Film (1959). Sol Siegel-Harbel/MGM. Directed by Ranald MacDougall, starring Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens, Mel Ferrer. Screenplay MacDougall, based on The Purple Cloud (1901) by M P Shiel. 95 minutes. Black and white.
As in Arch Oboler's Five (1951), this wordy film tells of a tiny group of survivors in a nuclear-bomb-ravaged USA. In this case there are three: a young white woman, a black man and a cynical adventurer (white and male). The film is evocative, as in the black man's entry past vast traffic jams of abandoned cars into a deserted New York (although no explanation is offered for the lack of bodies), and in the final hunt through the depopulated streets of the metropolis. The plot is simple: black man finds white woman but hesitates to form a relationship with her; white man finds both of them and wants woman, who is willing to remain with black man; a running duel takes place between the men. Eventually they realize the futility of it all, and the film ends with all three walking off (rather daringly for the time) hand in hand. The script is more sophisticated than the banality of the plot would suggest, but the treatment of the racial theme (> Race in SF) is embarrassingly tentative, and compromised by the use of so handsome and light-skinned a black as Belafonte. There were just two survivors in Shiel's The Purple Cloud (1901; rev 1929), on which this film is based only remotely. [JB/PN]
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