I think that there is a big closet somewhere in Hollywood with a sign on the door that reads "Sci Fi Prop Room." If you're going to make a B-grade science fiction movie, all you have to do is go into this closet and pick out your space ship model, your leading lady's costume, your alien outfits, and a goodly portion of your script. You might even be able to pick up your actors in there.
I think Queen of Outer Space, which I've previously reviewed, must have been either a spoof of World Without End, or its more humorous twin, because both films proceed in nearly identical fashion, with a team of four astronauts getting caught by some inexplicable force that sends them hurling through space, and then the ship crash-lands on an ice field, which conveniently happens to be a short walk above the snowline. The astronauts even have a run-in with the SAME giant stuffed spiders.
This film also re-uses footage from an earlier film, Flight to Mars, which itself reused scenes from Rocketship X-M. See what I mean about that prop closet?
World Without End doesn't take place on Venus, but on the Earth of the future, five hundred years after a nuclear war practically annihilated the population--in the year 2508 AD to be exact. The astronauts arrived at that time because their ship, returning from an orbit of Mars in 1957, suddenly got hurled through space so rapidly that "time dilation" took effect. They must have passed through the Van Winkle Belt.
The surviving humans on this post-apocalyptic Earth are split into three races--the deformed and caveman-like mutants, or rather "mutates" (I don't think the word "mutant" was part of the lexicon yet) who live above ground and have been exposed to radiation; the normal-looking offspring of these mutants who usually get "driven away" from the tribe; and the beautiful but listless people who have built a city under the ground, and have lost the will or the desire to try to live on the surface. In a way, it's like a reversal of The Time Machine, and it even stars Rod Taylor!
The men of the underground city dress like elves in colorful tights and tunics, and those annoying shower caps from Cosmos: War of the Planets are used in this one, too. Dayim, for something so ugly and stupid-looking, those hats sure do get around!
The women wear dresses just like the ones in Queen of Outer Space. I really think they had tried to get Zsa Zsa Gabor for this one in 1956 but she was unavailable, then suddenly she was, so they remade it in 1958. Instead of a disfigured and vengeful queen, though, World Without End has a jealous councillor named Mauritz, or maybe it's Maurice, at any rate he's always telling the other Councillors that it's too dangerous to go outside. When the astronauts show up, the underground people rescue them from being beset by the mutated cave people, and because the underground people (they don't really have a name) are peaceful, they take away the astronauts' guns. Why astronauts have six-shooters is a little beyond me.
The astronauts want to try to set up a surface village, but the Councillors refuse to help them, stating that they are quite comfortable with their underground city.
Most of the men lack the will to make any sort of decisions, but the women quickly decide that the astronauts are far more virile than anything in the colony, which inflames Mauritz's jealousy to the point that he steals their weapons to frame them for trying to attack the colony and enslave it. In the act of stealing the guns, Mauritz has to kill the man who was charged with looking after the weapons. Mauritz secrets the guns in the astronauts' bedroom, then blames the murder on them as proof of their utter depravity.
Fortunately for the astronauts, the servant-girl Deena, who is one of the good-looking surface dwellers, has seen Mauritz skulking about the guest quarters, and just before the astronauts are exiled from the colony, she tries to expose Mauritz to the Council, but is struck down by Mauritz. He doesn't kill her, though, so she's able to rat him out, and he escapes from the underground city, only to be immediately set upon and torn apart by the band of mutant savages outside. It's hard not to refer to them as "cave men" because that's what they look like, but the technological elf-people live in caves, too. Caves with swishy pneumatic doors and hydroponics labs, to be sure, but caves all the same.
The Council apologises to the four astronauts, but they are still reluctant to leave their underground city. The astronauts offer to go out and clear out the mutants. According to Deena, the tribe is run by the strongest warrior--whoever kills the chieftan becomes the new chieftan. The astronauts convince the Council to help them build weapons--specifically, bazookas--then go to deal with the mutants.
They set the mutants running with their bazooka in a scene oddly reminiscent of the Mony Python "How Not To Be Seen" sketch--they fire a bomb into some trees, or at a pile of rocks, and a half-dozen shrieking mutants erupt and run away yelping.
Finally they get the tribe holed up in its lair, and its chieftan, Naga, threatens to kill all of the normal-looking tribesmen (who Deena says are kept for slaves, if they're not run off--the film kind of breaks down on this point) if the astronauts won't leave them alone. The science officer, John Borden, challenges Naga to single combat, with Deena doing the translating, and Naga accepts--after getting the Borden to promise to lay aside his "thunder and lightning."
They fight with hand axes, and it's astonishing that Naga ever got to be chieftan, because it takes Borden about three chops to bring the giant down. Granted, the mutant had only one eye, so his depth perception was poor, but still in all, for such a bad-ass savage, he went down like a sack of potatoes.
Borden declares himself the new chief, and has Deena order all the mutants to leave the area and never return.
Eventually the astronauts convince the subterranean people to build a new village above ground, where the children of the non-mutated surface dwellers and the now-robust children of the cave dwellers live and play together in happy harmony. And the men shed their stupid hats. There must be some sort of subliminal sexual reference here, since the hats look like head-condoms, and it was pointed out that the population of the underground city was declining.
Anybody who claims that Hollywood has run out of ideas, and keeps cranking out tired remakes and reboots, must not have been alive in the late 1950s. Watching these B-, C-, and D-grade movies makes me believe that Hollywood probably never had an original idea in its tinsel-filled head. The films all start to run together.
There isn't much to recommend this film, because it seems that the writers changed the script as it was being shot to accommodate patches to plot holes--mainly the part about the non-mutated surface people, and to allow for a person who could communicate with the savages. The brief shots of the rocket ship flying through space have to be the worst SPFX I've seen--put a rocketship model on a piece of string and make it dance around while overlaying some flames, and that's about what it looked like. High school kids could do a better job. The giant mutant spiders look even more fake than they did in Queen of Outer Space. To its credit, this film actually shoots its outdoor scenes outdoors, but that may be due to budgetary constraints--they just couldn't afford to build the lavish sets of Queen of Outer Space."
And in what both is and is not an ironic aside, in this film, Rod Taylor winds up with the brunette Deena, instead of the blonde Weena from The Time Machine. One might assume that this was intentional, only World Without End was shot four years before The Time Machine, and the name "Weena" was part of H.G. Welles' book. But since Rod Taylor was a time traveller, who's to say how it originally worked out?
I'm sorry if this review seems lacklustre and uninspired, but that kind of sums up World Without End. Not a bad film, not a good film, not a film particularly worth watching, unless you enjoy playing "Spot The Prop."