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The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)

Unrated | | Drama, Sci-Fi, Romance | May 1962 (USA)
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
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 <diamond@argenet.com.ar>

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
See  »

Did You Know?


Towards the end, Stenning is driving to Genie's apartment when he stops to talk to a policeman - none other than Michael Caine in a very early role. See more »


Only the extreme left-hand side of Peter Stenning's article "If you find your TV set has developed a nasty measle rash" is about sunspots, as per the dialogue. The remainder is a review of a newly-released book on jazz, referencing John Dankworth and Benny Green. See more »


Peter Stenning: Well, Billy boy, they got me doing your homework. Five hundred words on sun-spots.
Bill Maguire: Have you seen the figures on some of these Earth tremors?
Peter Stenning: It's another planet trying to contact us.
[He picks up his empty coffee mug and speaks into it]
Peter Stenning: This is Earth. Are you receiving me? Are you receiving me? You are?
Peter Stenning: Well get knotted.
Peter Stenning: [He sets the mug down again]
See more »

Crazy Credits

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


References Annie Get Your Gun (1950) See more »


Light Cavalry Overture
Written by Franz von Suppé
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User Reviews

O-oh, the weather outside is frightful...
11 December 2005 | by (the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls) – See all my reviews

Good old-fashioned, black & white Science Fiction/disaster-movie classic that effectively emerges two giant contemporary fears at once, namely the Cold War and the rapidly evolving nuclear science. Whereas most other 60's Sci-Fi movies used the versatile side-effects of nuclear testings for grotesque apocalypse stories, involving mutated animals or even people, the premise of "The Day the Earth Caught Fire" is much more realistic and genuinely disturbing. A duo of Daily Express reporters discover, with the help of a weather girl, that the earth has been tilted off its axis because both the Russians and the Americans ignited their H-bombs simultaneously. The unusually high temperatures in Londen, as well as other inexplicable weather phenomenons, indicate that our planet is moving towards the sun very fast. Despite an obvious lack budget, director Val Guest (creator of other genre milestones such as "The Quatermass Experiment" and "The Abominable Snowman") did everything possible to make this film look like a captivating and paranoid drama. The images of a dying Londen, enshrouded in fog and heat, are truly atmospheric and there also are some very intelligent extra elements added, like new epidemics as a result of water shortness. Surprisingly enough, there's even room for an honest (and credible, for once) love-story between the cynical reporter and the overly-emotional weather-girl. Personally, I didn't really like the ending but it does typify 60's cinema greatly. The acting performances are splendid, with Leo McKern ("X-the Unknown"), Edward Judd ("Island of Terror") and the adorable Janet Munro (former child star of "Swiss Family Robinson"). The Day the Earth Caught Fire is a vastly underrated Sci-Fi gem, probably because it wasn't a Hammer production, and genre fans should urgently re-discover it. Highly recommended!

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