The Day the Earth Caught Fire

THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE. 1961

Director: Val Guest

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Gads this was dumb. The characters talk for what seemed like hours in this nothing-happens tale for which everything that might have been interesting occurs off screen.

Invisible Stupid Americans & Russians testing their A-bombs have triggered the end of the world but all it takes to stop the earth from careening into the sun is to set off even more A-bombs. Apart from the fact that nothing occurs on-screen of any conceivable interest, I could not get past the great stupidness of the "science" part of a science fiction story totally unaware that one volcanic eruption has more destructive power than a vast number of 1950s A-bombs, & neither one could ever shoot the earth out of its orbit. It was the kind of plot a twelve year old would-be science fiction writer would come up with.

And just having reporters sit around talking about what's going on, instead of showing anything, is no way to tell even a bad story. It's all played with deadly seriousness, but it comes off like some long-faced depressive obsessing about the cat killing birds.

The film has a couple nice decorative elements: The tinted opening before the regular black & white story begins as a long flashback was prettily done. The One Last Party throughout the streets of London, celebrating the end of the world, had a kind of kitschy power the majority of this poker-faced implausible turkey lacks.

It doubtless seemed a whole lot better when it was new, at a time when nuclear paranoia was at its highest, & even a preposterous story like this one was at least symbolically plausible. It hits several buttons that could've been quite scary in a world already primed for terror by such daily training as grade-schoolers taught to "duck & cover" by hiding under their desks in case of nuclear attack, a position as good as any in which to be vaporized. But the joke was that it wasn't really a movie but only a conversation about something bad happening, a jabbery show better suited to the radio.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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