Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An Incomprehensible Truth: "The Last Days of Planet Earth" (1979)

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel giggly.

That Nostradamus was one smart dude. Everything he predicted came true. Hitler, World War II, the rise of Communism, American Idol- the true global problems that we face today were foreseen over five hundred years ago. According to this film, Nostradamus not only resembled a Japanese man with a fake beard, but his accuracy was so dead-on, his predictions can be taken as stone cold fact. That being said, the world was supposed to end eight years ago.

This dubbed 1974 Japanese effort, released here in 1979, has a big agenda, a sprawling story, and no character-credited cast on the VHS version. A Scientist has noticed the local people are getting sick because of pollutants in the water and air. Giant slugs appear, all of the ocean's sea life dies, yet Scientist's Horny Daughter is aroused enough to bang a news Photographer. This coupling plays an important role later in the story. As deformed children begin to be born, an unexplainable (and unexplained) atomic cloud appears over Papua New Guinea. A United Nations investigative team disappears there, so Scientist and Photographer go looking for them, finding the team has turned into cannibalistic savages!

The planet's atmosphere, and the film's special effects, worsen. A new ice age seems imminent, but global warming also comes roaring back. Developed countries fight with undeveloped countries, East fights West, and I fight to keep my soda from shooting out my nose from laughing too hard. Scientist's Horny Daughter turns up pregnant, Scientist rushes around trying to warn everyone of the global catastrophe, and Photographer rushes around snapping pictures, although he never reloads his camera, develops the photos, or sends them to any news outlets. The viewer is finally treated to a look at how the world will end, unless we change things NOW, or at least change things in 1974 (the Japanese release date), 1979 (the American release date), or 1981 (when the film was released on video).

The film makers' hearts are in the right place. Their tactic is to move the viewer to change their polluting ways by dramatizing "what could happen." The fatal error is "what could happen" is so silly, I quickly learned not to take anything shown seriously.

The film is less than ninety minutes but its constant fade-outs and ominous narration indicate it was edited down from a longer work. Most of the visual effects resemble unused miniature sets from the last "Godzilla" movie spontaneously exploding for no reason (dig that fiery traffic jam scene!). Centering global catastrophe around a handful of characters has been done well ("Deep Impact"), and it has been done badly (any Roland Emmerich film). "The Last Days of Planet Earth," one of about twelve different titles for the film, falls squarely into the bad camp.

So the next time you believe that global warming does not exist, and you wonder why you should feel guilty about your incandescent porch light while rock stars and former Democratic Party presidential nominees are able to crisscross the world in private jets and buses warming the globe while warning of global warming, then heed the words of Nostradamus!

You can start by recycling this video cassette. (*) out of five stars.