Christopher Maclaine - The End:
The End certainly has a center: six stories of people on the last day of their lives. Most are about to commit suicide, or some metaphorical equivalent, but the mushroom cloud with which the film begins and ends reminds us that, as Maclaine’s voice intones on the sound track, we await “the grand suicide of the human race” — his conceit is that his characters have reached the end of their personal ropes the day before a nuclear holocaust.Throughout the film he compares the dehumanizing effects of mass culture to the dehumanizing effects of personal despair, weaving these two threads together until the mannequins he films in store windows, the anonymous people he films on the street, and his characters all seem variations on the same half-living, half-dead persona. In this film Maclaine bridges the longtime split between socially or politically engaged film-making and more poetic, or self-referential, work; The End simply takes as a given that societal and personal sicknesses are inextricably intertwined. Partly a response to the homogenized, white-bread 50s, the film has plenty of black humor (a murderer recalls his mother telling him again and again, “They’ll hang you yet, Charles”), reminding me of the dark jokes we used to make in elementary school about how hiding under our desks was going to save us from the bomb.
Maclaine’s first story revolves around Walter, “our little friend,” who mooches off his pals until they dump him; like all the stories in The End, this one seems somewhat autobiographical. Shots of Walter running around San Francisco emphasize its hilly, spatially unsettling topography, a motif throughout the film. Years before Hitchcock took San Francisco’s verticality as a metaphor for inner turmoil in the great Vertigo, Maclaine made even more radical use of the city, tilting his camera to rotate a steep street into a vertical line, then going beyond it until it seems people and cars should topple off.
Excerpt from Fred Camper Mad Genius: The Films of Christopher Maclaine (The Chicago Reader)