The Last Days of Planet Earth

Lava Lamp
Our rating: one lava lamp.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Last Days of Planet Earth
"Turning Japanese, I think I'm turning
Japanese, I really think so!"
Nostradamus circa 1974.
Nostradamus was a 16th century French prophet who, if you believe what his boosters say, made predictions of amazing accuracy. Unfortunately, he made those predictions in the form of short, nonsensical poems that are, to say the least, up to interpretation. His believers claim he predicted the rise of Hitler, based on three poems that use the word "Hister." Hey, it's only one letter off. That is impressive, so long as you ignore the fact that Hister is the Latin name for the lower Danube river, and the three poems clearly use the word Hister to refer to a river, not a person.

Even Nostradamus didn't seem to be impressed with his own powers, as he quit the prophecy biz after a few years to become a perfume manufacturer. However, his alleged abilities continue to captivate generations long after his death, and are the inspiration behind the Japanese film The Last Days of Planet Earth.. Maybe if he had seen this coming, he might have kept his big yap shut.

Of course no prophet worth his salt goes without predicting disasters and ultimately, the end of the world. It is with this subject that Last Days concerns itself. But first there's a long narrated prologue that tells us how great Nostradamus was. Nostradamus even appears on screen briefly, revealing him to be a Japanese guy, who used books that opened from left to right (as they traditionally do in Japan) and occasionally wrote in English. We are then introduced to our main character, Dr. Nishiyama (Tetsuro Tamba). His first line is "Sometimes I wonder if they have human brains." Hoo-boy, this one is going to hurt.

Last Days of Planet Earth
The electrifying Dr. Nishiyama.
Dr. Nishiyama is a sort of international wet blanket. All he does is yammer on about the dangers of industrialization, overpopulation and pollution to anyone who will listen -- and then he complains extensively about the fact that no one listens to him.

The Last Days of Planet Earth takes place in the future (it was also known as Catastrophe: 1999*), but it still looks like 1974. Things have gotten so bad by whenever it is the movie takes place that the signs of the apocalypse, as put forth by Nostradamus, are now clear. The first sign is the appearance of giant slugs in Japan. Dr. Nishiyama, his daughter Mariko, and her photographer boyfriend all rush off to see the giant gastropods. But lo and behold, the Japanese army has decided to destroy the slugs with flamethrowers. Nishiyama realizes that the Japanese government is going to cover up all the bad stuff that's happening.

What other kind of bad stuff is happening? Well, we have snow on the Great Pyramids, melting polar caps, Japanese school kids developing superpowers right out of an episode of Wonder Woman, and a Super Sonic Transport exploding over New Zealand. This last disaster leads to some wonderfully upbeat scenes where a UN discovery team in the New Zealand jungle is attacked by giant bats and radiation scarred cannibals.

Last Days of Planet Earth
"Our hearts will go on!"
The band Kiss sails away.
Even goofier than the huge earth changes around the world are the social disasters depicted in Japan, which demonstrate the bizarre (at least by Western standards) political leanings of the people who made this film. Okay, the main characters keep coming out against pollution, industrialization, and capitalism in general. So you would think that makes them liberals, right? Apparently not, because the film goes to great lengths to show young people and hippies as ineffectual, incompetetent, and incapable of coping. There's a scene where a normal family is trying to eat lunch in a park, but are obviously being bothered by the hippies inconsiderately dancing around them. Yes, apparently Nostradamus predicted that hippies would bother squares trying to eat lunch in a park in 1999. Man, that guy was amazing!

But wait, there's more. There's a scene that portrays young people riding their mototrcycles off a cliff. Apparently the studio could only get two stuntmen to actually do it, because it's the same two guys driving off the cliff over and over again, wearing different clothes each time. Then there's the "regatta of death," where young people dress up in bizzare, colorful kimonos and paint their faces black and white and sail small boats out into the open sea in order to commit suicide. We guess this was supposed to be poignant or something, but the participants all look like rejected sidekicks for Bozo the Clown. These suicide rituals are supposedly the hippies' attempts to help thin out the population for the good of all humanity, but you know those Japanese hippies. They just can't do anything without making a show or singing a song.

Last Days of Planet Earth
"I knew I should have taken that
left turn at Albuquerque!"
The final social breakdown occurs when food is rationed. Pretty soon the Japanese citizenry are rioting and raiding the government food stores. The shots of people rioting are intercut with shots of an empty train station. We assume that this signifies the ultimate decline of civilization: people are rioting in the streets instead of commuting to work!

The movie finally dissolves into an orgy of stock footage, as World War III breaks out, volcanoes explode, and cities are wiped away by floods. Finally the big ones fly (footage culled from earlier Japanese films) and we are treated to the sight of nuclear armageddon. In the aftermath, two horribly mutated survivors fight over a worm...

..."And that's what might happen!" Huh? Suddenly we're back to Dr. Nishiyama, once again talking to people who don't want to be listening to him. At some point the movie became a "this could happen" story, though exactly where the transition was made isn't clear. That may be because the US version of the film was cut by as much as eighteen minutes. Whatever the case, this development really undercuts the film's drama. Finally, we're told that Nostradamus actually predicted that we can change the future by our actions. Wait a minute, isn't that totally contrary to the whole concept of a prophecy? If we can change the future, who cares what's been foretold? Needless to say, the real Nostradamus never displayed the enviromental tendencies this film posits he had.

Last Days of Planet Earth
If this doesn't turn you into an
enviromentalist, nothing will.
Last Days ends with a montage of footage to illustrate how we should live. Good stuff (babies, trees, baseball) is intercut with bad stuff (stock footage of wars, riots, floods) to create an effect slightly less subtle than being beaten over the head with a rusty aluminum baseball bat.

All the way through, this is an unpleasant and nearly unwatchable film. Dr. Nishiyama is unlikable because he's so damn preachy, and the rest of the characters aren't much better. While the film's anti-pollution message is somewhat laudable, the science we are shown is all fictional, and assumes that new technology to deal with pollution is impossible to invent. The worst insult is that the film keeps invoking the name of Nostradamus and telling us how great he was without once relating events about which he actually wrote.

Our prediction? You will not enjoy The Last Days of Planet Earth. But then, we guess you're not supposed to.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 8/11/99

This review is © copyright 1999 Chris Holland & Scott Hamilton. Blah blah blah. Please don't claim that it's yours blah blah, but feel free to e-mail it to friends, or better yet, send them the URL. To reproduce this review in another form, please contact us at Blah blah blah blah.

































* 1999 was chosen because of the poem known as century X, quartrain 72. It predicts that the beginning of the end, in the form of "The King of Terror," will arrive in July of 1999. Given that we are writing this in August of 1999, it is probably safe to assume that Nostradamus was wrong.Go back!