Friday, 8 May 2015

THE 27th DAY

d. William Asher (1957) 

'People hate because they fear, and they fear everything they don't understand, which is almost everything'.

Aliens abduct five people from as many different countries: an English woman, an American journalist, a German scientist, a Chinese refugee and a Russian Soldier. Aboard the mother ship, a rather suave alien spokesman tells his guests that his planet is dying and his people would quite like to move to Earth but, as they are a fair and peaceful people, an invasion is out of the question. He goes on to say that as humans seem pretty intent on destroying themselves, anyway, the aliens have come up with a plan. Each of the abductees is given a box that contains three capsules holding enough combined power to kill every human being on Earth quickly, quietly and cleanly without the destructive power of a nuclear war. The alien simply requests that if the people of Earth do decide to blow themselves to bits in the next 27 days, then could they please use the capsules rather than bombs to facilitate human extinction, as this will leave the planet intact so the aliens can move right in. After 27 days, the aliens will have to make other arrangements, perhaps look to rent some temporary accommodation.

Not blowing up the Earth for 27 days seems fairly straightforward, of course, even at the height of the Cold War, but the Aliens immediately up the ante by appearing on every TV in the world and giving out the names of the abductees and some tentative details of the incredible power that they now possess. There's nothing like a bit of extraterrestrial intervention to put mankind into a tail spin, of course, so everything goes mental: there are riots in Cornwall, panic in Los Angeles; the Chinese lady stabs herself, the German professor searches for a solution, the Brit and the Yank fall in love. The Russian soldier, poor devil, is almost tortured to death by his own evil communist overlords, so eager are they to find out the secret to killing every American. Damn Russians*. 

The ending has not one but two very gratifying twists, a more than satisfactory ending to an unusual and intriguing film about how fundamentally rubbish humans are - and how ultimately marvellous they can be once the get past all the bullshit.    

* In contrast, the US government are shown as a benign, supportive group of people who have only humanity's best interests at heart. Yeah, right.   

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