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When Worlds Collide (1951)

 -  Family | Sci-Fi  -  August 1951 (USA)
6.8
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 4,283 users  
Reviews: 95 user | 45 critic

As a new star and planet hurtle toward a doomed Earth, a small group of survivalists frantically work to complete the rocket which will take them to their new home.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Richard Derr ...
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...
...
...
Rachel Ames ...
Julie Cummings (as Judith Ames)
Stephen Chase ...
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Sandro Giglio ...
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Storyline

David Randall is a carefree ladies man and skilled pilot who finds he has been let in on the greatest and most terrible secret in the world when he is paid to deliver some mysterious pictures from one eminent astronomer to another. The recipient, Dr. Hendron, confirms the awful findings of the sender: the star Bellus will collide with Earth and wipe out all of humanity. Despite widespread disbelief, two philanthropists give Dr. Hendron some of the money he needs to build a rocket ship that will, at least theoretically, take them to Zyra, a planet which is orbiting Bellus which may or may not be habitable for humans. The rest of the money comes from Sydney Stanton, a wheelchair-bound old man, who insists he come along, despite the severe limitations on the number of passengers and amount of cargo. Meanwhile, as doomsday approaches, Randall is surprised to find himself in a love triangle with Dr. Hendron's daughter and her fiancé. Humanity is in peril, and only a modern-day Noah's ark, ... Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Planets destroy earth! See more »

Genres:

Family | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

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Release Date:

August 1951 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Cuando los mundos chocan  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$936,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the final shot we see the Ark passengers disembarking with an obvious painted background depicting Zyra. This bad painting was tacked on for the film's sneak previews. Originally, producer George Pal wanted to depict Zyra as a miniature set, but Paramount shipped the film out before this could be done. See more »

Goofs

At the beginning of the film it is said that the Bellus-Zyra system has moved 1.6 million kilometers in just two weeks. Later, it's said the system will cover the 4,800 million kilometers to the Earth in less than one year. At the speed implied by the first statement, the arrival to the Earth would take some 115 years. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: [spoken over a shot of outer space] Needles in a heavenly haystack. There are more stars in the heavens than there are human beings on Earth. Through telescopes men of science constantly search the infinitesimal corners of our solar system seeking new discoveries, hoping to better understand the laws of the Universe. Observatories dedicated to the study of astronomy are set in high and remote places, but there is none more remote than Mt. Kenna Observatory in this part of South ...
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Connections

Featured in Boom! Hollywood's Greatest Disaster Movies (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

A goofy, glorious science-fiction postcard from the early fifties
22 June 2004 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

"THERE ARE MORE STARS IN THE HEAVENS THAN PEOPLE ON EARTH!" a portentous voice-over intones amidst the background of a celestial choir. And with that very important fact established for those in the audience that might actually believe otherwise, we're off and running. Some movies are so loopy they're just plain fun to watch no matter how absurd they are. And with an opening like the one described you know this George Pal gem is going to be a hoot. "When Worlds Collide" was Pal's follow-up to his successful "Destination Moon" which along with "Rocketship-XM" launched the Golden Age of fifties sci-fi. It was a simpler time, an era in science-fiction films when all that was required for space travel was to "Strap yourselves in!" and "contract your muscles!" When astronauts wore leather flight jackets instead of space suits, and were always on the make for a beautiful pair of gams, (i.e. women) when all scientists smoked pipes and wore goatees, (that's how you knew they were intelligent) and were completely absorbed in their ivory tower research, oblivious to everything including at times the safety of the world. Worse whenever some dangerous creature was running amok their response to stopping it was invariably, "It shouldn't be destroyed, it should be studied!" or "It's so much wiser than us, we can learn so much!" It was an era when a woman wasn't considered complete without a man in her life, and even if she was a brilliant astrophysicist, all she really needed to know (as every man knew) was how to make a decent pot of coffee, when radiation was the answer to any problem, as in "Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" or was the reason for every problem like the giant ants in "Them!" Well, with the exception of extraterrestrials, radiation and giant insects, "When Worlds Collide" has all this and more!

This film is so ripe some enterprising filmmaker could do a parody of it, except it's hard to imagine how it could be done better. Eminent astronomer, Dr. Emery Bronson, (pipe smoking and goateed) has made a terrible discovery from his remote ivory tower observatory in South Africa. Two "heavenly bodies" are on a collision course with Earth. One, called Zyra will pass close enough to wreak havoc on land and sea, while the other, called Bellus will actually strike the planet and destroy it days later. "Money doesn't mean anything now. Time is all that matters!" So the pertinent, secret data must be taken at once to Professor Hendron in New York for corroboration on the Differential Analyzer, a fifties version of the computer. Enter Dave Randall, a leather flight jacket wearing pilot-soon-to-be-astronaut. Dave is always on the make for a beautiful pair of gams sort of guy, and blissfully unaware of the bad news he is carrying. At the airport Professor Hendron's daughter Joyce, played with wonderful vapidity by Barbara Rush awaits him. A newspaperman has offered Randall $5,000.00 for the secret of the little black box handcuffed to him. But Dave takes one look at Joyce and like a starving man eyeing a sirloin steak tells the reporter, "No thanks, I'm working on a better offer!" With the clock ticking on humanity they decide to take a taxi through the New York traffic to the breathlessly waiting professor. Along the way Randall manages to coax out of the trusting Joyce, who evidently never heard the expression, "loose lips sink ships" that the end of the world is upon them. Rush exclaims, "I'm frightened!" And then in one of the film's choice bits, slowly faces the camera and exclaims deadpan, "You see, I haven't the courage to face the end of the world!" The music swells, Randall squirms as if he just sat in something smelly left behind by a pet, slow fade out.

Most of the film deals with the construction of the rocket-ship, a latter day Noah's Ark, which will carry 44 individuals picked by lottery to make a new home on Zyra. It's their hope to build a bright shining new white world-literally for there is nary a single member of a minority group to be found among them. But money is needed for the project and since the Federal Government can't be bothered with saving humanity, wealthy industrialist Sidney Stanton, supplies that-provided he has a seat reserved aboard. "I think you're all crackpots!" he hisses. "Build it!" John Hoyt, deliciously nasty as the wheelchair bound Stanton steals the film. The cheesy but fun special effects kick into high gear with the approach of Zyra. Tidal waves strike New York, earthquakes rock the planet, and volcanoes erupt while the celestial choir swells yet again as a solemn voice-over intones, "Never has humanity felt so close to God!" Hendron reproaches Stanton with, "Not your sort of hypocritical prayer but the kind that come from deep inside a man!" after the latter has gunned down his wormy manservant Ferris who made the mistake of telling his employer he was an "Easy man to hate!" Things go from bad to worse when those who lost the lottery decide to riot. The good news is that Joyce realizes she loves Dave, and best of all he gets to go along and fly the craft to Zyra. Alone with Joyce days before take off and the end of the world, he remarks with all the gravity and emotion of a man suffering from acute gastric discomfort, "The last sunrise!" Joyce tries to get him to look on the bright side, "The same sun will rise again on the new world!" she says, not the least bit distressed that several billion people are about to have their lives snuffed out in a cataclysm of cosmic proportions. Oh well, guess she'll make a pot of coffee.

Everything turns out "alright" in the end-all things considered. Cue celestial choir, fade out. "When Worlds Collide" is a fun, goofy, glorious science-fiction postcard from the early fifties.


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