Film fans have two post-apocalyptic dystopias to choose from at the moment, courtesy of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in cinemas, and The World’s End on DVD.
And, in recent years, we’ve been offered countless other trips to a ruined Earth, from The Road to How We Live Now, plus a dozen zombie movies, competing to be the most doom-laden. We have to go back to the Cold War to find such a bounteous selection of radioactive wastelands. The most magical of that period’s post-apocalyptic films was When The Wind Blows (1986), a gorgeously animated cartoon of Raymond Briggs’s graphic novel. John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft provide the voices of Jim and Hilda, two naive, mild-mannered pensioners who bustle about just before and after a nuclear strike. Warm, sweet, and utterly shattering, it may be even more powerful than Briggs’s book – and that’s saying something.
The Bed-Sitting Room (1969) presents another, more whimsical view of Britain after a “nuclear misunderstanding”. Richard Lester’s film version of a plotless play by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus bulges with Milliganesque surrealism and the cast is stuffed with comedy greats, including Marty Feldman, Arthur Lowe, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. The satire and pathos derive from the way the stiff-upper-lipped Brits soldier on as if nothing has happened. But the ashy slag heap they inhabit is genuinely disturbing.
Cheer yourself up with Zardoz (1974), John Boorman’s trippy and wonderfully awful splicing of The Prisoner and Planet of the Apes, featuring Sean Connery with a ponytail, a red mankini and thigh-high boots. It’s probably not what the studio had in mind from the director of Deliverance and the star of Goldfinger.