ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Entertainment and Media»
  • Movies & Movie Reviews

The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961) World Doomed!

Updated on August 31, 2016

Directed by Val Guest and released in 1961 The Day The Earth Caught Fire is a movie that examines the threat of atomic weapons and the effect that their testing may have upon our planet. Russian and American atomic explosions at the North and South Poles knock the Earth out of its orbit sending it careering towards the sun. Disruption follows, as the planet looks increasingly doomed and the temperature begins to rise.

In the offices of the Daily Express newspaper, London, a group of journalists attempt to keep the population informed. The reactions of these reporters represent a microcosm of the reactions of the world's population – horror, fear and hope.

As the Earth heats up they report on the changing climate - and the attempts by each of the world's powers to avert the crisis. Ironically, it is only with the detonation of four more atomic bombs that the Earth may have been saved from certain doom.

This represents the ambiguity of the movie; atomic weapons may have won the Second World War for the Allies, but their use has become a dangerous double-edged sword. This is best demonstrated by the famous scene in which two newspaper headlines are pictured side by side, one reading 'World Doomed', and the other 'World Saved'.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire does not rely on flashy special effects, though Les Bowie’s low-budget effects and use of matte paintings are surprisingly good, shots of the River Thames evaporating in the heat are particularly memorable. The film boasts a well-crafted script by Wolf Mankowitz and director Val Guest, illustrating an increasing sense of tension and futility as the end of the world nears. It is bleak but also cautionary and of importance.

In keeping with the rest of the movie, the performances of the actors are both engrossing and noteworthy. Edward Judd stars alongside Janet Munro and Leo McKern, and in one of his first roles, Michael Caine turns up uncredited as a police officer diverting traffic. He speaks one line. The former editor of the Daily Express Arthur Christiansen plays himself.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire has been filmed in a crisp, low-key, pseudo-documentary manner, with much of the action set in the offices of the Daily Express newspaper. It was made in black and white but in some prints the opening and closing scenes are tinted orange to suggest the planet heating up as it nears the sun.

The Critics Wrote -

"A smart slice of science fiction told through the eyes of Fleet Street journalists... genuinely frightening at the time." (Halliwell)

“Its premise is... so close to prevalent and widespread fears and worries that it is not so much science fiction as it is a dramatic and imaginative extension of the news... The movie achieves its impact because it was made not merely to entertain, but out of a sense of outrage.” (Hollis Alpert, Saturday Review).

“Bless the British anyway. They have succeeded in making the first witty movie about the end of the world. They have managed, further, to do it with taste... The story is spiced with some funny secondary characters, and laced with satire on the hypocrisies of governments.” (Newsweek)

“Guest’s direction is brisk and makes good use of newsreel sequences and special effects.” (Variety)

“Always sensational and sometimes silly, but it reminds the viewer perhaps salutarily, that with a little nuclear encouragement this really could be a cock- eyed world.” (Time)

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Steve Lensman profile image
      Author

      Steve Lensman 7 years ago from London, England

      Thanks. One of the things I like when writing about these lesser known films is getting people to revisit them or interested enough to watch them for the first time. Putting this hub together got me in the mood to watch the film again and I watched it later that night. 50 years later and no remake? tut tut. ;)

    • Cogerson profile image

      UltimateMovieRankings 7 years ago from Virginia

      Very nice....I saw this movie years ago.....your review has me thinking I should re-watch this classic sci-fi film.....wow you have been busy Steve...I figured all Londoners would be tied up with the royal wedding....I agree with Docmo.....I like the posters you include as well....keep up the great hubs.

    • Steve Lensman profile image
      Author

      Steve Lensman 7 years ago from London, England

      Appreciate the comment Docmo, thanks.

      I enjoy writing about some of the more forgotten SF films. And some of the famous ones too.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 7 years ago from UK

      Great review of a forgotten classic- well done. Loved the posters and vintage images.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)