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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.

Director:

Writers:

(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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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Jeannie Craig
...
Bill Maguire
...
Peter Stenning
...
'Jacko' Jackson - Night Editor
Bernard Braden ...
'Dave' Davis - News Editor
Reginald Beckwith ...
Harry
Gene Anderson ...
May
...
Angela
Arthur Christiansen ...
'Jeff' Jefferson - Editor
Austin Trevor ...
Sir John Kelly
Edward Underdown ...
Dick Sanderson
Ian Ellis ...
Michael Stenning
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

The INCREDIBLE becomes Real! The IMPOSSIBLE becomes Fact! The UNBELIEVABLE becomes True! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Sci-Fi | Romance

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

May 1962 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Day the Earth Caught Fire  »

Box Office

Budget:

£200,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(with tinted sequences)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

At the beginning of the film, Peter Blythe makes a brief uncredited appearance as the copy desk boy taking Stenning's story and Leo McKern stars as science reporter Bill Maguire. Twenty years later they would both star together in the hit TV series Rumpole of the Bailey (1978), with McKern in the title role and Blythe as head of chambers, Sam Ballard. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

[Peter decides to stop in at the Press Office, after telling Jeannie that he had better things to do. He finds her cleaning what looks like a mimeograph machine, and they each have no idea who the other one is]
Jeannie Craig: Oh, hullo. Have you come to fix this?
Peter Stenning: Well, I hadn't, but for you, why not?
Jeannie Craig: [embarrassed] Oh, I'm sorry, they'd said they'd send someone. Can I help you? Nearly everyone's gone home.
Peter Stenning: Yeah, I'd like a copy of tonight's official line-ups.
Jeannie Craig: Tonight's what?
Peter Stenning: Uh, the official releases.
Jeannie Craig: Oh! Those ...
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Connections

References Annie Get Your Gun (1950) See more »

Soundtracks

Light Cavalry Overture
(uncredited)
Written by Franz von Suppé
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Timeless, compelling sci-fi drama
28 January 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

After more than forty years, this film is still a milestone in the science fiction genre. In its day, it was years ahead of its time. It had characters that acted like real people, instead of like John Agar and Lori Nelson. It contained a clearly implied sexual relationship between the two main characters, in an era when filmmakers were still routinely depicting even married couples as sleeping in separate beds. It was filled with shocking insinuations that the government is not all-wise and benevolent, that science doesn't really have all the answers, that the military is capable of blunders that put new meaning into the phrase "friendly fire," and that all may not be well, after all.

The film's greatest strength is in its understated, matter-of-fact presentation of the characters' various reactions to the relentlessly deteriorating situation. The performances are consistently honest and compelling, from the principal players down to the smallest walk-on parts. The award-winning script by Wolf Mankowitz is at times almost too clever for its own good. If there is one criticism that may be leveled against it, it is that most real people are not that consistently witty. Occasionally they are at a loss for words. Occasionally they say things that are lame, stupid, and altogether inappropriate. And this is the one element that was pretty much absent from the dialogue.

In an age when movies are being strangled to death by their own special effects, and character development often does not extend beyond the crudest bodily functions and four-letter expletives, it is genuinely refreshing to return to a film such as this one. Not only does it not rely on visual effects to tell its story, it is really so little dependent on the visual that it could have been equally successful as a radio drama (a forgotten art form nowadays), and might very well have caused an even greater panic than Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds."


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