Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Doing an injustice to the legacy of just about every Techicolor film that preceded it, 1956's World Without End may be one of the worst films ever filmed with the same brilliant color process as The Wizard of Oz. Here we have a movie that tries to make grand statements about the nature of human life and, having been made in an era which found the world in the grip of a growing nuclear threat, seemed to propose peaceful resolutions to conflict whenever possible. Yet, despite some grand aspirations, Edward Bernds's science fiction effort seems largely melodramatic and, frankly, boring, with plenty of talk, too many romantic interludes, and not enough action to really satisfy genre fans. The color processing looks great, and the film does feature the occasional flashy set, but in the end, this is a film that could have been produced easily without the expensive extravagances.
The film begins as a quartet of astronauts find that, as they orbit the planet Mars, their radio equipment gives out, promoting panic back in earth. One astronaut's wife, along with her two children, frantically question space command officials, but to no avail as her husband and his companions have all but vanished. Anyways, who cares about what happens on earth. WE GOT OURSELVES A SPACESHIP! Dropping this subplot like a bad habit, the film continues as the astronauts attempt to navigate their craft back to Earth, but find themselves caught doing the time warp to 2500 A.D. Crash landing somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, they find that the world has been all but decimated by nuclear holocaust. As our heroes stumble through a state park in California.... I mean the future Earth, they discover that it's been overrun by murderous one-eyed human mutants. After battling the savages, the quartet fortunately discover the entrance to the subterranean world inhabited by the remnants of "civilized" human life. This sets up the main drama for the film, as the astronauts argue about whether to attempt to repair their ship and head back to their own time, or assist the rather pathetic, dying race of future humans.
Writer/director Bernds had frequently worked on theatrical shorts prior to his work here (including several Three Stooges productions), and I'm just going to throw it out there that he may not have been the best choice to handle this science fiction project. His script is very talky, with the majority of the run time spent depicting the conflict between the sluggish subterranean humans and the, by comparison, vivacious astronauts. Bernds also spends too much time following the romantic antics of the astronauts and the intrigued females of the future. Apparently, these future women can't resist the charms of a ragtag group of time-travelers, as every woman seen in the film is instantly captivated by our heroes, and subsequently acts like putty in their sweaty hands. The resulting soap opera melodramatics come across as infuriating in a film that one would hope would have some amount of action to push it along. Eventually, Bernds throws the use of a bazooka against the mutants into the film’s supposed climax, but it's too little too late at that point, and while the ending for the film is somewhat interesting in the context of popular sci-fi cinema, World Without End's potentially interesting story lacks excitement and fails to generate much interest for the audience.
While Rod Taylor, Hugh Marlowe, Christopher Dark, and Nelson Leigh fail to overcome the stereotypes (and alpha-male status) of their characters (playing the quintessentially bland ship's captain, navigator, scientist, and radio operator), the various women in the film at least provide the viewer with some eye candy. Nancy Gates, Shirley Patterson, and Lisa Montell wonder around the film wearing super-short miniskirts, frequently clinging onto and smooching with the quartet of astronauts. Everett Glass and Booth Coleman appear as the lackadaisical leaders of the futuristic human race, but again, seem to generally add little to the film, and with a script that already seems slow, a zombie-like cast does little to benefit the film. I will say, however, that it is rather amusing to see how the cast reacts to a ridiculously cheap spaceship set in the opening scenes.
Although Bernds's script is generally sub-par, I will give it credit for working in a non-traditional way in the way the film concludes. I went into this film very much expecting every conflict in the film to work out in a convenient manner, and while the film doesn't really offer up many surprises and turns in a ho-hum climax, the denouement in the film doesn't quite play out in a formula manner. It's remarkable how similar this film is to the latter film The Time Machine in many ways: that 1960 film also starred Taylor and features and astonishing number of similarities to this film. World Without End does make use of its Technicolor in some of the set work, particularly when the quartet of astronauts first stumble on the civilized human society. Bernds realizes a couple of nicely executed scenes, making adequate use of scope photography to capture action in both the foreground and background of some shots – although this depth of field is usually used to create melodrama between the female cast members. All things considered, the occasionally well-done moment in this film doesn't make up for a general lack of enthusiasm in the cast and a script that gives the viewer too little of what he would probably want out of the film.
At most times more a romantic melodrama than sci-fi thriller, World Without End is a genre effort that attempts to tackle some lofty subject matter, particularly in presenting ideas about the downsides of man's penchant for violence and aggression. Unfortunately, these potentially intriguing ideas are often lost in a script that too frequently focuses its attentions on the amorous escapades of its quartet of time-traveling astronauts. While the film occasionally delivers some excellent Technicolor visuals and has a story that works out in a way that's commendably original, Bernds's film has little to truly recommend it as a sci-fi film. I'd say it might be worthwhile to curious genre fans, but I'd advise any viewer to go in not expecting too much out of this rather lousy effort.
Blood and Gore = Mutant attack at 3 o’clock
Language = Sadly, it’s not as colorful as the photography, which in itself is fairly dull....
Fap Factor = Fetching looking ladies in short skirts, but little else
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up Ages 8