Bright Lights Film Journal

Instagram Photo Series: On the Beach

In June, BLFJ’s Instagram photo series is featuring images from beach and surf movies. Frankie and Annette and Point Break have popped up but so have Lord of the Flies and Attack of the Crab Monsters.

From the latter end of the spectrum, today we’re adding an image from Stanley Kramer’s film On the Beach (1959). Not exactly a feel-good summer film, On the Beach is set in a post-World War III 1964. The conflict has contaminated the northern hemisphere with nuclear fallout, and the only habitable areas lie in the far south.

This still shows the nuclear submarine USS Sawfish sailing north from Melbourne, Australia to track down the source of a mysterious Morse code signal from San Diego. SPOILER ALERT: the signal’s being sent by an empty Coke bottle moving in the breeze, and, in the end, everyone dies.

Even Fred Astaire (as the Ferrari-driving scientist Julian Osborn) can’t two-step his way around the dark side of mankind’s nuclear ambitions.

Read more about nuclear-age anxities in film elsewhere in BLFJ.