snowy peak and hike down to discover that centuries have passed; it is 550 years into the future. Deformed "Mutates" rule the surface while a dwindling civilization of cowardly men and oversexed women subsists in a cozy underground city. Smiling babes Elaine (Shawn Smith of The Land Unknown and It! The Terror from Beyond Space), Deena (Lisa Montell) and the highborn Garnet (Nancy Gates) take an instant shine to the manly astronauts from the past. Jealous official Mories (Booth Colman) connives against the newcomers, convincing the council that their plan to re-conquer the surface world above is a return to man's ancient violence and irresponsibility. Mories also frames the newcomers for a murder in a bid to see them banished to certain death above.
In his core study Keep Watching the Skies! fifties' Sci-Fi authority Bill Warren pegged World Without End's status as an inverted adaptation of the classic novel The Time Machine. This version's monstrous Morlocks enjoy the sunshine while the effete Eloi hide in caves. H.G. Wells' tale has an anti-war, humanistic message, whereas Bernds' screenplay alters the formula to celebrate the macho territorial imperative. Our gutsy astronauts teach the pacifist pansies of the 25th century how to get out there and kick ass.
The film's exiting posters and promo artwork promise the kind of delirious adventures featured on the covers of Sci-Fi pulp fiction, but the movie dispenses with its outerspace content in only eight minutes. Weak rocket ship scenes (recycled, along with some rubber spiders, for AA's later Queen of Outer Space) give way to indifferent locations familiar from series westerns. In the underground city, the architecture in the three or four rooms we see favors plywood triangles. Colors are bright but Ellsworth Fredericks' lighting is flat and unexpressive.
The weak intrigues at court are offset by amusing boy-girl sparks. Hugh Marlowe immediately hits it off with comely Nancy Gates (Comanche Station, Some Came Running), who parades a stunning pair of legs in Vargas' cutesy-pie outfits. Shawn Smith beams happily at the sight of Rod Taylor's bare chest, and dark-haired Lisa Montell, playing a former slave girl of the Mutates, falls hopelessly in love with him as well. The rugged Taylor would play The Time Traveler in George Pal's version of H.G. Wells' original; we wonder if Taylor's bright attitude helped launch his star career with roles in Giant and Raintree County. The professor (Nelson Leigh, a "star" of now-campy civil defense shorts treating atomic war as an inconvenience) stays out of the running for female companionship, while the fourth astronaut Christopher Dark remains gloomy over the loss of his wife and children, left 500 years in the past.
To reestablish humanity topside where real estate means something, the four spacemen eventually fabricate a bazooka and go Mutate hunting; most of the action in the film is tame rock hopping and wrestling amid very ordinary surroundings. The Mutate make-ups are bizarre and disturbing, with bulging eyes and rearranged facial features, but they're seen almost exclusively in wide shots. The MPAA may have warned Allied Artists away from horror close-ups. It's more likely that Bernd's standoffish style (and the limitations of early CinemaScope lenses) kept the camera further back.
Speaking of CinemaScope, World Without End has been shown flat for over fifty years; this is its first disc release. The wide compositions no longer crop characters off screen but the 'Scope frame doesn't reveal anything particularly distinctive about the visuals. Edward Bernds' direction is mostly flat and static. The film's tagline reads CinemaScope's First Science-Fiction Thriller Hurls You into the Year 2508!, but MGM's Forbidden Planet seems to have beaten it into theaters by a couple of weeks. Maybe they aren't counting Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, released more than a year earlier.
It doesn't matter that Satellite in the Sky isn't very good; it has been largely unviewable for fifty years except on bad pan-scan bootlegs. Filmed in CinemaScope and color in England, it's also no cheapie. The shapeless script is hobbled by a great deal of just plain awful dialogue. Noted actor Donald Wolfit hams up his biggest scenes just to provide relief from the lack of drama or tension. Welsh director Paul Dickson had a fairly prolific career in Brit TV but the film's three writers share only a couple of other credits between them.
Synopsis: A British space ship is being prepared for launch on a purely scientific mission, but the intrepid astronauts all have troubles with women. Dedicated Larry Noble (Jimmy Hanley) is called in for late-night meetings, infuriating his neglected wife Barbara (Thea Gregory). Radio Man Jimmy Wheeler (future director Bryan Forbes) is frustrated because his girlfriend, fashion model Ellen (Shirley Lawrence) must work on their last night before the launch. And Commander Michael Haydon (Kieron Moore of Day of the Triffids and Crack in the World is harassed by Kim Hamilton (Lois Maxwell), a news reporter absorbed by her own prejudice against space travel. On the eve of departure, the officers are given a shock -- the entire flight is actually a weapons test bankrolled by the United States. The ship will launch and detonate a devastating new invention, which its inventor Professor Merrity (Donald Wolfit) calls the Tritonium Bomb.
Variety's review (July 11, 1956) said that Satellite in the Sky "almost becomes an unconsciously funny comedy" due to a maladroit script and leaden direction. Future Miss Moneypenny Lois Maxwell didn't do well for her first English film after spending several years in the Italian industry. Her Kim Hamilton has no problem stowing away on the spaceship, and nobody seems very upset to discover that she's aboard. In Brog.'s words, "she spends her time in the stratosphere plaguing the crewmen with silly questions like, "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
The film's 85 minutes are padded with footage of English jets landing and taxiing, courtesy of the A.V. Roe and Folland aircraft companies; one of the planes appears to be a Vulcan bomber as seen in the 007 film Thunderball nine years later. Director Dickson's talky scenes frequently contain only one or two cuts, and the film moves like molasses. The petty domestic subplots go nowhere.
Interest finally focuses on the flight itself, and the politics behind it. The English commanders express only token irritation to find out that their research mission is really a Cold War bomb test for Uncle Sam; the regular crewmen aren't even told they're going to lob a Tritonium Bomb from their airlock, and barely seem to care. The too-casual attitude is indicative of a slack and uncoordinated production. In one scene, a jet said to be thousands of feet in the air is shown to be literally buzzing the airfield. Commander Kieron Moore shoos some technicians out of the ship after the atomic rockets have started warming up and are spewing radioactive steam all over the launching bay. As the workmen go out the door, Moore advises them, "Oh, be careful of the radioactivity!"
Satellite in the Sky takes its cue straight from When Worlds Collide, with the ship launched up an inclined ramp at an angle of only 35° or so. The filmmakers have built some impressive spaceship interior sets, with double automatic airlock doors, etc. The miniature spaceship is a beauty, a standard streamlined dart shape that we first see sitting on an enormous cradle-slide in an underground hangar. The 'big reveal shot' is almost identical to the first reveal of the super-sub Gotengo in Toho's Atragon, except that this model is much more detailed. Individual metal panels stand out on the ship's silver skin.
Unfortunately, the model photography is mostly poor. The terrific underground view cuts with a completely mismatched matte painting. Our expectations rise as the ship tilts and giant doors open to reveal the ramp stretched out above. But the launch is botched by several angles that make the ship seem to go slower as it ascends the ramp. The final long shot then shows the ship zipping away up the track like a cheap skyrocket. The camera pans, but too late to see it leave the ramp! In the following shot the ship is barely off the ground, as if in imminent danger of crashing. Giant wires are visible as the ship wiggles into space, clouds of smoke puffing from its exhaust.
The film's one big crisis occurs when the obnoxious Professor played by Donald Wolfit sets the fuse in the Tritonium bomb. The bomb's self-propulsion unit fails, and the weapon attaches itself to the tail of the ship by dint of 'metallic attraction.' This cues the characterizations to more or less fall to pieces. Moore and Maxwell exchange sweet nothings in the face of doom while the others act glum or try out gallows humor. Wolfit's character behaves ludicrously, first blaming the others, then screaming that he doesn't want to die, and then trying to bring the ship back down into the atmosphere. Wolfit wants to save himself by letting the bomb fall off, even though it will obliterate a big chunk of Earth below.
The film's considerable interest for Sci-Fi fans lies in its hardware. Astronauts exit for EVAs via a tube on the bottom of the ship's hull. That and a pair of picture-window observation pods extend out of the ship's streamlined interior, like the clever moon-ship elevators in the later Toho film Battle in Outer Space. One impressive angle shows this observation pod in the foreground while the space-walkers work on the bomb way in the background. Composites are good in the space scenes, but the effect is harmed by starfields that are milky instead of jet black. Other blacks in the film are deeper, so I don't think this is due to WarnerColor fading.
The filmmakers aren't up on their space science. The rocket just parks in space without any mention of going into orbit; the giant model is shown flying back to its base like a dirigible with a fire in its tail. The poster's tag line is equally plain clueless: The Never-Told Story of Life on the Roof of the Earth! But the general drama is as sober as Riders to the Stars and definitely not aimed at the kiddie market. Satellite in the Sky is a strange production in almost every aspect.
The guilty favorite World Without End and the obscure oddity Satellite in the Sky make a fine DVD double bill combo for Sci-Fi fans interested in vintage goods. Color is very good on both enhanced transfers, with Satellite showing a little mottling and wear in places. Audio is clear on End, with Leigh Harline's score coming across well, but some dialogue is a bit distorted in Satellite. Unfortunately, no extras are included, not even trailers.
For more information about World Without End/Satellite in the Sky, visit Amazon.
by Glenn Erickson
World Without End/Satellite in the Sky - WORLD WITHOUT END & SATELLITE IN THE SKY - Warner Bros. Sci-Fi Double Feature on DVD
Armageddon. The slaughter of humanity. An atomic war no one wanted, but which no one had the wisdom to avoid.- Timmek, President of the Council
Naga! Oomay mah luke!- Timmik, President of the Council
The working title for the film was Flight to the Future. World Without End was the only feature film credit for Peruvian-born artist Alberto Vargas, famed for painting glamorous images of women for Florenz Ziegfeld's "Ziegfeld Follies" in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1940 Vargas began working for Esquire magazine where he became known for his series of "Varga [later Vargas] Girls," which were replicated in calendars and served as morale boosters throughout WW II.
Several reviews of World Without End commented on the similarities between its plot and that of H. G. Wells's famous novel The Time Machine, which was filmed by M-G-M in 1960. According to a modern source, Wells's estate sued the producers of World Without End for plagiarism, but the outcome of the suit has not been determined.
Released in United States March 1975
Released in United States Winter December 1955
Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Science Fiction Movie Marathon - Selection of Trailers) March 13-26, 1975.)
Released in United States Winter December 1955