Day the World Ended (1955) was the fourth film directed by Roger Corman. Rick (Richard Denning) is a heroic scientist who, among others, must face off against a mutant monster (Paul Blaisdell) after an atomic war destroys human civilization. Chet Huntley of NBC, later of The Huntley-Brinkley Report, narrates. The film was released by American International Pictures as a double feature with The Beast with a Million Eyes.
The film is referred to in a 2001 horror film of the same title, The Day the World Ended. The film was remade in 1967 with the title In the Year 2889 with the dialogue repeated almost entirely verbatim.
The film starts later in the day, following an all-out atomic war, which has apparently destroyed most (if not all) human civilization, and has left the Earth contaminated with radioactive fallout. The apparent single exception is a box canyon, surrounding by lead-bearing cliffs, in which former Navy Commander Jim Maddison, lives with his daughter, Louise, in a home stocked with supplies against just such a holocaust. Into this natural bomb shelter come stumbling several survivors, who just by chance were inside the canyon when the war occurred. After initially refusing to admit the others, Jim relents when his daughter pleads with him and appeals to his humanity. Among the survivors are a geologist, Rick (Richard Denning), who just by coincidence happens to specialize in uranium mining, and a small-time hood, Tony (Mike Connors - billed in the film as "Touch" Connors),with his "moll" Ruby, on their way to San Francisco.
After establishing the basic characters, the film presents two obvious struggles for survival: the first is the simple question of whether the radioactive fallout will dissipate, and if so, before the rain comes to wash what's in the atmosphere down to Earth, contaminating their shelter. The second threat comes in the form of a giant, hideous monster, which seems bent on killing anything it comes across, but only eating those creatures which are contaminated by fallout.
A less obvious, but no less dangerous threat, is the hidden menace of Tony; although seemingly charming and helpful to the others, his true character and intentions are revealed to the audience: he wants the other men out of the way, so that he can have the two women to himself.
In a climactic final act, all three dangers coincide, as the monster kidnaps Louise, but then releases her into a small lake, where he is obviously afraid to enter. Rick appears and attacks the creature, which then runs away, as it begins to rain. Following the creature, they find it destroyed by the rain, and realize that it used to be Louise's missing fiance. Tony, having stabbed Ruby to death when she realizes that he wants to be with the younger Louise, then steals Jim's pistol and waits to waylay Rick when he returns with Louise. As he takes aim at the approaching Rick, Jim reveals a second, concealed pistol, and shoots Tony dead.
Jim then dies from radiation poisoning, but not before revealing that the rain is radiation-free and will wash away all of the remaining contamination, making the world safe to venture out into again, and that he has heard voices of other survivors on the radio. Rick and Louise, the final two survivors of the original group, walk hand in hand out of the canyon, with the end-card, "The Beginning" appearing on the screen.
Richard Denning as Rick
Lori Nelson as Louise Maddison
Adele Jergens as Ruby
Mike Connors as Tony Lamont (as Touch Connors)
Paul Birch as Jim Maddison
Raymond Hatton as Pete
Paul Dubov as Radek
Jonathan Haze as the Contaminated Man
Paul Blaisdell as the Mutant
Roger Corman as Nelson, Louise's Fiancee in Framed Photograph (uncredited)
Chet Huntley as Narrator (voice) (uncredited)
James Nicholson of AIP thought up a title then commissioned Lou Rusoff to write a script. It was the second film by Golden State for the American Releasing Corp.
The film was shot over ten days. Denning was paid $7,500 plus a percentage.
It was released on a double bill with The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues. The two of them proved popular, due in part to some savvy marketing by James H. Nicholson. Within two months of release the films had earned $400,000.