The Last War (1961)

Article #1556 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-18-2005
Posting Date: 11-15-2005
Directed by Shuei Matsubayashi
Featuring Frankie Sekai, Akira Takarada, Yuriko Hoshi

A Japanese family tries to continue to live their normal lives with the impending threat of nuclear war.

My copy of this movie (in Japanese and subtitled) opens with the trailer for the movie, and the trailer would have you believe that the movie is a non-stop barrage of special effects. If it were, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it is. Instead, this movie focuses for the most part on the travails of a single family. The father is unable to fathom the possibility of nuclear war and assumes that all will work itself out, the mother is suffering from an unspecified illness but still takes her full role in the family, and the daughter is hoping to marry the man she loves, even if her father disapproves; there are also two young children. We get to know this family fairly well. Interspersed between these scenes of the family are scenes of the events surrounding a coming nuclear war, and two of these events involve touch-and-go situations (one involving faulty machinery, the other involving an avalanche) both of which almost result in the onset of nuclear holocaust which is only averted at the last second. If there is anything these scenes accomplish, it is that they do not leave you feeling comfortable with the idea that no war will occur and that cooler heads will prevail, two of the father’s beliefs. Still, during the panics near the end of the movie, the father makes a comment that is very telling when he refuses to evacuate himself from Tokyo with the comment that there is no place for ninety million people to hide. The movie ends up being very effective in that it allows you to get close enough to the characters that you care about them and their fates, and that is the strength of this movie. It has its problems; in particular some of the acting by non-Orientals is variable. Still, this is a worthy addition to the nuclear holocaust movies of the fifties and sixties.

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