Wednesday, August 19, 2020

As Bad As It Is, It Could Be Much Worse

 I read Nevil Shute's On the Beach, and watched the 1959 movie of it starring Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck.  While hunting for it on YouTube, I found this 2000 version made Down Under, which is completely logical because most of it is set Down Under.  I think I like the 2000 version better.  

The book is definitely in the "Better Red Than Dead" category, intended to scare the West into abandoning nuclear deterrence by postulating an intentional use of cobalt-60 salted weapons of a sort that no nation ever built, or would have ever built.  The goal was to imagine a world slowly dying of radioactive fallout, where there is no escape.

The 2000 version fails to explain this terrifying apocalyptic requirement (and I do not recall the 1959 version explaining this nearly impossible cause).  On the plus side, the American captaining the Los Angeles-class SSBN is portrayed as a profoundly decent person who does not carry out his doomsday orders when it becomes apparent that China is prepared to destroy the world, instead of losing face by withdrawing from Taiwan.

What made the book, and both movies so depressing is the lack of any spiritual awareness of anyone.  Both movies have a Salvation Army band playing under the banner, "There is still time."  But unlike most Americans and even many Aussies, no one in the book or movies faces their own mortality with any sort of hope or faith for beyond.  And trust me, as my clock ticks down, that is the one thing that you can count on: people seek meaning beyond.

1 comment:

  1. I'm waiting for Shute to be "cancelled".

    His 1953 novel In The Wet, set in 1983, has as protagonist Squadron Leader David Anderson of the RAAF. It seems that Australia has presented the Queen an airplane (Learjet type) for the use of the royal family in official or personal travel. Crew and ground services are included, and SqnLdr Anderson, a well-regarded young officer, is tabbed as chief pilot and commander.

    Of course, for such a delicate assignment, he must be carefully vetted. An RAF Group Captain gets to know him. After Anderson is offered the job - and learns the Captain commands the Queen's Flight - he goes to see him.

    The Captain greets him, and Anderson responds "My cobbers call me Nigger."

    He continues "Because I am one... My grandmother was a full-blood aboriginal... Then we... all know where we are."

    Shute didn't harp on this too much. It is a bit disconcerting when David's love interest (one of the Queen's private secretaries) addresses him as "Nigger darling".

    There's a fair amount of comment about the book out there, some of it from leftists (though not lately). So far no one has jumped on it; Shute's non-white hero has taken the curse off, so far.