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
- TV spots
- Radio spots
- Still gallery
- Val Guest Bio
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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.
Commentary by Val Guest and Ted Newsom and other extras. The DVD is a must for sci-fi fans.
It's amazing how well "The Day the Earth Caught Fire" depicts not only the climate changes that we all are now experiencing, but also the scientific predictions of how they will get far worse in the future. Droughts, floods, unprecedented heat, torrential downpours, fog, blizzards, cyclones, uncontrollable fires--it is remarkable that this film accurately shows virtually all the anticipated effects of climate change, 50 years before it became a reality to all but the most head-in-the-sand ideologues. It is even more noteworthy that it does so in excellent dramatic fashion, with well-defined characters with whom the viewer can relate as they struggle to carry on their lives in the face of unprecedented natural disasters. The story of a small group of London newspaper reporters trying to ferret out the truth from an obstructive British government as the crisis intensifies is fast-paced, realistic and engaging. Add a literate script, gritty locations and excellent special effects, such as matte paintings of a dessicated Thames riverbed with grounded ships and the well-done creepy condensation fog, and you end up with one of the finest British science fiction films ever made.
Presented in wide-screen (2.35:1) format, the black-and-white photography is crisp, sharp and contrasty, and the red-tinted segments at the beginning and end add the appropriate eerie touches. Worthwhile extra features include audio commentaries by Director Val Guest and journalist Ted Newsom, trailers, TV and radio ad spots and a still photo gallery, with a couple of semi-nude shots of Janet Munro that didn't make it into the film. My ONLY complaint is with the sound. I had to turn my TV set volume all the way up, and even then the sound was pretty low. Couple that with rapid-fire Queen's English dialogue, with more than one character often speaking at the same time, and you'll understand why I finally gave up trying to understand every word. Usually subtitles help in such situations, but none are available.
"The Day the Earth Caught Fire" deserves to be resurrected for new viewing audiences now that its message is far more topical. It is an important, brutally honest film that should scare everyone who sees it in light of what we know about climate change today. If you deny the reality of human-caused climate change, you especially need to watch it. Then pose to yourself just one simple question: "What if I'm wrong?"