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The Day The Earth Caught Fire

4.2 out of 5 stars 117 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

When the United States and the Soviet Union simultaneously set off nuclear explosions, The London Daily Express begins to report on bizarre weather changes around the world. But when the reporters dig deeper, they discover that the blasts have knocked Earth off its axis and sent it hurtling towards the sun. Now, as scorching heat and devastating floods plague the planet, cities explode in chaos and mankind is left with one last hope: A final massive detonation that will either re-balance Earth's orbit or destroy our world forever. Produced, directed and co-written by Val Guest (THE QUARTERMASS XPERIMENT), this British classic is legendary for its brilliant dialogue, chilling realism and one of the most provocative endings in sci-fi history. THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE has now been completely remastered from original vault materials, including the restoration of its stunning tinted sequences not seen since the movie's original theatrical release 50 years ago,

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Despite its melodramatic title, which carried on a '50s doomsday naming convention, this taut 1961 English science fiction thriller offers an object lesson in the power of story over special effects. When both the Soviets and the West detonate nuclear tests simultaneously, the seismic double whammy jolts the earth off its axis and onto a new orbit sending it fatally closer to the sun--a fate that writer-director-producer Val Guest views from the street-level perspective of its principal characters, rather than an off-world vantage point. The street in question, however, is London's Fleet Street, the venerable hub of its newspaper and tabloid publishers, and the hard-nosed reporters growing realization that their number is up carries its own stark punch. Edward Judd is Peter Stenning, a rugged, appropriately grim reporter, Leo McKern is tough but compassionate editor Bill Maguire, and Janet Munro is Stenning's love interest, in an elfin, sexy turn that's a striking contrast to her best-known turn in Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People. With an effects arsenal that consists largely of a spray bottle to apply beads of "sweat," Guest and his small but crack cast are surprisingly effective, and the cold war plot hook still works, thanks to its uncomfortable proximity to more contemporary environmental terrors. --Sam Sutherland

Special Features

  • TV spots
  • Radio spots
  • Still gallery
  • Val Guest Bio

Product Details

  • Actors: Janet Munro, Leo McKern, Edward Judd
  • Directors: Val Guest
  • Writers: Val Guest, Wolf Mankowitz
  • Producers: Val Guest
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • DVD Release Date: March 8, 2012
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000059PPL
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,630 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Day The Earth Caught Fire" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven W. Hill on June 9, 2001
Format: DVD
"The Day the Earth Caught Fire" (1961) is one of my most eagerly awaited DVDs ever - a terrific, thoughtful and all-around superb movie (winner of the 1961 BAFTA for best screenplay) which has only been available on mediocre pan & scan VHS in the past.
And now the DVD is out... I AM IN HEAVEN! The picture quality is stunning, no exaggeration, and the original tints have been restored to different segments of the black-and-white film. Anamorphic widescreen at about 2.33:1. The photo section is surprisingly extensive, lots of good publicity stills, although I was surprised to see a bit of nudity in a few of them (parents be cautioned if necessary). The disc contains tv and radio spots, a Val Guest biography, theatrical trailer and a commentary from Val Guest and journalist Ted Newsom (which I haven't had time to sample yet). A nice brief essay is inside the 4-page booklet and there's a reproduction of the movie's one-sheet poster too.
Don't hesitate to buy this one, even if you've never seen the movie before. To quote a bit from the back cover:
"When the United States and the Soviet Union simultaneously set off nuclear explosions, the London Daily Express begins to report on bizarre weather changes around the world. But when the reporters dig deeper, they discover that the blasts have knocked Earth off its axis and sent it hurtling towards the sun."
As sensationalistic as that sounds, the concept is handled very realistically. Edward Judd is outstanding in the lead role, supported nicely by Janet Munro and Leo McKern.
This movie is one of the world's overlooked gems. You won't regret buying it!
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1962) has impressive credentials, given that it was co-written and directed by Val Guest, the man who brought to the screen such classic films as The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and The Abominable Snowman (1957).
Peter Stenning (Edward Judd) is a down on his luck newspaper man, struggling with the difficulties of his recent divorce, maintaining a relationship with his young son, and taking up the drink a bit more often than he probably should, all having a negative effect on his once upwardly mobile career and his life in general. To top things off, London begins suffering a heat wave like it's rarely seen before. Not only that, but it seems all around the world strange phenomena has been occurring from flooding, earthquakes, drought, freak snowstorms, typhoons, etc. All coming on the heels of news that within the past week the Soviets and the Americans both detonated atomic devices larger than had ever been seen before.
Leo McKern plays Bill Maguire, an associate and close friend at the newspaper where Peter works, and begins to develop a theory about what's going on, but is not able to confirm anything as the government has kept a tight lid on what it knows, handing out canned responses to an ever questioning press and public. Peter, while trying to squeeze some information out of a government office, meets Jeannie Craig (Janet Munro), a worker within the office who sometimes operates the switchboard receiving calls. Peter starts putting the moves on her, but she isn't very responsive...at first.
Soon the temperature starts rising, lakes and rivers start drying up, and government enforced water rationing measures are put into effect.
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Format: DVD
..that has taken way too long to become available on the market.
I originally saw this in a revival theatre some 10 years ago and was literally blown away by the exceptional quality in almost all aspects of the production. It's one of the great sf films of its era, a sadly neglected hammer production that has solid acting, smart and sassy dialogue, and startlingly good special effects. It works not as campy fun (as is the case with most sf movies) but as a solid dramatic effort - rather like the Quatermass films even if it is quite different in approach. All in all, a balanced and exciting mix that entertains you from the beginning to the end, and continues to show it's intelligence in the effective conclusion. First rate.
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Format: DVD
This is probably the most well done of all 50's sci-fi. Although it was not actually made until 1961, it was convceived by Val Guest in 1954 before both his Quatermass Experiment and Q2 excursions which are also classics in their own right. Val said he had to fight to get it shot in black and white which was a fabulous decision on his part.

I won't bother with plot but will say that the 2:35 ratio is used to is best advantage throughout and the dialogue is crisp and fast in the style of Howard Hawks 'The Thing from Another World'.

The film still holds up very well and does not seem as dated as other sci-fi excursions of the 50's. Seems modern in that this is the only 50's sci-fi I remember to include the phrase 'son of a b*%$@' and a nude shot (of the lovely Munro shot tastefully off a mirror). Also it's the only sci-fi I remember that does not cast a sheriff, military personnel or a scientist as a main character - just the alcoholic journalist which works very well.

Best line - "The human race has been poisoning itself for years with a huge smile on it's big fat face."

I guess some things will never change. Also includes a commentary with Val Guest himself and a still gallery along with the expected trailers. Don't overlook this lesser known classic, it really is one of the best!!
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