The Day The Earth Caught Fire
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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
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Here is the whole plot: Earth may or may not be about to be destroyed due to nuclear bomb testing. Oopsie.
The plot is not the centerpiece, of course. They do the necessary techno-mumble-jumbo, enough to make everything seem at least remotely possible, As with all sci-fi, that's just the backdrop.
The "Kobayashi Maru" (and, yes, I am sure I have spelled it wrong) is from Star Trek: a test in which defeat is certain, and what is being tested is character. Character (of the human race) is what this flick is about: how will humanity react to seeing that it's final days are just around the corner (maybe)? Calm and orderly lining up to try to do the best we can to survive as long as possible? Riots? (Etc., etc.)
* BIG time spoiler alert *
In the end, we do not know if the world is going to be destroyed or not -- but we do not need to know. The reaction of the public may seem very realistic to the viewer or might seem way out of typical human reaction -- but that's what this movie is about: posing the question, not the answer. IF we were approaching what might be our final days -- what do we think people will do? (And what would we do?)
Every day might be our last, and every day is a test of character, so the movie could be taken as symbolizing a single day in a person's life -- or we could just accept it as a b-movie without any real ending. So, for what this movie is...
Pros: It raises a significant question about the human race for the viewer to consider, and the scientific mumbo-jumbo is well-enough researched to sound plausible. By not presenting the answers to the question of character (or to whether the world is saved in the end), it avoids being preachy.
Cons: Well, that thing about not telling us how people react (other than a few scenes) and whether or not the world is saved in the end -- that kind of feels like there is not an ending. Kind of realistic, but we're used to seeing a more explicit ending from Hollywood, so it feels like we got ripped off. As in, "What? Wait, did they run over budget just before shooting the end of this movie?!? What happened? No, don't roll credits, did they live? Or did everybody die? Stop rolling credits, finish the movie! Argh." Yeah, that kind of frustration.
Recommended for fans of utopian and dystopian (or annihilist/apocalyptic) fiction and film. The End comes Nigh and governments fall silent as they plan how to save the world from what they just did. Also recommended to those who are opposed to nuclear weapons.
Swiss Family Robinson roles. There are adult situations, but the "nudity" that might have been racey back then is pretty tame even by today's daytime soap opera standards. Some of the societal breakdown scenes are suggestive, but are also tame by today's standards. The violence is tame and not nightmare imagery.
This is serious adult drama, although plot would have to be different today to be credible. With today's internet communication and numerous amateur astronomers and climatologists, the "news" would have been figured out in days, not weeks, so, to some extent,this can be viewed as a period piece, an example of what press and government behavior was expected to be at that time.
Adults and even serious young teen scifi fans should have this in their collection, but for lighter fun the whole family can enjoy, check out World Without End.