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Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University. Wellington Vol. 23 No. 6 1960

There is Still Time, Brother

There is Still Time, Brother

ON THE BEACH is a very controversial film. Some like it, others have been very disappointed. We printed one criticism last time. Here's another:

ON THE BEACH was by no means made on a small budget. It boasts Stanley Kramer as its director, four major Hollywood stars and a script based on a best seller by Nevil Shute. The film concentrates upon live characters and their attitude to the impending disaster of total annihilation caused by radio-active fall-out from a war in the northern hemisphere.

Characters Trite

The characters are trite and Hollywoodish when they should be real people. There is the upright American naval officer (Gregory Peck), a beautiful but lonely woman (Ava Gardner), a nuclear scientist (Fred Astaire) and a conventional young married couple (Anthony Perkins and Donna Anderson). The script never seems to rise above the basic Hollywood point of view—Will Ava hook Gregory Peck? Will Anthony Perkins make his nervous wife face reality? Will Fred Astaire win the motor race? But this is irrelevant to the basic theme which is the impending total liquidation of human life on this planet. It would have been pleasant though to have been involved with some real people.

One of the major effects that the film achieves is that of the reality of the situation. This is no science-fiction story. We are shown, neither violence nor horror. There is only one sensational sequence: The motor race, the last Grand Prix on earth, is superbly photographed, in which the drivers race as they would never have raced if the prize-money was going to mean anything to them once it shots of San Francisco completely deserted. A dead city is a frightening sight. Shots of newspaper being blown down an empty street past idle trams are more frightening than pictures of horror. I had the overwhelming feeling that it could really happen like this. If it does I hope that the last tune I hear is not "Waltzing Matilda."

Just As Beautiful

On the acting side we have Ava Gardner playing the lonely drunken Moira. She has done this type of part before. She is still just as beautiful. Gregory Peek is superb as Gregory Peck. Anthony Perkins gives us another of those twitching, hesitant, self-conscious adolescent-adults that he has done so often before. But the acting honours go to Fred Astaire, who is quite superb as the lonely and guilty nuclear scientist. He is, as we know, a great dancer. He has the makings of a great actor.