DOOMSDAY CHRONICLES (1979)
Article 4971 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by James Thornton
Featuring William Schallert, Linus Pauling, Daniel Ellsburg
What it is: Depressing doomsday documentary
This movie presents all the various ways that mankind can destroy itself in the near future.
Though the movie does discuss various apocalyptic visions that are natural (the death of the sun) and metaphysical (religious and prophetical predictions), these are pretty much side issues to its main theme; most of its running time is dedicated to destruction scenarios in which it is man himself who is responsible, including nuclear annihilation, pollution of all sorts, overpopulation, etc. It’s in the same basic style as all of those documentaries I’ve seen over the years involving cryptozoology, psychic phenomena and alien visitations, a circumstance that may make it seem a little less serious than it is. As can be expected, there is a lot of vagueness and an overuse of stock footage. The only time the movie really comes to life is when it goes into detailed coverage of a meltdown of a small nuclear power plant on an army base, emphasizing the relatively massive effort it took to deal with the crisis once it happened; it works because it’s not vague. After an hour and a half of this, it’s hard not to get a little depressed, and though it does try to instill some hope in the final minutes of the film, it’s assurances seem even vaguer than the rest of the movie. Quite frankly, I think the problem with the movie is it bites off more than it can chew; instead of trying to cover every scenario it could think of, it would have been better to address a specific problem in detail, both in terms of its dangers and its solutions. Perhaps the most comforting thing is that the movie picks the year of 1999 as the time when disaster will occur; the fact that this year passed sixteen years ago is the more encouraging than anything you’ll find in the movie.