THE PETRIFIED FOREST meets . . . THE ATOMIC BOMB!! No joke, that’s the deal in this Dick Powell directed hostage drama, his first megging. Stephen McNally finds a few unexpected nooks & crannies playing a vicious escaped killer who holes up in an old, deserted town right next to Ground Zero in tomorrow’s nuclear test. Yikes! He’s got two prison pals in tow, one with a bullet in his gut, and a gaggle of hostages he’s picked up on the way: including Reno-bound Alexis Smith, newsman Keith Andes, old prospector Arthur Hunnicutt, plus Jan Sterling’s drifter of easy virtue & Richard Egan, arriving late as Smith’s estranged husband, both in standout perfs. It all looks & plays a bit like '50s 'Golden Age' Television, though not in a bad way, and when the bomb hits, appears to incorporate some actuality footage seen in various documentaries about early nuclear tests. (A pre-fabricated ‘ghost’ town gets it.) The times were a’changin’ then and the script seems blissfully unaware of the extent of nuclear Fall-Out.* Radio announcements suggest locals go to their roofs to see the FLASH from the device. Yikes!
DOUBLE-BILL/ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: *Nuclear Fall-Out indeed! Powell’s next as director, THE CONQUEROR/’56, was shot infamously close to a real-life nuclear testing zone and is now often cited in the long-term cancer prognoses for each of it’s four top-billed stars: John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Pedro Armendáriz & Agnes Moorehead.