As has been mentioned a time or two here, I LOVE the so-bad-its-good genre of sci-fi movies. Thrumming theremins, lurching lurkers, fainting femme fatales; a good 90 minutes of that and I’m a happy gal.
This time of year SyFy usually runs a marathon of Twilight Zone episodes. After binge-watching some old faves (many of which are actually quite good), I was in the mood for what I assumed was a film version of the Jules Verne story In the Year 2889. I knew little going into it, except the title and the year of release, 1967. And that is was in color.
For those of you not familiar with the book, it’s 35 pages of predictions. What would life be like in 2889 (then 1000 years from the date of publishing)? It’s framed in a day-in-the-life of an average citizen. Incidentally, many people are of the opinion that is was Jules’ son Michel who wrote most (or at least some) of this work.
Well, the 1967 version of the distant future would certainly be interesting. I was picturing women in mylar mini-dresses and fabulously colored bouffants, and men in tall metal collars drinking strange bubbly beverages out of weird glassware.
All. Of. The. Nope.
As you may suspect from the title of this post, it wasn’t so bad it was good. It was so bad it was pitiful.
Let us begin with the most important bit of information: the title has NOTHING to do with the contents of the film. From multiple sources, I’ve gleaned that the film is a remake of a Roger Corman flick: The Day the World Ended. It got the title because Azalea Pictures owned the rights to it – they had had a successful release of a Verne-based film in 1961 (Master of the World), and so planned to make 2889 and bring themselves more acclaim. But the project petered out. When they landed the Corman remake, they couldn’t use Corman’s title…so they used one they already had.
Did I mention it’s a made-for-TV movie? It’s a made-for-TV movie.
The plot: Captain Ramsey and his daughter Joanna have a home in a valley ringed by mountains rich in lead-bearing ore, so when the nuclear holocaust happens, they’re relatively safe. But strangers show up, including Steve the geologist, his brother Granger (who has survived being exposed to lots of “rentchins” of radiation [actually roentgens, a measure of ionization caused by radioactive decay]), Tim the drunk rancher, Mickey the slimeball, and Jada the exotic dancer/girlfriend of Mickey.
The Captain doesn’t want all these contaminated people in his home, and besides he only had enough supplies for 3 months. But Joanna convinces him to let them stay. So Tim keeps nipping off to drink from his home-brewed whiskey, Granger sneaks out at night to catch live game because he’s a nuclear freak who needs raw meat, Joanna and Jada are frenemies, and Mickey is a slimeball.
Meanwhile, Cap’n Ramsey tells Steve about his experience with an H-bomb test where they had a boat full of 1,000 animals and not all of them died. The three that survived became mutants with big teeth and claws and tough skin. And eventually a human mutant catches Joanna because it calls to her telepathically but she figures out water is bad for it and she and Steve run off together through the rain in a shallow river and the end credits read “The Beginning”.
There are LOADS of problems with this film. The budget was tiny, which can forgive some of the things like horrid make-up and third-rate day-for-night effects (mild blue filter + cricket noises = nighttime). But the logistics and continuity are atrocious:
Steve arrives with nothing more than his brother, Granger, the radioactive raw-food dieter. But after months of everyone never leaving the property, Steve still has cigarettes to smoke (despite no one else smoking ever).
Jada is the only one to arrive with a suitcase (a tiny one), but everyone seems to have plenty of outfits. And Jada and Joanna can both do their hair and make-up.
Captain Ramsey has been planning this survival home for a long time – he even has a 3D topographical model of the valley showing how the lead-rich mountain ring combines with the updraft from the lake to keep the fallout from falling on them. He’s got all kinds of gear, a generator, and a storeroom with guns and food and supplies – but he never started a garden of any kind.
When the fresh water supply runs low, the Captain tells everyone there’s a pool down the valley a ways that has water suitable for bathing and washing. It’s a concrete swimming pool, complete with diving board, in the middle of nowhere in the woods. So that’s logical. Also, the girls walk down to it in their swimsuits, even when the crickets are chirping and the blue filter applied, even knowing there’s radioactive wildlife all around.
The house is not a bunker, it’s a mix between mid-60s modern and neo-classical, with lots of big windows.
At the first sign there’s been something near the house killing animals, the Captain decides he and Steve will take turns keeping watch at night. Instead of oh, I dunno, barring the doors and windows?
And while bullets are eventually shown to have no effect on the raw meat munching mutant, water is as effective on it as it would be on a Wicked Witch. No cool melting effect though, he just kind of slowly falls over and stops moving.
As for the cast, Paul Petersen as Steve is pretty much the only one who seems to be making any attempt at performing.
If you want to see this hot mess for yourself, the Internet Archive has two copies uploaded, both of which are rather pixelated and grainy. It’s clear many lines had to be dubbed in later, so some lip movements are out of synch (mainly in outdoor scenes, but some indoor ones as well).
If you’re interested in the Corman film, here’s a link to The Day the World Ended.