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On the Beach
On the Beach
Actors: Armand Assante, Rachel Ward, Bryan Brown, Mark Pennell
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Genres: Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television
NR     2005     3hr 29min

Studio: Platinum Disc Llc Release Date: 01/31/2006 Run time: 209 minutes


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Movie Details

Actors: Armand Assante, Rachel Ward, Bryan Brown, Mark Pennell
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Genres: Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television
Sub-Genres: Drama, Science Fiction, Television
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 03/01/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 3hr 29min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 14
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Kendra M. (KendraM) from NASHVILLE, TN
Reviewed on 1/13/2008...
I read Nevil Shute's book several years ago and thought it amazing. Recently, when culling some books from my bookshelves, I re-read it once again one afternoon. When I read the book the first time, I didn't even know of this classic film. However, I had learned of it since I reading the book the last time, so I ordered this film and, of course, the classic with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner.

The cast here was wonderful. The only exception to this was Armand Assante's performance here. I used to think Assante was superb- an underrated wonderful actor I didn't get to see too much. Here, though, he sounded an awful lot like Rocky Balboa. I guess that's okay-- I mean, there are Submarine Commanders that can sound like Rocky Balboa but, sometimes, it was off-putting. Other than that, he was good and still very likable.

Rachel Ward's performance was good. I think her character was probably the most difficult to play (as was Ava Gardner's in the first movie). Her character had to be brash, wild, remorseful, drunk, sad, smart, lonely, and regretful while still remaining empathetic. She did succeed but, like Ava Gardner before her, I found myself critiquing her performance rather than getting completely lost in the movie. Still, she did do a very good job and never went over the edge into parody (which could have been easy to do).

The young Australian couple (Mark Pennell and a young woman whose name escapes me) were perfect. They played their roles with remarkable depth and were probably the best of the bunch.

The story is truly staggering. Taking place in Australia, the citizens are the last known society waiting for imminent death by radioactive fallout which is slowly moving across the earth. Everyone else is dead and they, too, will be dead soon. This film is about how this small group of people spend their last months.

(Shute's book is not perfectly written. I remember he calls the baby "it" so many times it was a bit disturbing. Parents don't refer to the baby as "it" too many times after he or she is born! However, certain characters and the story itself are so memorable, despite the book's flaws, that it is a must-read.)

This movie is wholeheartedly recommended. Especially if you are sharing it with your (older) children, I think they'd be more interested in this version than the older one. There are little changes from the book to the movie that seem to work here but were truly astounding in the book. The most important change, I think, is how Captain Towers dealt with his family's believed demise. In the book, Towers spoke of them as if they were still alive-- so horrid was the consideration of anything else. Moira, towards the end, found purpose in helping him perpetuate this belief and found the purpose she was looking for in doing this. Here, though, Captain Towers deals with it a bit more realistically. The choice the filmmakers made here was the weaker choice, in my opinion.

They did make some good choices, too, though- a lot of them. In this film, we see the cast members getting sick (with the notable exception of Assante's and Ward's characters-- they still look like movie stars). And, it works here. It's not so we get disgusted. It works on a human level-- not as a special effects "gross out". We are supposed to be appalled at what radiation can do and we are. Additionally, we see more city scenes-- how the city is changing over the last few months-- we see a quite civilized society change as the end nears. This definitely makes what's happening more believable.

Some people may take issue with the major ending change for Captain Towers and Moira. I do, too, I guess. But, I do think this ending is more believable than the book's ending and is a teeny bit of brightness in an otherwise totally horrific situation.

I wound up watching both this movie and the original within the same two weeks. Honestly, this film was better with the exception of Armand Assante's performance (which was good, but not of Peck's caliber.). Both are worth seeing. If you can take two stories about Armageddon, order both these films.
4 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

On The Beach: A Brilliant Tele-Movie
Petar Vodogaz | Sydney, NSW Australia | 05/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have watched On The Beach 6 times and have ended up tearing up at the end each time. The movie which was initially created as a 3.5 TV Mini-Series and was nominated for Golden Globe - which would have been well deserved - is a joint Australian and American production that has all the good and bad parts of what makes us human in the movie. This movie is the best movie I have watched to date. I first watched 'On The Beach' on Australian television with my mum and step-dad and this movie touched me in a way no other movie has ever. Everything about this movie is brilliant. It's a movie that doesn't have a happy ending and a movie that makes the viewer think. The integral message and the theme of the movie is anti nuclear and poses many interesting self requesting questions like "How would I react to this situation or "What would I do if I knew I had a short period of life left?"

Bryan Brown who plays Julian Osborne a scientist is a great Australian actor who is well established and has great acting skill and polishes off this performance with pure excellence. His acting is superb.

Rachel Ward another great Australian actress plays Moira Davidson and is a show stealer...she has such a aplomb on the screen and her character goes through so many changes and emotions through the movie.

But my favourite character is Commander Dwight Towers who is played by Armand Assante who is such an accomplished actor and plays the role of the head actor with so much emotion. Two other Australian actors also have big roles in the movie and are secondary characters to the three mentioned. All up through and through, the acting is excellent and the casting has been well picked.

The movie is long and to completely and fully tell the story of a world winding down and a civilization falling apart as well as tell the stories of each character and their interactions together and to the situation on hand the length of the movie was warranted.

'On The Beach' is adapted from Neville Shute's novel and is directed to the screen by Russel Mulcahy. My word of advice for any reader who will watch this movie is to have a box of tissues for the ending is a tear jerker.

This movie portrays the ending of humanity after China and the USA go to war and the war turns into a full nuclear exchange. There is alot of course language. The soundtrack within this movie is has great as the actual movie.

If I could I would give the movie 10/10."
"Powerful" isn't the word for it
a writer/reader/listener | 07/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Nevil Shute's On the Beach is the most haunting, terrifying, and depressing Cold War-era post-apocalyptic tale ever told, and with the 2000 production it has now been successfully translated to the screen not once, but twice. Both of the film versions retain the wrenching impact of the novel, and in many ways the new 2000 version does this better than either of the earlier efforts. **SPOILERS FOLLOW** For one thing, the longer, miniseries-style treatment lets the production develop the characters more fully than did the first film, especially their attachments to one another, so that when these attachments are inexorably ripped apart by the radioactivity, the viewer feels it all the more keenly. The final scene involving the Holmes family, superbly acted (to the point that, frankly, made me concerned for the mental welfare of the child actress), is nothing short of devastating. Even though I knew the story well from reading (and rereading) the novel and seeing the earlier film, this scene caught me unprepared for its sheer force and gave me a couple of sleepless nights. Another key to the newer film's effectiveness is the relative lack of squeamishness of the modern viewer, which allowed the producers to incorporate more of the grisly details of radiation sickness into the film's imagery. One of the new movie's most poignant scenes takes place when we see, through Julian Osborne's eyes, a queue of people waiting to receive their cyanide pills, and we catch a fleeting glimpse of a forlorn and pretty young woman as she vomits. The expression of shame and hopelessness on her face is priceless and (I'll use the word once again) wrenching. Still another element is the change to San Francisco; while the earlier versions have the city essentially undamaged (except by radiation), this version presents it as having taken a direct nuclear hit. The submarine crew's exclamations of horror-mingled despair as it sees a real-time through-the-periscope video of the collapsed Golden Gate Bridge and the ruins of the city is one of the most important moments in a carefully-choreographed downward spiral. The production is good at giving hope and then slowly stealing it away, and the San Francisco viewing, along with the sudden reading of 150 rads off Anchorage (again, linked with the crew's explosive response) are the film's major turning points in this regard. The "prayer scene" near the end of the film shows sailors who are no longer U.S. naval personnel but walking ghosts; it is if they (and by extension we) have transformed from viewers to participants in the terrible drama that they once saw only through the periscope. Eschewing "Waltzing Matilda" (the running theme fore the first film), the producers opted for a more contemplative score (punctuated with some sinister themes during the submarine voyage) that moves near the film's ending to a heavily religious/choral style that resembles a dirge for mankind (which was no doubt the intension).

The film does, of course, have its weaknesses. The biggest, for me, was Armand Assante's portrayal of Dwight Towers. Assante's Towers seems to be more of a cross between Rocky Balboa and a (stereo)typical Marine officer or senior noncom than a (stereo)typical naval officer. Perhaps the casting department was Australian and this was its idea of a (stereotypical) American nuclear warrior, but Assante's characterization just didn't ring right, especially compared to Gregory Peck's more equable portrayal (a word Shute uses to describe Towers more than once). Bryan Brown's Julian Osborne, too, is more harshly portrayed in this version than the earlier movie, and (I believe) the novel as well. On the other hand, Rachel Ward's portrayal of Moira Davidson is excellent, if perhaps a bit bitchier than the previous versions. Peter and Mary Holmes are likewise perfectly acted by Grant Bowler and Jacqueline McKenzie. McKenzie's almost waiflike Mary is exquisite; while watching her I found myself thinking that with her looks she would have made a perfect Elf in The Lord of the Rings.

The other weaknesses were relatively minor and even nitpicking. Towers is a four-striper, a captain in navy rank, but several people (including naval officers) refer to him repeatedly as Commander even while looking at his shoulder boards. The long-dead corpse in Anchorage blinks a few times. Finally, the ending (which does for Shute's novel what My Fair Lady did for Shaw's Pygmalion, if not a weakness, is a definite change. It seems to offer a faint hope that love is stronger than death, which softens the sheer brutality of the film's ending sequences. I myself welcomed that softening, but others might not.

All in all, this is probably the most profoundly disturbing film I've ever seen, including the previous version. It's also more disturbing even than the original novel. If you like an emotional tour de force this is it, but be prepared for what awaits you; this is not a film for the faint of heart.
Not really on the beach
Jason | Backwater, Alabama | 11/26/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)

"In this brutally long (the DVD I received was 3+ hours, not 109 minutes as listed) mockery of Nevil Shute's book, it's pretty clear the makers of the movie were being overly ambitious and motive-driven with their interpretation of a contemporary outlook. But first, the story...

The story is fairly simple. It's the end of the world, a catastrophic condition of post-nuclear war. The last people left alive are in the Southern hemisphere, specifically Australia and New Zealand. These people have the unfortunate knowledge of their impending doom, as radioactive fallout insidiously drifts towards them.

As for the interpretation, there was simply too much being force-fed into the script, especially when so much of the original intention of civility and purity in the face of danger was being capriciously ignored. The subtle messages of introspection are lost amidst the anti-military, anti-American messages permeating throughout - perhaps the influence of political correctness. I despise movies that take a book's name and then drastically deviate. Take a few liberties; just don't stomp on Nevil Shute's grave.

There are too many aspects of the movie that went astray, but for starters:
-The wrong people go ashore for the mystery signal mission. Originally it was one person, not two, and it surely wasn't the commander and his second-in-command. (What is this? Star Trek?)
-Peter and Mary Holmes' have a baby, not a toddler. (I guess it was too difficult to keep an infant quiet?)
-Osborne does not commit suicide on the race-track, nor does he resist the efforts of helping his country/mankind. (This was a forced attempt to make his character live up to the "wild" persona created for this movie for no other reason than to give Bryan Brown character focus.)

There are two worse travesties that make this movie abhorrent.

First, Dwight Towers is completely wrong. In the book he's well trained and loyal to the U.S. - death before dishonor. He is a composed, strict, by-the-book military leader. In fact, in the book he goes so far as to sink the sub in international waters, and drown himself in the process, just so it's not in another country's hands. This movie's interpretation, however, has Dwight as a temperamental, raging, high-strung lunatic struggling too much with his memories and hallucinations, having an emotional breakdown during the mission ashore. Not only that, but according to this contradiction, he contravenes direct orders and shows a complete lack of military discipline, which would never have happened.

The worst travesty of this movie, however, is the unnecessary love-triangle, and ridiculous relationship struggles between Cmdr. Dwight Towers (Assante), Moira (Ward), and Osborne (Brown). First of all, Moira is a completely drunken whore. Whereas in the book she actually comes to terms with her eventual death, realizing the errors of her past loose ways, in this version she remains bitter and slutty until the very end. Not only does she sleep with Osborne, but she also beds Dwight. This completely ruins the original intentions, losing the innocence of their relationship that can never be. Part of the book's message is about enjoying and understanding company during the last days without resorting to pure hedonism. Aside from that, there is absolutely no romantic chemistry between Dwight and Moira, or Osborne and Moira for that matter. (There may have been a tense, prison-like chemistry between Dwight and Osborne, however)

There are several other portions of this movie that are atrocious (i.e. mid-movie credits, ridiculous submarine dance scene), and the makers of the movie should feel ashamed at the hatchet-job rework they did with this literary masterpiece."