A carefree young couple plan to marry and live happily ever after. Everything is sunshine and rainbows with no obstacles in their way but, in the end, their big day is rather spoilt by the outbreak of World War 3.
Obviously, the late 1950s were a time of serious global paranoia. It was little more than a decade since the use of atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the escalating cold war between the U.S. and Russia was never far from the headlines. In this environment it’s little surprise that filmmakers turned to the possibility of nuclear conflict. In fact, a very similar film came out of Japan barely a year later. ‘The Last War’ (1961) also focused on a happy young couple planning to marry amid escalating world tensions and the threat of Armageddon.
This entry is from Yugoslavia and our groom is John Johnson (Anton Vrodljak), a fresh-faced optimist, who is drafted into the local army before he can tie the knot. Even after his bride-to-be’s feeble cousin dies in training, he remains ridiculously trusting in the authorities to sort it all out. Even when they decide to use tactical nukes against their far off opposition. Even with the introduction of martial law and firing squads on the streets. This naivety is deliberate, of course, all the better to contrast with the horrors to come. But it’s not exactly realistic, and generally points are made with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
But the scenes of devastation are impressive and probably filmed in ruins still unclaimed since the ravages of World War 2. Scenes of soldiers handing out rain ponchos as protection from radiation are quite chilling, and reminiscent of those ridiculous ‘Protect and Survive’ Public Information Films that were screened on UK TV in the 1970s. In the event of a nuclear blast, you were supposed to lie down and close your eyes if I recall correctly.
Subtle this film is not, but it’s still crudely effective and, if the human drama seems a little forced and unreal at times, then the situation does not.