Opening up their cinematic vaults for some guilty pleasure curiosities over the past fifty years, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment rolls out a boutique vintage selection of old matinee movies that amazed in a very different sense in their own time. The Martini Movies collection with sweet innocence and kooky attitude includes Gumshoe (1971), Vibes (1988), Getting Straight (1970), Our Man In Havana (1959), and the atomic doomsday thriller, Five (1951).
The retro-futuristic Five is billed as a story about ‘the day after tomorrow,’ clearly in a time before special effects ruled, and therefore leaving much more to the collective audience imagination. The reverse time travel sci-fi drama builds its sobering but periodically flaky tale around the alternate solidarity and unraveling tensions of a ragtag group of inexplicably remaining nuclear holocaust survivors on a destroyed planet.
Gravitating to an arty California mountaintop home carved into a cliff (the actual vacation retreat of the director Arch Oboler, and built for him by Frank Lloyd Wright), are Dartmouth educated disgruntled underachiever and Empire State Building tour guide by trade, Michael (William Phipps); distressed housewife Roseanne (Susan Douglas) whose family owns the home, and who is desperate to find her missing spouse; a daffy elderly bank manager (Earl Lee) whose life was saved because he got himself locked in his vault at just the right moment; the gregarious black bank guard (Charles Lampkin) who is fond of doing the dishes; and a mysterious foreigner of indeterminate European origin – a staple during the hysterics of this Red Scare period – and with likely all sorts of menace on his mind, a danger junkie who washes ashore after fleeing Mount Everest.
While these survivors with too much time on their hands argue, joke and flirt in the wilderness, a baby is born, corn miraculously grows out of the contaminated soil, and enough juice finally kicks in from a found portable generator for waltzes to start playing on a collection of 45s. And of course there’s the post-atomic upside when feeling really down, that you can now live out a lifetime, however uncertain, without bills to pay. Not exactly a Hollywood happy ending, but more than enough period charm to spare.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
2 1/2 stars
DVD Features: Original Trailers; Martini Minutes: The Secrets Of Seduction; The Secrets of Deception; How To Become An Arch Villain; How To Travel In Style.