The Bubble (Arch Oboler / U.S., 1966):
(The Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth; The Zoo)

The beginning of the end is a bubble that congeals rather than pops, cheerless carnival rides and vacant backlots comprise the ominous architecture. ("Welcome to Disneyland," exclaims the doomed hepcat.) Light poles and yellow taxi cabs and western saloons pass by in quick succession for a curious arrangement of emblems, a small plane carrying the expectant young couple (Michael Cole, Deborah Valley) through a rainstorm establishes it as a parenthood fantasy, and the tale is only getting started. The town they land in is in the Serling mold, with Lincoln effigies left amid crumbling Roman columns and dwellers repeating catatonic lines and gestures like jammed animatronics. With newborn in tow, the visitors try to escape until they run smack into the glossy barrier surrounding the human terrarium. Sinister forces contemplate this dome, periodically an engulfing shadow roars overhead (Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly), the distorted sun up above might as well be a collector’s beady peeper. "When hasn’t there ever been some kind of eye watching over me?" Hedonistic tourism for the grounded flyer (Johnny Desmond) and darkening philosophy for the couple adrift, that’s the human condition under the glass in Arch Oboler’s recondite allegory. The façades pointedly include a tiny theater still advertising kiddie matinees, hence the continuous sense of amazement in stereoscopic compositions, a juvenile gimmick becomes the human hand literally reaching out in the face of annihilation. "Stop tearing yourself apart over a world that doesn’t exist anymore. Be grateful for this one." Ulmer and Corman pave the road, Calder’s mobiles and Resnais’ beanbag pod are visible, a downpour and an exodus clinch the celestial intimations. With Kassie McMahon, Barbara Eiler, and Virginia Gregg.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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