WORLD WITHOUT END (1956) Blu-ray
Director: Edward Bernds
Warner Archive Collection

The Warner Archive Collection surprises (and delights) fans of vintage science fiction cinema with their Blu-ray announcement of WORLD WITHOUT END, a tacky yet fun 1950s space flight flick filled with ugly ogres, beautiful babes and some intriguing time-travel concepts. As most of these types of pictures were reserved for the economically flat, black and white cinematography, this one (likely due to the success of FORBIDDEN PLANET) was shot in CinemaScope and luxurious color, and it compliments the Blu-ray format to the max.

In the current year of 1957, mankind’s first spaceflight to Mars is in the hands of astronauts John Borden (Hugh Marlowe, EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS), Dr. Eldon Galbraithe (Nelson Leigh, CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN), Herbert Ellis (Rod Taylor, still years before his starring role in THE TIME MACHINE) and Hank Jaffe (Christopher Dark, SUDDENLY), who are dressed in bomber jackets and hunter’s caps rather than fancy spacesuits. On return from circling the red planet, their toy rocketship is forced to land on a strange planet covered in a blanket of snow, but their trek on foot soon uncovers a cave with giant spiders and a race of spear-chucking mutant caveman roaming the land (most have one enlarged large eye and look like refugees from THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING…). In a cemetery, headstones with futuristic dates has them speculate that they have been caught in a time warp and are now in Earth’s own atomic war-devastated future (2058 A.D. to be exact). They soon take refuge in an underground civilized city where bland men in pointed skull caps and flirty women in low-cut cocktail dresses reside, and the four visitors try and convince them to come out of their hole in the ground and overcome the “beasts” that dwell above, as well as get some much-needed sun.

Yet another science fiction programmer from the “poverty row” confines of Allied Artists, WORLD WITHOUT END looks a bit more expensive than usual because of Technicolor and Scope photography, but everything else should give it away, including the limited sets, a wire-dangled rocket, bad monster make-up which is rarely shown in close-up, pillowy giant spiders that look like they were left over from CAT WOMEN ON THE MOON and the familiar Bronson Canyon outdoor locations. This all adds up to a lot of fun, and despite some talky stretches, it's an entertaining little film; a must-see for fans of 1950s sci-fi that mixes camp (some of the dialogue will induce belly laughs) with several novel ideas, some of which would be explored years later in the original PLANET OF THE APES series.

Director Edward Bernds (who also concocted the screenplay) is mostly associated with The Three Stooges, but he did dabble in science fiction, and would soon go on to helm a better-known yet sillier sort of follow-up with QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE (1958), also shot in Cinemascope and color, as well as RETURN OF THE FLY (1959). The attractive female stars include Nancy Gates (THE ATOMIC CITY), Shawn Smith (aka Shirley Patterson, THE LAND UNKNOWN, IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE) and Lisa Montell (SHE GODS OF SHARK REEF). As an unethical undergrounder who attempts to frame the heroes for murder, Booth Colman is probably best known as Dr. Zaius on the short-lived 1974 “Planet of the Apes” TV series, but he remained a popular character actor on television for decades, most recently appearing on “My Name Is Earl” and “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” (he died in 2014).

First released on DVD in 2008 by Warner Home Video as part of a “Sci-Fi Double Feature” series (and paired with the rather dull British programmer SATELLITE IN THE SKY), the Warner Archive Collection’s Blu-ray release of WORLD WITHOUT END comes as a welcomed surprise, as it’s not as well known as some of the other studio-owned genre titles. Presented in 1080p HD in its original 2.35:1 Cinemascope aspect ratio, WORLD WITHOUT END looks fantastic here, in fact, it’s one of the best presentations of a color 1950s genre film you’re likely to see. The Technicolor photography is vibrant, detail is excellent, and there is very little in the way of print blemishes (the film elements are in pristine shape, and it’s really hard to believe this movie is now over 60 years old). Fine grain is present but light, adding a pleasing level of texture to the image, and black levels are adequately deep. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track has clear dialogue and renders Leith Stevens’ (WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE) classic score nicely. Optional English subtitles are included, but there are no extras on the disc. (George R. Reis)