The 1977 film End of the World has got a great opening scene. An obviously distraught priest (played by none other than Christopher Lee!) steps into an isolated diner. He tells the counterman that he needs to use the phone. The counterman says, “Sure, father.” And then suddenly, everything in the dinner starts blowing up. The phone, the coffee, the pinball machine, everything explodes. The counterman ends up trying to unsuccessfully throw himself through a window. The priest, looking rather confused, steps outside of the diner and he runs into …. his exact double! Christopher Lee meets Christopher Lee!
Again, that’s a great opening and it’s really not a surprise that the rest of the film can’t live up to it. Once the two Christopher Lees disappear into the darkness, the focus of the story shifts to a scientist named Andrew (Kirk Scott) and his wife, Sylvia (Sue Lyon, who years previously played Lolita). Andrew spends a lot of time sitting in front of a boxy computer and staring at the screen. He’s picking up strange transmissions from space and he’s trying to translate them. Andrew goes home. He and his wife got a party. Andrew sits in front of the computer a while longer. Andrew goes home. Andrew goes to work. Andrew keeps staring at the computer….
“Wait,” you’re saying at this point, “isn’t this is a Christopher Lee movie?”
Yes, it is. Christopher Lee is indeed top-billed and he’s hardly in the movie at all. I’d like to think that, when asked why by an intrepid reporter why he agreed to star in End of the World, Lee laughed and replied, “For the money, of course.” But, according to Lee’s autobiography, he did the film because he was told that he would be appearing with a cast of distinguished actors like Jose Ferrer, Dean Jagger, and John Carradine. Now, Dean Jagger does have a small cameo in the film but Ferrer and Carradine are nowhere to be seen. Either they left the production or someone lied to Sir Christopher!
Anyway, back to the plot. Eventually, Andrew figures out that the space transmissions are predicting natural disasters. We don’t actually see any of these disasters because, after all, this is the end of the world on a very low budget. But we are assured that the disasters are happening. Andrew and Sylvia discover that the transmissions are coming from a convent in the middle of the desert. Andrew and Sylvia go to investigate and they discover that the nuns are….
Now, this is actually a pretty good twist and there are some vaguely humorous scenes of the the nuns working in a space lab. It turns out that the nuns (and one of the Christopher Lees) are stranded on this planet because their spaceship broke down. They don’t really like Earth, considering it to be an ugly and polluted place. They’re planning on ending the world but they need to leave before the whole place blows up. They demand that Andrew help them fix their transporter and they’re going to hold Sylvia hostage until he does so….
It’s all a bit silly but, as you’re watching the film, you can’t help but wish that it had been even sillier. I mean, alien nuns and Father Christopher Lee? That sounds like the makings of a certain type of classic! But, unfortunately, the film never fully embraces the full potential of its absurdity. It takes forever for Andrew and Sylvia to actually reach that convent and even the alien nuns become rather passé after a few minutes. Christopher Lee is fun to watch as always and his character’s irritation with being stuck on Earth was obviously mirrored by Lee’s irritation with being in the film. And, despite all else, let’s give credit where credit it is due — the title lives up to its promise. The world may end in a pile of stock footage but an end is an end.
Anyway, this one is pretty much for Christopher Lee completists only. Watch the opening and then fast forward to the end.