Public Domain Theater: Last Woman on Earth (& “You Can Beat the A-Bomb”)

Welcome to Public Domain Theater, your home for the wonderful world of films that have (in the United States, at least) fallen into the public domain, and are free for everyone to see!

You may remember that, some time back, I spotlighted a film called The Last Man on Earth, a classic sci-fi horror tale featuring Vincent Price vs. an army of vampires. Despite what the title may suggest, this month’s film is a not a sequel or spinoff or remake or reboot or re-anything of that film. But in many ways, the two films are like siblings. They have a similar vibe, a similar style, and a similar focus on how, of all the dangers that can befall a survivor in the post-apocalypse, perhaps the greatest is needing to find a reason to keep surviving, day after day after day, when everyone else is gone.

There are differences, of course. While the Last Man on Earth spent a large chunk of the film truly alone before gaining a companion, our Last Woman on Earth makes it through the end of the world with two men: one her husband, the other their family lawyer. I should also mention, this film does not have hordes of shambling zombies vampires or any other such monster, but the simmering resentments, entitlements, and jealousies among our three survivors are more than enough to make survival a fraught experience, even without the world coming to an end.

Don’t come to this expecting a lot of thrills and action, but for a slow burn drama, where the devastation of the world brings all this trio’s dysfunctions to the surface, it’s a gripping little yarn.

But maybe that’s not how you like your apocalyptic tales. Maybe you want something more upbeat, something that says, “Sure, the world’s been blown up, but if we roll up our sleeves, we can have it good as new again by morning.” If that’s your cuppa, we have the lovely little only-in-the-50’s gem, “You Can Beat the A-Bomb”.

It’s an educational/propaganda short designed to convince viewers that atomic power is totally awesome, and all this worry about nuclear warfare dooming the world is just balderdash. With their handy list of do’s and do not’s for surviving an atomic blast, they make the prospect of an A-Bomb dropping on your town seem no more dangerous than a somewhat severe thunderstorm.

I considered posting the more famous short “Duck and Cover”, but for my money, the earnest, can-do attitude of “You Can Beat the A-Bomb” is by far the more hilarious of the two.

So, however it is you like your world to be destroyed, Public Domain Theater has you covered! And if by some chance you don’t want to hear about the destruction of humanity … well, we’ll try something else next month. Provided the world’s still alive then. /jinx

Opening Short:

Feature Presentation: