On the Beach (1958) is a drama and romance about Commander Towers and his duty to his crew and survivors of the radiation fallout after World War III, including Moria Davidson who grabs his attention despite increasing tensions between the two. This story is adapted from Nevil Shute’s book and screenplay by John Paxton. It is directed by Stanley Kramer and stars Gregory Peck as Cmdr. Dwight Lionel Towers, Ava Gardner as Moira Davidson, Fred Astaire as Julian Osborn, Anthony Perkins as Lt. Peter Holmes, Donna Anderson as Mary Holmes, John Tate as Adm. Bridie, Richard Meikle as Davis, John Meillon as Ralph Swain. It doesn’t have a rating and is 1 hour and 56 minutes long. I would say this is more depressing of the two films because of how death is presented.
The film begins in Australia where devastation from war has killed most of the inhabitants in the northern hemisphere. It is in the south where people seek refuge including the American Commander Towers. Most of them know the severity of the situation including Lt. Holmes and encourages his wife to face the fact they might die. A few remain hopeful that the radiation poisoning will not reach them. Despite the small chance of finding a few survivors, Towers and his officers sail on the USS Sawfish in search of them. When they reach the west coast, the reality of the situation becomes authenticated in several ways. This leads to the officers dealing with the inevitable in their own way whether it be through car racing, romantic getaways, or nostalgic monologues. As USS Sawfish submerges underwater for the last time, it’s a somber ending to what could have been. Unlike Captain Ahab, I wouldn’t mind meeting Commander Towers, but not under these circumstances. The acting in this movie too was perfect. It didn’t hold my attention as much as Moby Dick, but it was a near perfect movie. Therefore, I give On the Beach a rating of 96%.