It was made into a movie in 1959, featuring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins. It was directed by Stanley Kramer, who won the 1960 BAFTA Award for best director. Ernest Gold won the 1960 Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Score.
The novel is set some time after World War III has devastated the northern hemisphere, polluting the atmosphere with nuclear fallout, which is gradually being carried south by the global air currents. The only parts of the planet still habitable is the far south of the globe, specifically Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and the southern parts of South America. Much of the novel's action takes place in Melbourne, as the southernmost part of the Australian mainland.