The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)

Unrated  |   |  Drama, Sci-Fi, Romance  |  May 1962 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 3,161 users  
Reviews: 61 user | 65 critic

When the USA and Russia unwittingly test atomic bombs at the same time, it alters the nutation (axis of rotation) of the Earth.



(written for the screen by), (written for the screen by)
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Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Jeannie Craig
Bill Maguire
Edward Judd ...
Peter Stenning
'Jacko' Jackson - Night Editor
Bernard Braden ...
'Dave' Davis - News Editor
Reginald Beckwith ...
Gene Anderson ...
Arthur Christiansen ...
'Jeff' Jefferson - Editor
Austin Trevor ...
Sir John Kelly
Edward Underdown ...
Dick Sanderson
Ian Ellis ...
Michael Stenning


Hysterical panic has engulfed the world after the United States and the Soviet Union simultaneously detonate nuclear devices causing a change to the nutation (axis of rotation) of the Earth. Written by Fernando <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Drama | Sci-Fi | Romance


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

May 1962 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Day the Earth Caught Fire  »

Box Office


£200,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)


(with tinted sequences)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The scenes of the "Met Office" were filmed both outside and inside the Ministry of Defence Main Building in Whitehall. This access was remarkable. Those interiors were little changed until refurbishment of MOD after 2000. See more »


The "Daily Mail" piece headlined "Met. office girl on secrets charge" seems to be about former US President Eisenhower. See more »


Peter Stenning: So Man has sown the wind - and reaped the whirlwind. Perhaps in the next few hours, there will be no remembrance of the past, and no hope for the future that might have been. All the works of Man will be consumed in the great fire out of which he was created. But perhaps at the heart of the burning light into which he has thrust his world, there is a heart that cares more for him, than he has ever cared for himself. And if there is a future for Man - insensitive as he is, proud and defiant in ...
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Crazy Credits

There are no end credits whatsoever (not even a "The End" caption); merely a fade to black. See more »


Featured in Godzilla (1977) See more »


Camptown Races
Composed by Stephen Foster
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User Reviews

Supreme film-making
3 July 2006 | by (Copenhagen, Denmark) – See all my reviews

What an absolutely devastating movie! I am still completely engrossed in it, and it has been a while since I took the DVD out of the player.

Was any science fiction movie ever more ambitious than this one? The staggering opening, tinted in reddish yellow and brilliantly composed in widescreen, looks like Tarkovsky and Lars von Trier, and has the same dry wasteland quality to it. Callous and unpublicized nuclear tests by both the Soviet Union and the US have upset the environment, causing record-breaking heat waves, floods, cyclones, eclipses, and what not, and we gradually find out that Earth has tilted and is hurtling towards the Sun where, in four months' time, the universe will savor "the delightful smell of charcoaled mankind", as put by a cynical newspaperman. The largest nuclear bomb ever made will now be detonated in Siberia, and no one knows what will happen now ... The environmentalist discourse seems extremely contemporary to us today.

Now, how to make intelligent, thoughtful entertainment out of that pulp?! Leave it to writer-director Val Guest who more than rose to the task. He put a heartbroken, newly divorced and slightly alcoholized reporter in the center, working for the London Daily News. He tries, with his science editor and surrogate father, to delve into what went wrong and who is responsible, and he falls in love with a switchboard girl with a cleavage. All this to keep the movie grounded, the drama realistic. All of this naturalistic drama is cross-edited with stock newsreel footage of natural disasters, and it works. It works supremely well, and you are sucked into the action, as the end of the world approaches.

All the actors are brilliant, not least Edward Judd as the main reporter, cynical, witty, vulnerable.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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