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Films set in London have showcased the city’s vibrant culture, beautiful landmarks, and witty, intelligent residents.
Other movies featuring London, however, have simply blown the place to smithereens — or drowned it, or set it aflame, or unleashed upon it relentless armies of zombies.
The destructive power of nuclear bombs frightened many of the worlds citizens during the 1950s and 1960s. On the positive side, however, nuclear fears did lead to exciting science-fiction pictures. In “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” shot, in part, on London’s streets — director Val Guest imagines what would happen if nuclear blasts shook the Earth free of its orbit and sent the poor planet careening towards the sun. Here, government officials decide that the only possible way to save the Earth is to detonate more nuclear bombs, in the hopes of reversing its course. During this disaster, London is evacuated, although near the end of the film, three of the main characters ride out the doomsday countdown inside one of the cities bars.
The movies conclusion is unclear: Viewers are left to surmise whether humanity has been saved or wiped out.
“Lifeforce,” a bizarre apocalyptic vision, was directed by Tobe Hooper of “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” fame. The crew of a British space shuttle discovers an alien spacecraft, one containing three human-like aliens in a suspended state. Eventually, scientists bring the extra-terrestrials to London, where they predictably awaken. And it turns out those beings are intergalactic vampires. Soon London is embroiled in a plague of vampirism: Martial law is declared, and much of the population is transformed into zombies.
This movie is notable, incidentally, for its gratuitous nudity and sex scenes.
London again must deal with a zombie outbreak in director Danny Boyle’s horror epic, which has become something of a modern classic. At the films outset, animal rights activists free laboratory chimpanzees. Unfortunately, those chimps carry viruses that turn humans to zombies. In a matter of four weeks — as the title indicates — the streets of London are largely destroyed and deserted, save for the occasional zombie out for a walk. Non-zombies, meanwhile, hide in Underground tunnels. Boyle’s vision of an abandoned London is eerie and gripping, perhaps because it invokes many people’s worst fears of what a full-scale invasion of the city during World War II might have wrought.
Director Rob Bowman’s “Reign of Fire” didn’t really catch fire at the global box office, despite sensational visual effects and convincing performances from Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey. The movie begins in 2010 London, where an Underground construction project awakens a nest of dragons in hibernation. Those dragons begin reproducing at staggering rates, and they wreak fire-breathing terror on the city. Ten years later, most humans are dead, while a small band of survivors has taken refuge inside a Northumberland castle.
As you can probably guess if you haven’t seen the film, London is entirely flooded in this disaster flick from director Tony Mitchell. Indeed, the storm surge that washes over London is so massive it covers much of Scotland as well. Like most pictures of this sort, “Flood” follows the exploits of a group of survivors. These hardy souls gather in the Underground and make their way to Trafalgar Square and eventual safety. The shots of the floodwater-besieged city, by the way, are quite realistic throughout.