The Giant Claw's Mara Corday, McFarland Books
World Without End

This is one of the lesser-known sci-fi b-movies of the 1950s, but it has plenty going for it including (as one poster puts it) "futurific women!" This, along with giant spiders, rockets and a tight script make tonight's popcorn movie World Without End...Amen!

World Without End (1956)

World Without End is set in a post-apocalyptic future where mutated savages rule the surface world while fearful, civilized humans live in an underground city. The turning point in the story occurs when a member of the underground lashes out in anger, killing one of their own. It's a tale that reminds us that when we lose our cool, bad things can happen.

 

Nothing wraps up this life lesson with a pretty little bow better than an experience my wife had involving our child's car seat. She chronicled the event and e-mailed it to family and friends. It is quickly becoming e-mail forwarded folklore:

Our daughter is nearly 5 years old and now requires the car's restraints instead of the 5-point harness.

We drive a Civic so there’s not much room in the back seat. In order to use the seatbelt, we unfurl it and give it to her to hold tight. If she lets it go, it locks into place at the shoulder and we have to start from scratch. Then we go to the other side of the car to hook it into place. Otherwise, you have to lay across her which is really tough on your back. And, from that angle, you have to hold onto something for balance while trying to hook it in with one hand. Of course the connector is at the end of the floppy seat belt and always slips down behind a little indent in the car seat. (So frustrating.)

Last night, grandma was in the back seat next to her so I couldn't do the "other side" thing or else I would have to lay across mom.

I tried the "laying across our daughter" thing but it just wouldn't work. The other end is too floppy and elusive.

I got mad and sort of threw myself backwards out of the car.

When I did that, my bra strap got stuck on the hook inside the car that you hang dry cleaning on. And there I was -- stuck hanging from the inside of the car. Somehow, the hook got under my bra strap through my shirt and hooked me there -- bra, shirt and all.

I desperately tried to jiggle myself free but couldn't. There was no way I wanted anyone to know what I had done.

I couldn't unhitch myself and grudgingly had to ask my husband, "Would you help me?"  

He said, "Just give the end to your mom and she can hook it."

I said, "No, you have to help me. I'm stuck inside the car by my bra."

Everyone was laughing so hard they couldn't help me. There I was -- halfway across our daughter and hanging by my bra strap completely embarrassed. I'm such an idiot. I couldn't do that again if I tried.

My husband hoped our video camera was in the trunk but fortunately for me, you won't see me on America's Funniest Videos.


 

world without end

 

 

The Earth has lost contact with "XRM." That's the name of a rocket ship, not one of those crazy, satellite radio channels. (Not for nothing, but I was the one who first conceptualized a morning show where the hosts are a midget and a female impersonator and they discuss the latest Britney Spears hijinx followed by a blindfolded round of "Name that Smell," -- but that's for Judge Joe Brown to decide.)

 

world without end
Um...Mr. Director? You're in orbit around Mars. You can remove the blue "sky" from the windows now.

According to a news anchorman, the XRM was in view of the ice-capped poles of Mars when suddenly it lost all contact with mission control. The anchorman reports, “All over the world, radio operators are trying to establish contact.” Can just anyone contact a rocket ship near Mars? Wouldn't you at least need a really big antennae? Preferably on Mars?

 

Meanwhile, the XRM is just fine and dandy orbiting around Mars. The crew believes Mars' magnetic field is interfering with radio transmissions. Herb believes they will regain transmission after they leave orbit. TWO MINUTES LATER, Galbraithe says, “Herb, when you regain transmission, tell them we're making two more trips around Mars.” Herb says, “Right!” (Herb, you JUST SAID there's no transmission until you leave orbit!) All of a sudden, the XRM's rockets fire and Dr. Galbraithe says, “Mars. There she goes...fading into the distance.” (WHERE ARE YOU GOING?! You just said you were going around two more times! (In 1956, NASA had no tests for ADD.)

 

This periscope might work even better if it was actually connected to the ship.

Without warning, flames surround the ship as it begins to accelerate. John gives the command to “reverse rockets!” (Excuse me, John, a rocket engine can't really "reverse" it's thrust. Jet engines can do that because they're open-ended. Reversing your rocket's thrust would...uh...fry you. What's that? Yes of course you can go to Plan B ... steer it into a giant rubber band.)

 

Herb struggles against the controls grimacing, “I ... can't make it!” (I need to paint you a picture here: What Herb means is, they all put their chairs in a recline position. And now Herb can't sit up to reach the controls. NASA should either redesign the chair or add more ab crunches to their conditioning program.)

 

The ship is buffeting so violently the crew is rendered unconscious. The XRM comes out of the firestorm unscathed and enters the beautiful blue skies of the red planet. The ship descends to Mars' polar region and slides on its belly into a snow bank like a toboggan.

 

Hank asks, “Will we be able to take off again?” Dr. Gailbraith replies, “We won't know until we check for damage.” This just proves how little I know about rockets, because I would think it would be difficult to launch a rocket that's laying on it's side.

 

Hey, Captain Sullenberger -- pretty heroic landing on the Hudson River. But can you do this?...

Because the XRM's last recorded rate of speed was 100 miles per second, they're no longer certain they've landed on Mars. Luckily, the two things they need still function: 1. The environmental controls that tell them this new world has Earth-like oxygen and gravity. 2. The door still opens (and a good thing too or this would be a short movie.)

 

John, Hank and Galbraithe venture outdoors. Fortunately they packed things every crew needs for a reconnaissance mission: jackets, baseball caps and Smith & Wessons.

 

Still on the ship, Herb listens for broadcast signals in vain, adding in frustration, “I've searched every radio band and there's nothing!” Galbraithe responds, “That IS strange!” I agree — there really should be more radio signals bouncing around in deep space. In fact, I believe it was the astronomer Galileo who once witnessed a floating, ham radio enthusiast committing the sin of "over-jargoning" near Jupiter. (Follow the rules of radio ettiquette, vacuum vagabonds!)

 

The crew walks down the mountain into a warmer (some might say "Californian") climate. After a long hike, Hank wanders off and discovers a cave. Within moments, all four guys are inside exploring! "Some of man's most wonderous discoveries were made in caves." That's true! Hoping to find vague, cave paintings would be a much better way of finding out where you were rather than, say, finding help.

 

In the cave they discover a gigantic spider web. (Um...turn back, guys.) They comment, “Whatever made this web must have been GIGANTIC." (Turn back now, please.) After a few more minutes talking about how gigantic the web is, a gigantic spider pounces on them.

 

The spider, rather than injecting them with venom and webbing them up in seconds, glides down a fishing line and topples them like bowling pins. I deduce it's a rare breed of Martian spider. (Spiderus Foamicus)

 

world without end
These guys have heard the expression, "Where there's smoke there's fire." They just never heard it applied to giant spider webs.

The spider is on top of Herb until John unloads a few bullets into its face (ouch!) When the terror level lowers to orange, Hank stumbles into ANOTHER web (how can they not see these webs? – they're made of rope and the cave's so well lit it's as though it has its own skylight!) To their credit, these spiders seem to be as smart as dolphins. A few warning shots over their heads and they scamper away. Thank goodness John's six-shooter was able to fire eight rounds!

 

After hiking several miles, they decide to camp for the night. While they sleep, they are being watched by a deformed mutant dressed in fur (no, not Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.) Fortunately for us, we can see all this because even though it's supposed to be nighttime, it looks to be about 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

 

Soon, the whole tribe attacks the crew! They would easily overpower the Earth men if not for one lucky moment: Herb gets thrown into a log. (Not the lucky moment.) The lucky moment occurs when Herb regains his senses, pulls out a gun from his backpack, and shoots his attacker in the face! (Geez, Herb – what's up with shooting things in the face!?) and continues to rain hot lead until the others run away.

 

The crew, their lunch money stolen and fully Atomic-Wedgied, make comments to soothe their masculinity like, “Such inhuman strength! They must've been part animal!” They look around to make sure there were no girls watching.

 

Then, in a shocking display of political incorrectness, Galbraithe refers to the mutants as "mutates!" Cringe! (Although, I think it's OK for mutates to call each other mutates. Like, "What's up, my mutate?" or "Can you help a mutate out?")

 

The next morning they find an abandoned cemetery with grave markers dated 2508. “Dear God...this IS Earth,” says Herb. They deduce the XRM traveled so fast, they actually broke the time barrier! Hey, that's a reason to celebrate! Huh? No? They suspect there was a nuclear holocaust. Over the years, the radiation dissipated but the fact remains that the crew's families have been dead for hundereds of years AND the crew now shares this world with giant spiders and savage sub-humans. (Yeah...don't celebrate.)

 

Of all the scene elements to choose from (cave men, rockets, short skirts, bazookas), this VHS cover features Herb apologizing to Deena for saying she has bow legs. Really? That's the best graphic you could come up with?

Dr. Galbraithe spots the Rocky Mountains and figures they're most likely in Colorado. Henry says, “If we're in Colorado, where's Denver?” (Y'know, Henry, it is possible to be in Colorado...and not be in Denver.)

 

Suddenly, John spots a thin column of smoke in the distance. Hoping to find signs of civilization, he decides to investigate alone, asking the guys to “cover me.” John should have made sure the guys understood what "cover me" means. He walks a few yards when suddenly a mutant caveman grabs him by the throat! All three of John's buddies begin shooting wildly at both of them!

 

Unable to break the caveman's grip, John grabs his eyeball! (Wow- these guys grew up on the mean streets!) The mutant howls in pain. The guys continue shooting even when the caveman has John in a bear hug! John must be thinking, “Will you guys stop shooting and come over here and HELP ME?!”) The caveman, fearing one of their bullets might go through John and hit him, releases John and he falls to the ground. It's difficult to tell if he's merely unconscious or if his friends turned him into Swiss cheese. They carry John to safety. But guess where they seek refuge? In a cave!!! (What could possibly happen to them in a cave?)

 

The deepest part of the cave ends at a door made of a futuristic metal. We know this because Dr. Galbraithe touches the door and proclaims, "This is like no metal on Earth." (Some people can do math in their head, while others can determine different types of metals using their fingertips.)

 

Suddenly, at the entrance of the cave, another metal door slides down, trapping them. This door however is not made of a futuristic metal but rather of Manganese covered with horse hair (Just kidding – It’s the same futuristic metal.)

 

Hmm. Maybe a better title for this film would've been, "World Without Men."

Then the rear door opens, revealing a long corridor with modern, shiny floors and walls. After walking to the end of the corridor, they reach a room that looks lik a lobby. Hank spots a camera hidden in a plant. (Why Hank decides to rummage through a plant, I can’t say but his weirdness pays off.) When he fidgets with the camera, we hear a booming voice! It’s the leader of the race that built this place! What will he say? “We come in peace?” or “We have eradicated war and hunger?” No. When Hank monkeys with their hidden camera, the first thing the voice says is, “Don't touch that!” (Not exactly the defining quote I was hoping for.)

 

When the voice tells them to leave their weapons on the table, John says, “We'd better do as he says. Anyone that could do all this, could've killed us long ago.” Do what?! Build a lobby?!

 

They see a guard gesturing towards a door. The guard is wearing tight maroon pants and a silky, lavender shirt with matching lavender skull cap. (What is this – a party at Charles Nelson Reilly’s?)

 

They enter another room where five fabulously-dressed councilmen sit at a long table. They consist of four older guys and a young, trouble-maker named (and I couldn’t make this up) “Mories.”

 

Timmek, the president of the council, asks, “Which one of you is the leader?” The scientist says, “I'm Dr. Galbraithe.” (Who died and made him leader? John's been the one fist-fighting Cyclopes [sahy-KLO-peez] (I know, right? I thought it was Cyclopses too, but I looked it up!)

 

world without end
Innocent Elaine is not only subtle but also really accommodating.

It turns out, this council leads about 2,000 people who went underground after an atomic war wasted Earth. Now, they as a people, are so fed up with war they don’t have weapons of any kind and have no desire to manufacture them.

 

Timmek's hot daughter, Garnet, marches onto the scene with legs up to her neck. She's sporting high heels and a skirt that would make a French chambermaid blush. She tells the council the explorers must be tired and hungry. Garnet says to the crew, “follow me” and none of them really have a problem with that.

 

While the men enjoy their food, Garnet explains how they use special lamps to grow vegetables (So they only serve vegetables? I wonder why the guys keep muttering “legs” and “breasts?”)

 

So let's get this straight – back in the 20th century after an atomic war, a bunch of people flee to the caves. They're standing there with nothing in their pockets but maybe keys and some change. Then one day someone says, “Y'know...I bet I could whip up a vegetable-growing lamp!”

 

John tries to convince Garnet the air is no longer contaminated and her people should move to the surface. She says, “The beasts live up there and they've killed many of my people.” John argues, “But they're savages. In any fight, the civilized man must win.” Isn't this the guy who moments ago was getting his head kicked in by a Cyclops?!

 

A third babe, a petite servant girl named Deena, strolls into the picture. Although beautiful, she lived among the savages until she was rescued. (Rescued by who? Some councilmen fended off a Cyclops by beating it with satin throw pillows?) Deena pretends to be mute until Herb tricks her into yelling by saying she has “bow legs.” Herb apologizes saying he was just testing to see if she really was mute.

 

world without end
I may have edited this completely out of context but -- what do they mean by "them?"

Summoned by the council, Dr. Galbraithe tries to convince them they should give up their safe, comfortable life surrounded by beautiful, short-skirted women and live on the surface and be routinely attacked by irradiated barbarians. John later mocks, “Safety and comfort – that's all these people seem to care about!”

 

But over time, the council begins to trust the crew and even enjoy exchanging ideas (they get so few visitors.) However, the evil Mories holds nothing but contempt for the outlanders, suspicious of their old school ways. He's also a little peeved that all the women are taking a shine to these bolder, stronger males instead of him. (It might be the satin slippers, Mories.)

 

One night, the beautiful Garnet takes John on a tour and eventually takes him outside. (Waitaminute – they’re outside?! I thought they were afraid to go outside! It just goes to show a girl can be swooned into anything for a boy – smoking, drinking, tattoos, piercings and even threats of Cyclops attacks.) John kisses Garnet under a full moon. (He tried making out with her under the vegetable lamp but he found himself “growing” too much.)

 

Garnet is clearly fond of John because he’s a man who prefers freedom to fear and beef to bat guano.  But alas she “belongs” to Mories. She says Mories will probably replace her father someday on the council. That’s a pretty safe bet considering Mories is the only member of the council not wearing adult diapers.

 

Henry tells the crew that while snooping around, he discovered a nursery with only 14 kids out of a population of 2,000. He says that unless the women don’t reproduce with other pockets of unmutated humans soon (He points to himself, “Like me!”), then the human race will be doomed. Therefore the crew must convince them to live on the surface.

 

world without end
Hundreds of years in the future, in an underground tunnel, Dr. Galbraithe finally reaches puberty.

The crew also discusses their suspicions of Mories. But they don’t realize he's monitoring them by a hidden camera (What – Hank checks plants in the lobby but not in his living quarters?!) The crew decides to ask the council to build them weapons so they can safely reach their ship. From there they can fly around Mars looking for more survivors. (So the fact that your rocket's laying in its side - still not an issue? Really?)

 

But Mories goes to the council first, saying he's overheard them plotting to ask the council for weapons. And once they have them, the crew will turn against the council. (Mories, you Lycra-spandexed weasel!)

 

When the council meets with the crew, the council coldly turns them down more suspicious than ever. But Mories is worried that wavering Timmek may yet be swayed. (“Timmek” in post-apocalyptic means “flip flopper.”)

 

So Mories decides to frame the crew by taking their weapons from lock-up and stashing them in their sleeping quarters to make it look like they’re hiding them. But one of the council elders catches Mories in the act. They struggle and Mories accidentally kills the old man. He leaves him lying on the floor. As Mories places the guns in the crew's quarters, the servant girl Deena sees him. Witnessing the set-up, Deena runs to find her heartthrob Henry and tell him what Mories has done. But when she finds Henry in the arms of another woman, her jealousy overcomes her better judgment.

 

Soon, the dead councilman is discovered. The crew’s sleeping quarters are searched until “hidden” guns are discovered. Before long, the crew stands in council chambers bound with clothesline rope. (Hmm, maybe I should explain to younger readers what clothesline rope is -- Y’see, before the invention of the high capacity washer/dryer with brushed metal finish…oh, never mind.)

 

world without end
Herb is disgusted by the primative, savage mutants and finds their brutality appalling.

Timmek orders that the crew be banished to the surface! (John's butt cheeks clench.)

 

All of a sudden he doesn’t feel all that adventurous anymore, whining, “But that's a death sentence!” (Gee, what’s the matter, John? Care too much about comfort and safety?)

 

Finally, Deena tells a councilman, “I must speak with Timmek! I know who really hid those weapons!” But Mories overhears and as soon as Deena's alone, he hits her on the head with a large piece of foam rubber! (It’s actually something big and heavy that just wobbles like foam rubber.) But Mories made a grave error by attacking Deena while the crew is already incarcerated because he’s the only suspect not suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. This proves Mories did it. Well, that and the fact that when Deena's revived, she immediately groans, “Mories did it.”

 

Timmek commands, “Find Mories!” and four men in bright orange tunics with shoulder pads and brightly-colored tights (Should I mention again these guys are security guards?) chase Mories outside where he’s ambushed by a dozen mutants.

 

I can’t help but think as stone hammers pounded Mories’ skull, he must have been thinking, “WHY did I go outside?! The councilmen never would have given me corporal punishment! I could've stayed “in prison” and been served meals by beautiful women. In fact, it almost would’ve been the same as before!”

 

Back in the tunnels, Timmek says, “This lesson has shown us that fear is the only thing that leads to death.” (Right now, Mories might argue, "Y'know what else leads to death? A fist the size of a toaster!)

 

Finally working together, the crew and the council attempt to manufacture their first gun. Unfortunately, after firing, the barrel is split wide open like a flower. So they hit on this idea -- “Let's make a bazooka!” Really? You can't make a pistol work, so you’re going to move right ahead with bazooka technology?! (Although I bet if there were no guns today there’d be fewer crimes of passion – imagine finding your spouse with a lover, “OK, you two stay right there. I’m going to go assemble my bazooka. If one of you could load it for me, then pat the top of my helmet, I’d appreciate it.”)

 

World Without End masks

Somehow nailing the bazooka on the first try, they're soon outdoors looking for some mutated two-asscracked butt to kick. But first they must say goodbye to the ladies. In one strange scene, Herb’s girlfriend steps aside, handing Deena over to Herb! Herb replies, "No, I love her! I'm a one woman man!" Just kidding. They make the switch and Herb's broad smile implies, “Yeah, this future Earth is gonna be all right!" The crew leaves the cave while the women go off to do their Kegel excercises until the men return.

 

Feminists take heart! Because in the year 2508, women will...um...wear short skirts and serve food to men.

Now there’s just one little obstacle remaining – the mutants. Deena tells the guys that the leader of the mutants is called Naga. John thinks if they can kill him, the rest will be easier to handle.

 

I love this next scene because instead of going after the mutants out of anger or revenge, John and the guys are just happily strolling along bumping them off as if  they were duck hunting.

 

Galbraithe calmly says, “I think I see more of them in that thicket. Want to try a long shot?” Herb leisurely loads his bazooka. (All they need now on this sunny afternoon is a case of beer and a golf cart!)

 

They walk some more (maybe they should have built some bicycles) and discover one of the mutants laying dead with a spear in his back. John deduces he must have tried to leave the pack. Herb, in the greatest moment of hypocrisy ever, says, “Those murdering swine!” HERB, YOU JUST KILLED ABOUT TWO DOZEN OF THEM WITH YOUR BAZOOKA! AND YOU'RE POINTING FINGERS!?

 

Hank volunteers to be the point man and check out some caves. (Boy, Hank just cannot see the correlation between danger and caves.) He says, “Cover me. I'm picking up the check on this one.” Cool line. But when savages send spears raining upon him, Hank decides maybe the check is a little out of his price range! To complete the diner analogy, one mutant generously gives Hank a tip – the tip of a spear right between the shoulder blades.

 

The reign of Naga, warlord of the mutants, is finally brought to an end by a middle-aged guy wielding a butter knife (imagine the force it would take to pierce that thick, animal hide!)

Naga, the head honcho, yells at his enemies from a nearby cave in a foreign tongue. Deena translates that he is threatening to kill everyone in the cave (even the good looking ones.) John instructs Deena to translate to Naga that John says (this is like passing notes in middle school) that Naga’s a coward who kills women and that John challenges him to combat. But Naga says that John cheats by using his gun or “thunder weapon” (That’s true -- he’s got you there, John.)

 

John replies that if Naga frees his captives, he’ll fight Naga without his gun, mano e mutate. John’s friends fear for his safety (forgetting poor Shish-ka-Hank, squirming in agony thanks to the mutant’s new physical therapy procedure - Invasive Lumbar Support.)

 

But John’s convinced that he can beat the primitive Naga by using his brain. Again, not to be a Debbie Downer, John, but I have to disagree with you again. With all the brutality in the news today you don’t hear much about attackers being overtaken with intelligence. Unless you count those Dumb Criminal videos showing a 7-11 cashier bashing a robber’s head in with a can of Pringles.

 

When Naga emerges from the cave we see him for the first time and let me tell you – he is one corn-fed caveman! Turns out, Naga’s not so much a “coward” as he is a 6-foot-6 engine of rage with a very big stone ax. Soon, Naga chases John and his brain all over the canyon.

 

Hank kept the dropout rate among male students at 0 by hiring Elaine as a teacher's assistant.

However, Naga is a Cyclops and although a normal person might yell, “AAAH!!! IT'S A F*%# CYCLOPS!!!” John realizes it has limited peripheral vision. And so, as unlikely as it may seem, John defeats the raw strength and animal reflexes of Naga. With Naga dead, the tribe now must follow the orders of John, the new alpha dog. He commands them to go away and uglify some other part of town (Years later they will acclimate to society by doing the jobs regular Americans don’t want to do like cleaning pools or wearing the Chuck E. Cheese rat costume.)

 

Months later, all the humans are back on the surface constructing a town. They've also put together a little school for mutant kids taught by Hank. Galbraithe says the kids help him forget about the loss of his own family. Yes, Galbraithe, on the one hand, Hank’s family has been dead for hundreds of years. But on the other hand, he's gained a pack of wild, mutated man cubs. So...life's totally fair!

 

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