Five (1951 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Arch Oboler|
|Produced by||Arch Oboler|
|Screenplay by||Arch Oboler|
|Story by||Arch Oboler|
|Music by||Henry Russell|
|Arch Oboler Productions|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||93 minutes|
Five is an independently made 1951 black-and-white post-apocalyptic science fiction film produced, directed and written by Arch Oboler and distributed by Columbia Pictures. The title refers to the number of survivors of an atomic bomb disaster that appears to have wiped out the rest of the human race. According to Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies, this film is the first to depict the aftermath of such a catastrophe.
Roseanne Rogers (Susan Douglas Rubes) trudges from place to place, searching for another living human being. A newspaper headline reports a scientist's warning that detonating a new type of atomic bomb could cause the extinction of humanity.
Rosanne eventually makes her way to her aunt's isolated hillside house and faints when she finds Michael (William Phipps) already living there. At first she is too numb to speak and slow to recover. She later resists Michael's attempt to become intimate, revealing that she is married and pregnant.
Two more survivors arrive, attracted by the smoke coming from the house's chimney. Oliver P. Barnstaple (Earl Lee) is an elderly bank clerk who is in denial about his situation; he believes he is simply on vacation. Since the atomic disaster, he has been taken care of by Charles (Charles Lampkin), a thoughtful, affable African American. They both survived because they were accidentally locked in a bank vault when the disaster happened. Roseanne was in a hospital's lead-lined X-ray room, while Michael was in an elevator in New York City's Empire State Building.
Barnstaple sickens, but seems to recover and then insists on going to the beach. There, they drag a man named Eric (James Anderson) out of the water. He is a mountain climber who became stranded on Mount Everest by a blizzard during the atomic disaster. He was flying back to the USA when his plane ran out of fuel just short of land. Meanwhile, Barnstaple dies peacefully.
Eric quickly sows discord among the group of survivors: He theorizes that they are somehow immune to the radiation and wants to find and gather together other survivors. Michael, however, is skeptical and warns that radiation from the disaster will be the most intense in the cities Eric wants to search.
The newcomer later reveals himself to be a racist; he can barely stand living with Charles. When Charles objects, he and Eric fight, stopping only when Roseanne goes into labor; she gives birth to a boy, delivered by Michael. Afterwards, while the others work to make a better life, Eric goes off by himself. Maliciously, he drives their jeep through the group's cultivated field, destroying a part of the crops. Michael orders Eric to leave, but Eric produces a pistol and announces that he will leave only when he is ready.
Later one night, Eric tells Roseanne that he is leaving for the city. Needing to discover her husband's fate, Roseanne agrees to go with him, as he had hoped; he insists that she not tell Michael. After stealing supplies, Eric is stopped by a suspicious Charles; they struggle, and he stabs Charles in the back, killing him.
Once they reach the city, Eric begins looting, while Roseanne goes to her husband's office and then to a hospital waiting room; there she discovers her husband's skeletal remains. She wants to return to Michael, but Eric refuses to let her go. They struggle and his shirt is torn, revealing his arms are covered with radiation poisoning; in despair after this discovery he runs away to meet his final fate.
Rosanne begins the long walk back to her aunt's isolated house, but along the way her infant son dies. Michael, who has been searching for Rosanne, eventually finds her, and they return home after they bury her son. When Michael returns to his farming, Rosanne joins him, their now intertwined fates far from certain.
- William Phipps as Michael Rogin
- Susan Douglas Rubes as Roseanne Rogers
- James Anderson as Eric
- Charles Lampkin as Charles
- Earl Lee as Oliver P. Barnstaple
Actor Charles Lampkin introduced Oboler to the prose poem The Creation by James Weldon Johnson and convinced him to include excerpts of it in the final script of Five. It would become Lampkin's soliloquy for his character Charles; this may be the first time that audiences in the USA, Latin America, and Europe were exposed to African-American poetry, albeit not identified as such in the film.
Oboler shot this very low budget feature for $75,000, using as his crew a small group of recent graduates from the University of Southern California film school and starring five (then) unknown actors. Upon its completion, Oboler sold the film to Columbia Pictures for a tidy profit.
In a recent review, film critic Sean Axmaker lauded the film, writing, "For all of his budgetary limitations, it's a strikingly atmospheric and handsome film, and Oboler creates an eerie sense of isolation with simple techniques."
In other films
- Rickman, Gregg (April 1, 2004). "D is for doomsday: Five (au:Bob Stephens, 2004)". The Science Fiction Film Reader (illustrated, reprint ed.). New York City, New York, USA: Limelight Editions. pp. 114–131. ISBN 0-87910-994-7. OCLC 53030288. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
- Strick, Philip. Science Fiction Movies. 1976. Octopus Books Limited. ISBN 0-7064-0470-X.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties, 21st Century Edition (a greatly expanded 3rd printing in a single volume), McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-89950-032-3
- Terry, Clifford (November 16, 1983). "Armageddon at the box office: Past looks at future peril". Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois, USA: Tony W. Hunter). p. S1. ISSN 1085-6706. OCLC 60639020. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
- Five at the Internet Movie Database
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching The Skies Vol I: 1950 - 1957, McFarland, 1982. ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
- Axmaker, Sean. Turner Classic Movies, Movie News, film review. Last accessed: February 20, 2011.