Monday, 1 December 2014

This Is Not A Test (1962)

There are too many flaws with this film for me to go so far as to give it a recommendation - even a qualified one - but I kinda like it anyway.  It's a low budget "the bombs are coming" film that actually tries to treat the subject matter with some seriousness.

A deputy sheriff gets orders to set up a roadblock on a mountain road.  Initially, this is to search vehicles for a fugitive who is wanted for murder.  As he begins, however, another more grave announcement is made: a yellow alert, with a risk of imminent nuclear war.  As he explains to the passengers in the vehicles he's stopped, this means evacuations will be beginning in the cities, and he cannot let anyone move from their current position.

This is about the point where we discover that a hitchhiker in one of the vehicles is the fugitive mentioned earlier.  This fellow escapes the deputy's efforts to apprehend him, and spends the rest of the movie lurking nearby but not actually doing much.  The whole fugitive angle is one of the film's weaknesses.  As pretext which gets the deputy into place to set up the roadblock and bring the rest of the cast together, it's fine.  Having the fugitive actually be one of the people there, though, and then not doing anything with him, feels very odd.  It would have been better if he hadn't been there at all.  "I set up this roadblock for reason X, but now something much more important is happening" would have been sufficient.

The deputy decides that the group will attempt to turn one of the vehicles - a supply truck - into a makeshift bomb shelter, and sets everyone to work.  I guess it's a better option than a fridge, and long shot or not, it's the best option they have.

Or as it turns out, it's not: one of the drivers is a local and knows of an abandoned mine in the mountain, with a subterranean spring.  However, for some reason he decides not to tell anyone about this up front.  Even when he does finally bring it up, it's only to his granddaughter and a young man from the area.  Way to murder a bunch of people, guy.  The movie tries to paint this fellow as one of the more likable figures, too.  It makes for an odd and jarring development.

These issues, plus some acting that's pretty deep into 'not good' territory, undercut the film quite a bit, as do a couple of eye-rolly 'hysterical woman' segments.  This is a shame, because they distract from the mostly decent efforts to bring home the overwhelming nature of what is happening, and the sombre overall mood of the film.

With a few of the weaker cast members replaced, and a bit of script-doctoring, this would be within shouting distance of pretty good.  As is though, it has a few too many issues to recommend it.

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