... aka: Doomsday
... aka: Tuomiopäivä (Judgment Day)
Based on the director's own international best-seller "Doomsday: The Science of Catastrophe," this documentary hopes to paint a morbid picture of a world where "disaster is inevitable and catastrophe, commonplace." Yes folks, it's basically 90 minutes of misery, destruction and death. There are three reasons I'm including this title here. First, it fall into the shockumentary / mondo subgenre and contains a lot of footage intended to shock and disgust. Second, it was released as the unofficial fourth installment of the Faces of Death series in Japan. And finally, the on-screen host and narrator is none other than Vincent Price. Some people act surprised that Price would be involved in a film of questionable taste like this, but those same people have probably forgotten that he'd previously already hosted the early mondo exploitation films Naked Terror (1961) and I tabù (1963 aka Taboos of the World). The film itself is a pretty straight-forward collection of mostly news footage of various natural and man-made disasters and human atrocities, though the sensationalist trailer for the film (featuring charred corpses, animals being killed, etc.) indicates the distributors knew who the true audience would be.
We open with shots of space and talk of the creation of the universe and the Big Bang Theory. This is followed by a segment on volcanoes, where we learn of the 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée on Martinique, which destroyed the city of Saint-Pierre and killed tens of thousands of people in the process, and then see footage of one of Mt. Etna's destructive eruptions in Sicily. After some shaky footage of tornadoes and tsunamis, we take a trip to the Sahara Desert in Africa and see the devastation of drought, where women spend hours digging in a dried-up river bed for just a cup full of muddy water and human and animal corpses alike lie disregarded in the sand. There's mention of
overpopulation and footage of locust plagues while Price points out that "Life is the ultimate miser." Indeed. Man-made disasters are given about equal screen time here, starting with forest fires caused by careless campers devastating millions of acres of forest and land, leaving behind "charred, mocking reminders of what people once called homes."
Next up we get footage from the Flixborough chemical plant explosion of 1974 in England and several lethal airplane crashes, including footage of corpses being hauled from the wreckage of Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 in the Everglades (101 casualties) and footage from the Ermonenville Air Disaster, where Turkish Airlines Flight 981 crashed outside of Paris, killing 346 people and becoming, at the time, the single deadliest airplane crash in history. The record has since been broken. A basket detaches from a hot air balloon, sending the operator plummeting hundreds of feet to his death and, at the Le Mans Grand Prix d'Endurance in 1955, the single worst motorsport accident in history occurred when a crash sent an engine and debris into the grandstands, killing 80 people. Price then rubs salt in the wound by pointing out the irony that race fans aren't so much in it for the thrill of the race but instead the imminent prospect of disaster they're expecting to befall the racers... not themselves!
Baby-seal-clubbing mother fucker!
There's also footage of gas line explosions, the Amico Cadiz oil spill, the Liberian Ocean Eagle crash, the very sad sight of beaches littered with dead birds, fish, dolphins and whales, the senseless slaughter of blue whales turning the seas red, and the difficult-to- watch clubbing of baby harp seals; an act approved by the Canadian government no less! We continue on into rat-infested sewers, see bulldozers pushing mountains of trash, baby chicks being slaughtered by the thousands, the military fighting a blackbird infestation with deadly chemicals, the George Wallace assassination attempt, terrorism at the Egyptian Embassy, the murder of TV reporter Bill Stewart in Nicaragua, riots, civil wars, Japanese farmers fighting the military over a plot of land they hope to build the Tokyo International Airport on, the wind-induced collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940, the Eldfell volcano eruption in Iceland, deadly earthquakes, avalanches and floods and much more.
This bloody footage is in the trailer but was not in the actual film I viewed.
The narration is strongly anti-war, anti-pollution and anti-violence, whilst also being pro-animal and pro-environmental protection, which is likely what appealed to they very conscientious and humane Price and why he decided to take part. We are chastised for being "an energy-greedy world" doing untold damage to the environment to fulfill our "frantic need for oil" and for showing disregard for nature and our fellow man. While there's truth to all of that, the messages here are always at odds with how graphic and exploitative the selected footage is. Then again, it's more effective to criticize with examples of what you're criticizing. But one thing's for sure: this is not at all pleasant to watch. It's grim, depressing and almost apocalyptic in its bleak forecast for the future. Some sort of levity or a smidgen of hope would have helped to balance it all out, but there's none of that to be found here.
The German poster removed an image of the book from the bottom left corner for some reason.
Thankfully, this is packed with information and history and I actually ended up learning quite a bit watching it. Some of the footage is really fascinating and it's a decent document of Mother Nature's wrath as well as the dark and violent nature of mankind. Interestingly, global warming and the pitfalls of our oil dependency; two issues whose importance have only been amplified in today's political circus; are two of the main focal points here. Nowadays, most politicians use these issues as empty rhetoric and many others, in an effort to prove themselves slavishly devoted to whatever party affiliation they align themselves with, seem to take one side or the other while ignoring the gray areas in between. Hey, maybe we are doomed as a society after all!
The executive producer was Doro Vlado Hreljanovic, who also backed Mako: The Jaws of Death (1976), War of the Planets (1977), Just Before Dawn (1981) and others. All of these were theatrically released through the company Picturmedia. To my knowledge, no video or DVD was ever released here in the U.S., but there were ones released in Japan (on numerous labels on both DVD and VHS), the UK (a VHS on the Video Network label) and Germany (a VHS on the Video Medien Pool label).