The Last Days Of Planet Earth
Some junkfilms deserve special attention for remarkable performances or dialogue obviously conceived by a maniac. Others do so for gross storyline inanity, bizarre directorial decisions or not even remotely approaching what the title and ads promise. (Total number of vampires in Atom-Age Vampire: zero.)
But besides the qualities listed above, there are those magical features that merit praise for holding Best/Most/Biggest honors, going to the extreme primarily to proudly showcase the lunacy of those at the helm. Gotta love anyone who will so cheerfully shout, "Screw convention!"
And that brings us to this issue's selection, The Last Days Of Planet Earth (1981), holder of the coveted intergalactic record for Most Human Casualties By An Assortment Of Methods. Ah, the wholesale slaughter of useless beings by every means under (and including) the sun: Is there any more rewarding viewing experience...besides my reflection?
Weeee, we're plummeting to our deaths!
Sure, we've all seen flicks where a couple of three towns get totaled by natural disasters, alien attacks, man-made viruses, supernatural armies and 50-foot amphibians. Then there are the Fail-Safe variants whereby military chowderheads trade weapons barrages. These are virtually all a variation on one of two themes: Hour-plus build-up until the big whattzit hits in an F/X extravaganza, or intermittent attacks by an impervious man-mulcher until "the authorities" devise a cockamamie cure.
Note that, in every case, the spoilsport defenders of humankind marshaled their forces against what was essentially a single enemy. One good brainstorm and the killer robot, Martian mothership or bee swarm was licked. Not so in Last Days. Not so a tool.
Framed by sequences babbling on about Nostradamus--no doubt tacked on to lure in round-eyes fascinated by the original Psychic Friend--The Last Days Of Planet Earth tosses so much fatal mayhem on the screen, it's actually surprising someone doesn't get killed by a kitchen sink. And this is a worldwide ass-whuppin', too, not merely domestic dismay.
As is traditional in Toho Studio productions, the standard A-type Japanese scientist is feverishly preaching ecological fire and brimstone as bureaucrats ignore his hyperactive pleas to heed the cryptic clap-trap of an often-wrong honky who's been dead for centuries.
Hate to break it to you, Doc, but fat-cat island natives unconcerned they're stuffing themselves with endangered sea species are hardly the most receptive audience to an "It is written we'll all spontaneously combust if even one of us flicks a French fry out a car window" sermon--especially when your "scientific proof" is "This crazy cracker wrote an entire book of vague predictions and, eventually, something resembling a handful of them came to pass."
Professor Panic's speech provides a framework for what's yet to come in Last Days, an exhilarating montage of the glorious systematic extermination of all Earth-bound life forms. Director Toshio Mashuda periodically brings us back to the scaredy-cat scientist – something akin to a cinematic cigarette break – and then we're once again whisked off to a ride with the Grim Reaper.
Mother Earth is initially violated by gigantic slugs; monstrous plants; frozen oceans; a chronic drought causing mass starvation; carnivorous trees; daylight attacks by huge vampire bats as well as by enlarged leeches (see left) whose bites induce insanity; and, deformed jungle tribes. But this is just the warm-up act.
After kids temporarily turn bionic then croak and the sun begins frying folks alive, we're treated to the heartwarming sight of forest fires, tidal waves setting off urban refinery explosions, the ozone shield collapsing, flooding, landslides and fatal respiratory diseases. Yahoo, tens of millions are being erased internationally! But, wait, there's more.
We've got anarchy, road rage, immorality among youths, young Ziggy Stardust-resembling sailboaters in a "regatta of death" suicide cruise, meticulously clean bikers intentionally riding their rice-burners off cliffs (with one stunt man missing the lake and actually nailing the rocks!) and rioting in the streets for food.
It just doesn't get any better than this. Hang on a minute; yes, it does. Just when you thought it was safe to loot the 7-11, the sky turns into a "reflex mirror," touching off volcanoes, earthquakes, stuff blowing up for no apparent reason and global nuke war, its missile strikes leveling virtually everything, but leaving a few post-apocalyptic mutants alive to attack each other. Now that's what I call (nuclear) family entertainment!!!
Turns out the wipeout is just a projection of what might happen if the Prof's anti-pollution whining goes ignored. Damn, it wasn't a documentary after all. Nonetheless, there's always hope. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go torch a stack of old Firestones.
to Manor On Movies index Contact SWM