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On the Beach [VHS]
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Product Description

Stanley Kramer's 1959 antiwar movie looks like everything Kramer did: subtle as a car wreck but undeniably affecting. Gregory Peck plays a submarine commander looking for survivors in Australia after a nuclear holocaust. Ava Gardner is among them and, somewhat improbably under the circumstances, becomes his love interest. Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins are among the characters awaiting death from the gradual spread of radiation from the north. One might scoff at Kramer's implicit finger-wagging about nuclear politics in this mad, mad, mad, mad world, but it is hard to stop watching this compelling drama all the same. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews:

  • Mandatory viewing for the population of the Earth
    Everyone on the planet should see this movie just to see how fragile the human race is and how serious nuclear weapons are. In it's day, it was a very scary movie, but I'm afraid that this classic may not get the attention of the young people of the world ... not enough visual effects or action. The message portrayed by true academy class actors and actresses is timeless ... the underlying basis, by an Australian scientist, is accurate. Watch it now since the world you save is yours....more info
  • Worth viewing, even if not realistic
    On the Beach fails the realism test in two ways: scientifically and behaviorally. The first is forgivable; 40+ years ago, there was less understanding of what nuclear war would do the planet. But the second aspect -- human behavior -- is where the story fails. The idea that people would get up, wash and shave and dress, go to their jobs, peacefully obtain their rations of food and so on, with a cloud of certain death getting closer every day... it just doesn't ring true. Looting, pillaging, murder, and general anarchy seem much more likely.
    Nevertheless, the movie -- while very melancholy (or depressing, as many reviewers have said), is worth watching. (Especially, as some have noted, for Astaire's performance)....more info
  • A Place in Time When People Seemed to Care More
    I remember my parents taking me to this film--at a drive-in, no less. This was the era of "The Blob" and other teen-crazie epics. ON THE BEACH is a serious, thought-provoking film--and it found a deep--if silent--response not only in mature people, but with teens as well.

    It reached a deep level of the heart with a generation of folks who seemed to care more about went on in the world around them.

    On the casting level, it was brilliant. The teaming of Eva Gardner & Gregory Peck may seem odd at first glance, but the chemistry was undeniable. The earthy beauty of Eva matched with the intellectual integrity of Gregory.


    Fred Astaire, remembered for his rather fatuous but technically brilliant dance routines, turns in a flawless delivery as Eva's one time lover and now cynical, lonely race car enthusiast.

    The scenario is the end of the world, a world doomed by a nuclear war that no one assumes responsibility for. Nobody is quite sure how it all began, but they do know how it will end. Australia is the only land mass left where humans (or any other animals) are still alive--and its days are numbered.

    There are so many poignant scenes: Masses of people, families, obediently lining up for their State-issued cyanide capsules.

    The Salvation Army singing for redemption...and one by one even their numbers begin to diminish.

    The young mother clutching at denial, while her loving husband (Anthony Perkins in a great performance) is forced to make the final decisions on his own.

    Toward the conclusion of the film, Gregory Peck is forced to leave his new (and last) love alone in Australia when his crew votes to return "home" (USA) to die.

    The final image is poignant in its simplicity:

    Eva Gardner walking alone on the cliff as Peck's submarine sails off. At least she has rediscovered her dignity in her final relationship.

    There is a more recent remake of this film that I haven't seen. It may be very good, but after viewing the original version again, I don't have any impulse to see it. I want to leave this memory & experience intact.
    ...more info
  • Peck bombs
    After having recently read a bio of Gregory Peck, I was curious enough about those of his films that I haven't yet seen to watch ON THE BEACH. Mind you, I'm a big GP fan, and visited Rome based almost solely on ROMAN HOLIDAY. Well, that's another story. Let's just say the experience was a far departure from stumbling across Audrey Hepburn.

    Here, Peck plays Cmdr. Dwight Towers, USN, captain of the sub USS Sawfish, left to its own devices in the mid-Pacific after a nuclear exchange between superpowers makes toast out of the Northern Hemisphere. Towers takes his boat to Australia, otherwise untouched by the Armageddon, though the radioactive cloud that now covers North America, Europe, and Asia is expected to descend upon the Aussies in five months time. In the meantime, Dwight falls for local lush Moira Davidson (Ava Gardner), but not without a repressed angst over his wife and kids left behind in the States, all of whom are now nothing more than glowing skeletons. Between frolics on the beach with Moira, Towers carries out one more mission with the Sawfish at the behest of the Royal Australian Navy - to make a quick dash up to Alaska to monitor the radiation level, and circle by California on the way back to investigate mysterious radio signals emanating from San Diego, the cause of which is perhaps the film's cleverest construct.

    The film's antiwar message, which presumably appealed to Peck's liberal political leanings, caused the U.S. Navy to deny the use of one of its submarines for the filming. (The RAN loaned one of theirs.) In any case, Towers, while steadfast, square-jawed, and handsome in his uniform as only Gregory Peck can be, is remarkably unemotional throughout. No impassioned speeches to his crew about duty, honor, and country. Moreover, in the original novel by Nevil Shute, the romantic attraction between Dwight and Moira is unconsummated because of the deference the former feels for his dead wife, an element of the story that Peck wanted to retain in the screenplay. But Director Stanley Kramer insisted on a juicier ending to the affair to raise audience morale in the face of an unrelentingly somber theme, and Peck caved, though his subsequent ardor seems of the detached sort.

    At 2 hours and fourteen minutes, ON THE BEACH is in need of some serious editing, particularly the extended and incongruous sequence where atomic scientist Julian Osborne (Fred Astaire) realizes a lifelong dream by racing an old Ferrari in the last Australian Grand Prix before the killer cloud arrives. (Perhaps that's why editor Frederic Knudtson, nominated for an Oscar, lost.) Then there's the improbable casting of Anthony Perkins as Peter Holmes, the RAN officer with family concerns temporarily assigned to the Sawfish for no other apparent reason than the scriptwriter had to put him somewhere.

    Though ON THE BEACH was the eighth-highest-grossing film of 1960 earning $6.2 million on initial release, it seemed to me an ineffective anti-nuclear and anti-war vehicle. Only the film's beginning scenes of a bustling Melbourne compared to the ending shots of a deserted city were in any way thought provoking. An infinitely better anti-war picture - and one which doesn't veer off into extraneous subplots - was 1983's TESTAMENT, in which Carol Wetherly (Jane Alexander) is left to cope in suburbia with her three kids after a Soviet nuke vaporizes her husband and San Francisco to the west, but leaves Carol's community directly unaffected by the blast. Things are OK until the fallout arrives. In one incredibly heart-breaking scene, Wetherly, while standing in front of the funeral pyre consuming the town's dead residents and one of her children, screams for God's damnation of those that have visited this catastrophe on her world. There's more passion in this one sequence than in the entirety of ON THE BEACH....more info
  • A Touching Sledgehammer
    Stanley Kramer's movie version of the Nevil Shute novel strips the book of all subtlty. Gone are any touches of humor, any rays of hope, any pithy social commentary. What is left is a sledgehammer of a film; unsubtle as a huge blow to the forehead.
    Everyone is going to die soon, no exceptions, and it's all because of evil governments, scientists, and humanity out of control.

    The nuclear sub USS Swordfish surfaces in Melbourne, Australia at the end of a worldwide nuclear holocaust. Because the earth's winds only gradually exchange the northern and southern air masses, Australia has been spared for a last few months. Gregory Peck takes his sub to the Arctic and to the US West Coast, first to check a theory that radiation levels may be falling, and then to investigate a mysterious bad-morse-code message from San Diego. Through it all, no one has any real hope, as humanity boozes, prays, and denies its way towards the end.

    Gregory Peck is, as ever, brilliant, and Ava Gardner is well-cast as a lush, although miscast as his love interest. A craggy-looking Fred Astaire and a non-psychotic Anthony Perkins round out the cast.

    The film is not based on the best post-nuclear war novel of the period. 'A Canticle for Leibowotz' and 'Alas, Babylon' are both better. The film also beats the viewer to death with its main, indeed only, point- all nuclear weapons are folly. It is also technically inaccurate. Even 40 years ago there were ways to scrub radiation from air and water in sufficient quantity to create some enclaves for survival. This isn't done, nor does anyone flee to Antarctica to gain a few more months of life. Nor is anyone trying to reach space. Everyone has just given up and is spinning their wheels until they can take suicide pills. And yes, in ostensibly Christian Australia, no one seems to have any compunction about killing himself and going to hell, apparently having already made the earth into one.

    Yet, despite all this, and despite being naiive and dated, somehow this film works. The sheer, sad hopelessness of the plot, the touching renditions of Waltzing Mathilda, and the shots of empty streets are so evocative that it is hard not to cry and cry.

    I missed some of the best lines ("A nice place to live in the tropics, only no one lived there anymore") and characters (Peter's old uncle, desperately trying to finish off the vintage port at his club ere the end) from the book. Also, Shute had done a magnificent job of showing a society going through the same stages as a terminally ill patient. Kramer should certainly have left this in!

    "Frankly, I blame the wine committee!"...more info
    I have always enjoyed watching "On The Beach" It's a good story well filmed and acted. It's sad to think all the main stars are no longer with us. The film was shot mainly around Melbourne Australia, and it was a big deal to have Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins in our City back in 1958. Stanly Kramer shot the interiors of the sub at the Melbourne Showground on a specially built set, mainly of wood, but looked so like the steel interior of an atomic submarine. Ava Gardner made the comment that you could not find a better city than Melboune for a story about the end of the world. Sydney siders loved that comment, Melbournians, not so amused. I believe she was taken out of context at the time.Recommend this movie to people who live in Melbourne to see the differences in their city now, especially Frankston Train Station
    ...more info
  • the ultimate Cold War film
    This is the film that for me captures the terror I felt as a child, growing up at the height of the Cold War; it is bleak and intense, with scenes that are forever etched in my mind. It's one of the great films of that era ("Seven Days in May" and "Fail Safe" are others) that I can watch repeatedly, and their power and impact are never diminished.
    Based on Nevil Shute's best seller, and brilliantly directed by Stanley Kramer, the use of sound effects combined with Ernest Gold's Oscar nominated score is very effective. Sometimes the simplest noise set against complete silence is ominous, and gives the feeling of the desolation of empty cities.
    As time runs out, people try to avoid the "morbid discussion" of what awaits them, and some make the most of those precious days, weeks and months, like the elderly scientist Julian (in an exceptional performance by Fred Astaire), who completes his dream of being a race car driver.

    Both strong and tender, Gregory Peck is fabulous as Dwight Towers, the commander of a submarine, who has trouble accepting that he is alive, while his family are victims of the "monstrous war". The woman who falls in love with him is Ava Gardner, who has spent far too much time being consoled by a bottle of brandy. The plot is filled out by Anthony Perkins and Donna Anderson, a young couple facing the fact that their baby has no future.
    In the late 50s and early 60s, the scenario in this film was all too real; we face other dangers now, but there was something truly chilling about those Cold War years, and this film vividly brings back the memory of them. Total running time is 134 minutes....more info

  • Sounds much better than it is
    Hard to see how a movie with Gregory Peck as well as Anthony Perkins and Ava Gardner can be so darn boring. Nothing about this movie makes much sense. The few survivors carry on worrying about an over abundant wine supply, car races and other inane things-while the human race ie effectively doomed--funny thing about the car race--not only is it out of place in this movie--but at the beginning we are told there's a severe gasoline shortage--ah priorities! Anthony Perkins role is strange too--worried about his wife to the point of obtaining poison for her and their baby--he still embarks on a several month mission--about half the time he has left--not to say that when duty calls-real men don't answer--but this is absurd--it't the end of the world--and he's taking off from his wife and child.
    It's hard to describe just how boring this movie is--about the only excitement is finding out a coke bottle is tapping out morse code
    Gregory Peck and Anthony Perkins are among my favorite actors--but even they can't save this absolute clunker
    BTW--you will hate "Waltzing Matilda" by movies end--whatever made the film makers decide this was the only song ever played, sung or whistled in Australia?...more info
  • Pure camp
    The acting is old school and the movie in it's day was, a had to see. It was made just before the cold war ended and is an insight into the archaic thought process that helped make our country miss a beat with the rest of the world. If you are over 50 ,and a conservative, bye it and put in your worship pile. if you are over 50 and a liberal have a good laugh and resell it. if you are under 50 you had better buy it for self defense from the conservatives and the liberals....more info
  • Is this the way the world ends?
    I guess the only way we'll know if this movie is accurate in it's depiction of the behavior of the last people on earth is to actually experience it. I like to believe that most people are good so maybe this is the way it would be. I don't really want to find out. My main interest, and I don't expect anybody else to appreciate it, is seeing how my home town of MELBOURNE has changed in 45+ years. It was interesting to see the downtown before it was overrun by McDonalds, Subway, Starbucks etc. And of course the buildings are much taller now. The beautiful Davidson farm is probably now covered in suburban housing. Dallas down under! ( No offense to you Texans! ) About the only places that still look almost the same are Williamstown, although it's now pretty much a yuppie enclave, and of course the Race Track at Phillip Island. All in all I loved the movie, although a lot of the dialogue is really corny, some of the aussie accents are cringable, and I really got sick to death of hearing "Waltzing Matilda". The irony is, it's probably more popular outside of my great country than in it....more info
  • Not with a Bang but a Whimper
    There is almost too much that can be said about this splendid and poignant film. On the Beach deals more with the tagedy of people's inevitable deaths than with the nuclear holocaust that causes it.
    We are treated to a love story in Beach with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardener which is doomed from the start by the human annialation about
    to envelope the last group of humanity living on the planet. I loved Fred Astaire's performance as a nuclear scientist and race car enthusiast and also by Anthony Perkins role as a naval officer and married man with a new-born daughter. No one will survive. to Quote T.S. Eliot, " This is the way the world ends, not with a Bang but a Whimper....." The "Bang" has been nuclear war, leaving only the whimper of total human extinction. The musical score of Waltzing Matilda sounds like a funeral dirge and is the poignant theme of On The Beach.....Sad.

    ...more info
  • A believable doomsday; yet still a bit drippy
    Since I've been a high school student in the terrible years of the Cold War's culmination, I've had an interest in scenarios of nuclear war, such as "Testament", "The Day After", "Fail Safe", and even "Dr. Strangelove". Having recently enjoyed Stanley Kramer's fine depiction of contemporary life in the early 1960's, I figured this film had to be on par for realism, and in showing the world that would result in 1964 from the implementation of mutually assured destruction, the viewer is indeed assured a treat. Gregory Peck stars as an American nuclear submarine commander, who has left the wreckage of the northern hemisphere, for a station in that one last pocket of pure air (but little petrol), Australia. I did not know, actually, that Australia would not have picked up a few ICBMs of its own, but that's how the story goes. The folks down there await "the time" when radiation will engulf them, too, and the submarine is shown taking a trip into the hot zone, with its resident scientist played by Fred Astaire. I don't think I've ever seen such a fine picture of just what kind of world is left, when the radioactive plume is let loose. It has so much structure, but no sentient life. I could have done without all the romance, heavy drinking scenes, and that infernal "Waltzing Matilda" song, and the auto race with Astaire is barely tolerable to a guy moviegoer. But hey, the cloud comes, and that's it. Incredibly, in 2004, with a lot of fine-and-dandy arms in their delivery systems, "there is still time, brothers". It is stark, and it gave me a whole series of bizarre dreams when I finally went to bed. Just a little heavy on the romance side, I'd have to say. ...more info
  • Amazing cast, Great movie, Depressing subject
    Based on Nevil Shute's classic, the world is on the tail-end of self termination. As a result of a nuclear war between the super powers of the 1960s, the only people left alive are in the Southern hemisphere, eagerly spending their last days while agonizingly anticipating the end. Nuclear fallout, radioactive dust actually, is drifting southward. On the Beach follows the final days of a few Naval men, a drunk changing her ways, and a scientist who knows the minutia of the impending doom.

    The cast for this movie is absolutely epic. Gregory Peck plays a nearly perfect submarine Commander Dwight Towers; he's stoic, has a composed, military manner, and he's a born leader. As an American sub commander working with the Australian Navy, he fits the bill perfectly. When invited to the home of his Aussie liaison officer and his wife - Lt. Cmdr. Peter Holmes' (played by a very young Anthony Perkins) and Mary Holmes (Donna Anderson) - for a weekend, all are worried Dwight will become nostalgic and disconsolate about his family in the U.S. Their plan: match Dwight up with the local lush, Moira Davidson (Ava Gardner). Gardner is porcelain-skinned and beautiful, but she's either showing signs of aging or playing into the role of a drunk fairly well. Last but not least, Fred Astaire turns in a compelling performance as Julian Osborne, a deep-thinking scientist who appears to be introspectively remorseful about his fellow scientists' role in the creation of nuclear weapons.

    The black and white film quality is superbly remastered, with very little video degradation, jumps, or white specks, as well as some top-notch audio. In fact, the audio may be a bit over the top and the sound effects too loud. The plot-line itself is nearly identical to the book, something I very much appreciate.

    Overall it's a great representation of black and white cinema, with an unreal cast, some needed scenes of levity, and a peculiarly interesting, albeit somber topic. The themes, realism, and tones cross generations - disregarding the fact that the affable nature of humankind would probably be completely different today. Despite the film's age, it stands the test of time and should serve as a valuable warning to us all. I highly recommend it for lovers of fine film from a generation past....more info
  • No English Captions
    I was disappointed to discover that it only has French and Spanish sub-titles, I still buy a lot of DVD's because they have sub-titles, something which for the most part is not available on my APPLE-TV.
    For an old hearing impaired pilot this is a problem.
    The product info area should tell which languages are Captioned....more info
  • If only we could act with such dignity...
    1959 Cold War film about the end of humanity, based on the classic novel from Neal Shute. Starring Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire and Ava Gardner, this is a nice character study of how people will handle their impending doom - face it square on with acceptance? ignore it completely? drown yourself in alchohol to forget what's coming? All this is represented, and more. It makes me wonder both how I would react. And more interestingly, how today's society would react in comparison to the Australians of 1959. Sadly, I don't think we would quite so stiff-upper-lip as the residents in this movie....more info
  • 3.5 stars out of 4
    The Bottom Line:

    On the Beach would have been better-served if the ending was a bit more subtle (though that's probably a bit too much to hope for from Stanley Kramer), but it's still a worthy and powerful look at the subject of nuclear war with several poignant moments....more info
  • Even more impressive given the time of its release.
    On the Beach (Stanley Kramer, 1959)

    I saw this movie weeks ago, and honestly, I'm still trying to get my head around the idea that Anthony Perkins wasn't playing someone who was doomed while everyone else around him thrived (as per Psycho or The Trial, naturally). However, it's not too much of a stretch; Perkins' character, Peter Holmes, is most certainly doomed. But here, so is everyone else.

    In case you've never read the book (and let me tell you here that you should do so at your earliest convenience, as it's a smashing read), the premise: the world has gone through a nuclear war, and most of it is devastated. In fact, the only place on Earth humans still reside is Australia. They've been living there for a while in relative comfort, but now there's word of a cloud of radiation sweeping down from Russia, and so the Australians know they're living on borrowed time. While most of them are leading lives of the expected hedonism--after all, when there's no future to prepare for, why not live every day as if it's your last?--the navy are still conducting missions to gauge the speed and direction of the cloud. Amidst all this, an American nuclear sub, commanded by Lionel Towers (Gregory Peck), comes to town with what could be amazing news. They've picked up a distress signal from San Francisco, California. The Americans, with a handful of Australian volunteers (including Peter Holmes), head for the northern coast of America to find out if there's anyone still alive in the northern hemisphere.

    The movie remains somewhat faithful to the book, though it's a pretty loose adaptation (as usual in the fifties, Hollywood felt the need to inject romantic subplots into everything). Taken as its own creature, though, On the Beach, the film version, is a stunning piece of work, not only because of the movie itself, but because Hollywood in the fifties was not exactly known for its doomsaying. If you made a movie in Hollywood in the fifties, even if it was a monster movie (think, for example, of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Them!, or The Thing from Another World), you had to tack on a happy, or at least optimistic, ending. Not for On the Beach, whose final scene is one of Hollywood's most heart-wrenching, even though you've known all along it was coming.

    Needless to say, when you have a director of Stanley Kramer's ability heading up a cast that contains not only Peck and the usually-underrated Perkins, but Ava Gardner as Peck's love interest and Fred Astaire in the movie that proved he could do drama just as well as musical comedy, you've got the potential to create a timeless classic. And even this early in his career, Kramer was no stranger to creating classics; the film he made before this was The Defiant Ones. (His next was Inherit the Wind.) As expected, this is great stuff, gripping and relentless. The shadow of extinction hangs over every scene. Even the love scenes. (Especially the love scenes, actually.) Kramer pulled off a masterpiece here. If you've never seen it, get it on your Netflix list pronto. **** ?

    ...more info
  • Ahead of its time!
    I saw On the Beach, as a young boy in 1959, and have never forgotten it, nor it's impacting, hard hitting, unforgettable images! Nobody really knew what to expect from the movie. The movie didn't upset me, but rather, caused me to better understand all that was going on in the world and with the Cold War. (It was a time where "air raid drills" were commonplace in my elementary school . . . all students, single file into the hallways, kneeling down against the wall, hands over head, elbows on the floor . . . and one of us assigned to open the classroom's windows . . . less resistance for the bomb's draft!!!)

    I believe this movie was the first nationally seen "visual statement" about nuclear war. The movie is produced beautifully, with outstanding character portrayals by incredible actors. A beautiful, but profoundly sad love story. Classic black and white . . . tremendous photography . . . very moving and provocative. I clearly remember the submarine, the abandoned city streets, the window shade's cord, attached to the signaling devise, sending an aimless, lonely, sustained and incoherent message. It would take the combined efforts of Wordsworth, Keats and Shelly to describe the character's feelings of despair, desperation, hopelessness and profound sadness as they looked at a future of imminent death.

    I remember how incredibly silent the movie theater was, when the film ended and everyone filed out . . . not a word spoken. We were watching it at the post theater, and perhaps, the adult audience, was better able to identify with what they'd seen, than the civilian population. This movie is a must see . . . an all time classic!...more info
  • on the beach
    Was an item I had trouble finding, and it was a gift and never thought I would have it on time but it was delivered very quickly and I had it before I needed it....more info
  • Makes you think ... heartbreaking.
    The premise of this classic B&W movie is that there has been a nuclear exchange with radioactivity poisoning everyone on planet Earth. Only those on a submarine have been temporarily spared from what is inexorable for them in time. One of the ten best movies of all time, though its premise of a world gone mad [USSR vs. USA nuclear exchange and mutual annhilation] may seem a bit dated. At least one hopes so?...more info
  • Beached
    What if they gave a nuclear war and nobody came? Okay, not funny. It was a whole lot less funny in 1959, the last year of the "duck-and-cover" decade. So sue me. I just sat through one of the longest two hour movies I've ever seen, and I'm still a little punchy.
    1959 was the year ON THE BEACH came out, a post-nuclear war movie directed by Stanley Kramer. The premise is promising - nuclear war has wiped out life on Earth, save for Australia. And an American nuclear sub. The radiation cloud is slowly making its way to the last refuge of life, though.
    As promising as the premise is, the execution is disappointing. Kramer, with a world of options in front of him, decided to go the turgid melodramatic route. Gregory Peck plays the submarine commander and the Man Repressing His Emotions. Ava Gardner is the Boozed-Up Damaged Woman. At least Kramer cast his leads to type. Fred Astaire plays another boozehound and Anthony Perkins is an Australian(!?) naval officer who, most of the time, remembers he speaks with an accent.
    Even though I thought ON THE BEACH was a misfire and about as thought provoking as the back of a cereal box, it did have some nice touches. Horses and bicycles crowded out the cars as the supply of petrol decreased. Coffee, too, was scarce and replaced with an inferior substitute. Funny, though - nobody seemed to be short of cigarettes. Guess Australia must have been stockpiling them in the fifties.

    ...more info
  • On the Beach
    Absolutely loved this movie....want the book too!!!
    Cried alot of course....but then I like 3 hankie movies!!!!...more info