My mum has always been a massive Charlton Heston fan (okay, bear with me). Many a childhood Saturday tea-time is synonymous with chips and egg on a tray watching Big Chuck on the telly.
For those of you too young to know who I mean, Chuck had the squarest jaw and the broadest chest on the planet. He didn’t half look ‘epic’ in a loin cloth, a robe, even a biblical beard. When he wasn’t playing Moses or Ben Hur or Spanish princes he was the lord of the Saturday Sci- Fi apocalypse.
My mum was the one who introduced me the mega movie events that were Planet of the Apes (adapted from Pierre Boulle’s Monkey Planet), Soylent Green (based on Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! Thanks for that mum, I still can’t listen to Beethoven’s Pastoral without thinking of the rubbish trucks full of corpses!) and The Omega Man (from Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend).
There was something about watching Big Chuck in The Omega Man, wandering round a deserted LA beset by vampires with sunglasses, that just didn’t seem so bad – I was just a kid, not thinking of the impending lack of loo roll or the looming fish finger and Monster Munch shortage so it seemed really rather okay to have all the shops to yourselves, free clothes and the pick of the nice apartments.
Likewise, for the other movies. So what if there were chronic food shortages, Orang-utans in government and awful 70s music? There were no kids to bully you because you rode a crap girl’s bike with a Unicorn stenciled on it and wore catalogue-bought white trainers….If you were Chuck, you were invincible (well, almost, until the end) but before that you had a chance to be a hero, bash vampires/monkeys/cannibals, obliterate all the rubbish like homework and ropey Bros records, and start over.
Be it vampires, ecological disaster, zombies, pandemics, nuclear war or just too many goddamn people having babies, a little bit of the end of the world doesn’t hurt you. Why? Because we all wonder which side we’ll fall on when the Big One hits – will we be heroes or villains, leaders of the new world order in shining apartment blocks or green snack biscuits?
I think I’d like to be the one with the gun in the reinforced compound.
Don’t believe a little bit of the apocalypse can be fun? Here are my completely arbitrary suggestions to get you started.
Winter’s coming, read the book or watch the film – it’s the perfect time to cuddle up with death, destruction and Chuck!
The films of the books
I Am Legend – Richard Matheson’s study of loneliness and science gone wrong was ‘reimagined’ three times, first with Vincent Price in The Last Man on Earth, then by Chuck in a tan safari suit in The Omega Man and then by Will Smith delivering a poignant performance while doing shirtless chin-ups.
Soylent Green – Chuck: ‘AAarrgggh ! Soylent Green is ….’
The Road – Cormac McCarthy. Definitely not a date movie. Relentless, bleak and utterly compelling, with a bit in a cellar that will haunt you for years.
Blindness – Jose Saramago. People start losing their sight. The ‘sick’ are segregated and abandoned. Literal and moral darkness ensues.
The Death of Grass – John Christopher. All the wheat and grass die, people starve, stiff upper lips tremble. Everyone goes feral in London and the Home Counties. It’s just not cricket!
Riddley Walker – Russell Hoban. Years after a nuclear war Riddley searches for meaning in a forsaken England. Even the language is post-apocalyptic, but stick with it -it’ll change the way you think about God, science and history.
On The Beach – Nevil Shute. The great powers have blown themselves up. But you’re in Australia. The radiation is coming any day now, so you’re waiting, and drinking booze, and trying to have sex and looking after the garden, but mostly waiting… (okay pedants, it was a movie with Gregory Peck – but a very old movie)
The book that’s just bound to be a film
The Passage – Justin Cronin. Vampire apocalypse! Tool up and practice your kick boxing.
28 days later – A Danny Boyle pre-Olympic classic. The rage virus sweeps the nation and Jim and friends go north to avoid the blood spitting zombies. They’ll be safe with the soldiers won’t they …??
Sean of the Dead – Simon Pegg’s moment of un-dead genius. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, you’ll want to go to The Winchester for a pint.
Bet I missed one. Doooo tell…the fate of the world may one day depend on it. Leave a comment or tell me on Twitter!
Coming soon – you think Britain is broken? Try my starter for ten in Dystopian fiction ( No, smartypants. It’s not the same as post-apocalyptic…and I’ll tell you why soon, if we live that long…)