Sometimes quiet little boys have terrifying secrets.
Dr. Jennifer Stillman (Nastassja Kinski, Terminal Velocity) is a big town psychologist from New York City who's moving to the small town of Sierra Vista, Nevada, to become the resident school therapist. Upon her arrival she's given a very chilly reception by the local residents (including Stephen Tobolowsky as the school principal and Harry Groener as the town sheriff). When Dr. Stillman meets young Ben (Bobby Edner), she finds a boy who seems introverted and frightened of his past. It seems that Bobby's mother died under very mysterious circumstances, and Bobby's father (Randy Quaid, Kingpin) is as mum about it was the rest of the town. As Dr. Stillman delves further and further into the town's hush-hush history she finds an unspeakable evil that's mean, ugly…and just possibly from another galaxy!
The Day The World Ended is Columbia's final installment in special effects guru Stan Winston's "Creature Features" series. The movie is based on the 1956 Roger Corman film of the same name, though it seems that's where the similarities end. In this version a horrific monster has come to earth to do nasty things to some small town yokels. Let's see a collective raise of hands from those who have heard this old yarn before. Not surprisingly, The Day The World Ended doesn't add anything new to the horror genre. While I'm all for watching Randy Quaid as an obsessed father (he's one of the most underrated actors on the planet), I couldn't help thinking that Quaid would have made a better career choice had he decided to star as Cousin Eddie in yet another National Lampoon's Vacation sequel. Nastassja Kinski (daughter of volatile film star Klaus Kinski) whispers through her role as if she's got a sore throat, while Little Bobby Edner plays the cute Ben as if he were perpetually in a state of depression. The plot is kind of hokey with character motivation as confusing as a Doris Wishman film and little to no humor anywhere in the story. Once again this installment of "Creature Features" suffers from the same problem as its counterparts: too little creature feature for your buck. The slimy beastie (who looks like the offspring of Medusa and Kermit the Frog) is often kept hidden in the dark, even after his full-blown introduction at the end of the flick. The good news is that of the five "Creature Features" films (including She Creature, Teenage Caveman, How To Make A Monster, and Earth Vs. The Spider), The Day The World Ended is certainly one of the better ones lurking in the Blockbuster shadows. Even with that slight accolade, The Day The World Ended doesn't match up to most big-budget Hollywood horror shows. If you're a fan of Winston then this movie may be worthy of a Friday night rental. Otherwise, it's pretty much a skipper.
The Day The World Ended is presented in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full frame. Columbia's work on this print is great—solid colors and detailed black levels dominate the picture. While this isn't the most colorful or exciting movie, the lack of grain, edge enhancement of other imperfections make this a worthwhile transfer. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Dolby 2.0 Surround, both in English. The 5.1 mix doesn't feature heavy acoustics or much in the way of channel separation—in fact, the bulk of this track is filtrated though the front and center speakers only (save for a few effects and ambient noise). However, what it lacks in punch it makes up for in crystal clear clarity. Also included on this disc are English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai subtitles.
Like the first film in this series (She Creature), The Day The World Ended sports a few scant supplements. Starting off the disc is a commentary track by special effects master Stan Winston and Shane Mahan. This very mediocre track sports Winston discussing the finer points of producing a low-budget horror movie, and what it took to bring the effects to the screen. Next up is a short making-of featurette (running only a few minutes) that offers hardly any insight into the making of the film. Finally there are a few still galleries of conceptual drawings and production photos, a few filmographies, and some theatrical trailers for various Columbia horror movies.
Let's hope that either Winston and his team attempt for a better second round of horror moves next time, or they let their "Creature Features" series rest in peace.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Stan Winston and Shane Mahan
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