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The Day the Earth Caught Fire
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Index 65 reviews in total 

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Not bad at all.

Author: Buskieboy from Brampton, Ontario, Canada
2 March 2006

This movie is low key and fairly intelligent for an old black & white 60's sci-fi movie. It really owes it's look to the late 50's sci-fi. But this movie doesn't use weird monsters or giant insects to tell the tale. It is more intelligent and is one of the early pioneers of movies that warn us of impending danger of our own stupidity. It is a statement about the proliferation of nuclear bombs and the dangers of atomic testing. While some of the science theory is apocryphal, it actually does make more sense in a few years later. There is a strong belief today, that some earthquakes had been triggered by early atomic tests back in the days of testing. The lead is played by Edward Judd and he is joined by some real thespians like, Leo McKern. If you like The Day the Earth Stood Still" you would most likely enjoy this.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

British Science Fiction at It's Finest-Must see for SF fans

Author: Craig Gerard from North Little Rock, AR USA
17 August 2004

This is the British Science Fiction Film all other films are judged by. At the other end of the spectrum you have "These Are the Damned" which is British Science Fiction at it worst. This film has never been equaled in British Science Fiction Cinema. Terrific performances by Edward Judd, in his screen debut, Leo McKern, and the late Janet Munro. The plot concerns simultaneous nuclear tests in Siberia and the South Pole which knock the earth off its orbit and send it hurtling towards the sun. This movie was made before the nuclear test ban treaty was ratified in 1964. Some critics have compared this film to "On the Beach". However I think this is the better of the two films. Showing a newspaper room in all it's glory before we had cable news and the Internet and was not equaled until "All the President's Men". I first saw this film on television in 1970 and it made quite an impact on an 8 year old at the time. The ending is very unusual for it's day. The romantic interludes between Edward Judd and Janet Munro are not distracting as were the Gregory Peck-Ava Gardner interludes in "On the Beach". I do not think the film seems that dated today even though we no longer have above ground nuclear tests. My only complaint is that it is in black and white rather than color. Edward Judd does particularly well as the alcoholic reporter, fleeing from a troubled marriage, trying to get the facts of the story as well as carry on a romance with Janet Munro. A must see for all Science Fiction fans and Leo McKern fans. A 10 out of 10.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Nice to see people perspire in London for a change.

Author: Ray Steele (hoosieray) from Indianapolis, USA
29 April 2004

I was expecting goofy implausible plot, poorly acted. What I got was a gritty (sur)realistic take on modern technology gone terribly astray. This film managed to take me around the world, but was firmly planted in the lead characters and their daily challenges coping with eminent end to civilization as they knew it. Hope seemed to evaporate before my eyes, only to condense and reappear in the heroic actions displayed by the protagonists. To me the sign of a good movie is whether I'm surprised more than once or twice during the course of the story unfolding. What part of the earth is burning, and can or will it be able to be extinguished. Watch and see. You won't be disappointed!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Sci-Fi Without the Silly Monsters

Author: vmwrites from Pompton Plains, NJ USA
1 March 2004

This was a pretty good sci-fi movie, without monsters or specials effects. Furthermore, it posed the question that many of us have in our minds: "What if . . . the earth's days were numbered? What would we do? How would people act?"

And for an introductory performance, Edward Judd was exceptional.

Leo McKern and Janet Munro were more than up to the task, of course, but the scenes that I thought were most telling were the riots over water; the countdown scene in the club; and the closing sequence, in which the two different newspaper headlines let us know that it could go either way - man survives or man perishes.

Well done!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Classic Science Fiction

Author: Jim_Smooth from London, England
8 April 2003

In the current era of fast-paced apocalyptic action films such as The Core and Armageddon this film perfectly represents what really will happen if we all find ourselves hurtling towards our doom. The pace is steady with lovely touches of British 'stiff upper lip' humour that makes it seem so believable.

This film is in my top ten of all time. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A British Classic

Author: jemwil from Cardiff, Wales
5 December 2002

Thoroughly recommend this film as one of the classics of British sci-fi. The look and feel of this film is superb and the director, Val Guest, delivers a piece that demonstrated perfectly the end result of nuclear games.

Some of the acting is a little wooden but the key players deliver a quality performance.

recommended....the DVD is well worth the investment.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Vastly underrated SF-disaster pic

Author: The_Movie_Cat from England
24 October 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


The Day the Earth Caught Fire is an oft-forgotten and vastly underrated disaster pic. That said, it perhaps doesn't achieve its potential and only fleetingly realises the full extent of its greatness.

The first half an hour is by far the best, where Val Guest's direction (he also produced and co-wrote) gives us a deserted London where the heat has risen to unbearable levels. This expertly works in the premise within the opening frames, causing the following flashback of events to be imbued with tension. If the film had begun with a more mundane setting and worked its way up the atmosphere would not be as charged.

An incessant pulsing incidental music beats in the background, generating a feeling of unease as a reporter begins to recount the story. Then, three minutes in, we are led back to events, told through the eyes of The Daily Express. Authenticity is gained by the fact that actual Daily Express building was used, and that the editor (Arthur Christiansen) was the ex-editor of said paper. This is also the major stumbling block; while the rest of the cast (including Edward Judd, billed as a debutante, but having had roles in thirteen prior movies) are all first-rate, the amateurish performance of Christiansen as he falls over his wordy script fails to gel. But it's just a minor flaw in an otherwise outstanding piece.

The dialogue is dealt at a machine-gun pace throughout the whole film; you could make three modern films using all the script. This movie does it all in 95 minutes. Genius use of dialogue can be often be seen. "And that, children, is how the little bunny rabbit got its fluffy white tail", sneers Leo McKern while watching a patronising television broadcast on the nature of an eclipse. Yet having a character within the film slate the delivery disguises the fact that you've just been fed blatant exposition; a masterstroke. Many of the other lines are witty and observed, such as Leo McKern telling his embittered colleague "there'll be someone else sooner or later. London's full of somebody elses."

Unfortunately this precipitates a romance in the middle third, which, while not bad in itself, does take the tension down a notch, from which it never fully recovers. This is the film now achieving an excellent pace, when it could have – should have – been a classic. The romance between Judd and Janet Munro is noticeably daring for the time; including a scene where he emerges wet from the bath, her in bed, her exposed cleavage glistening with sweat as she denies him a one-night stand, then relents... this being 1961, of course, it fades to black after the first kiss.

The final third sees it back on track, though still not reaching the high standards of its opening. Judd's fun-loving alcoholic has now become prone to speeches, ranting "we're all so bloody clever at outsmarting nature. Anything you can split I can split better." It's clear on which side of the nuclear argument this film fell. Another neat trick is whenever an explanation of the premise (nuclear testing on Earth has caused it to tilt off its axis and head towards the sun) is given, another character will dismiss it as "sci-fi". However, the overuse of stock footage (especially embarrassing is the shot of the eclipse) takes away some credulity, while Judd ending the film with a preachy monologue is lacking. However, the final shot of a newspaper marked "Earth Saved" – only to cut to a back-up copy marked "Earth Doomed" – is exquisite. 8/10.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The Day The Earth Caught Its Pants On Fire

Author: Dalbert Pringle from New Zealand
7 October 2014

Movie tag-line - "The Incredible Becomes REAL!... The Impossible Becomes FACT!... The Unbelievable Becomes TRUE!"

You know, if I'm not mistaken, this 1961 Doomsday-Thriller was the very first picture to prominently display the all-familiar "peace sign" in its story. (This happened during an anti-nuclear protest in London)

This peace sign is now, of course, famous, worldwide. But, back in 1961, it wasn't. It was originally designed by British artist Gerald Holtom in 1958 to help support the nuclear disarmament movement back then.

And, speaking about the likes of nuclear disarmament - I think that you should see this taut "Countdown-To-Catastrophe" movie for yourself and be the judge as to whether it condones or condemns this sort of thing.

See just how the scriptwriters carefully weighed the pros & cons of this particular matter and then presented that outlook to the audience in a fairly intelligent manner.

Anyways - Regardless of its glaring flaws and half-baked scientific guess-work, this 53-year-old British production was still well-worth a view.

But, be warned - This vintage "End-of-the-World" picture was loaded with plenty of stock footage during its scenes that depicted worldwide disaster. And this, of course, helped to render its overall visual effects as being somewhat wishy-washy, in the long run.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us.

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
27 May 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It has a lot more in the way of special effects than "On the Beach," released the year before, but the special effects look pretty cheesy by today's standards. Not that it matters much because there are so many of them -- tornadoes, heat, floods, mists, the most severe droughts. That's what can happen when you tilt the earth's orbit towards the sun. The most dramatically on display here are advective fog and droughts. See London turned first into San Francisco and then into the Sahel. It reminds me a little of an effective Twilight Zone episode called, maybe, "The Midnight Sun".

Basically we have three parallel stories. Edward Judd plays a reporter whose recently dissolved marriage has deprive him of his son and his sense of responsibility. He drinks too much and doesn't always show up for work. Then he runs into the trusting Janet Munro whom he first betrays, but who then reforms him as any sensible woman would. That's story number one, and I don't mind saying that the Judd reporter is a real heel in the first half of the movie -- glib, pushy, deceitful, and manipulative. And don't give me that sob story about his marriage either. When my marriage dissolved, I flourished.

Story number two is not so deep in the background. Judd, his girl friend, his colleagues and editors find out that the earth is about to be destroyed, after puzzling over multiple disasters such as the blocking of local television signals. The possibility of salvation exists. The boys down in the machinery of the newspaper have prepared two alternative next editions. One headline reads: "Earth Saved. Nation Prays." The other reads: "Earth Doomed. Now Nation Prays." (A pretty good example of the kind of wit with which this script is strewn.) Story number three is a kind of ethnography of a Fleet Street newspaper. How is the tribe organized? What exactly does it do? Well, this sub-story confirms any suspicions you might have had that news people are a pretty solidary and cohesive lot. Intrigues and jealousies, yes, but also covering up for friends and, most of all, thinking of the news to the exclusion of much else. When he is first informed that the world will end in a few months, Judd's chief editor removed his glasses, stares into space solemnly for about three seconds, shakes his head and replaces his glasses and shouts, "CONFERENCE." It's a well-written script. I won't go through all the bon mots that crop up but I'll mention one of them. Wandering through an almost impenetrable fog, Judd and Munro come across a lone crying child. Judd hefts the girl onto his shoulders and tells her cheerfully that now she is taller than anyone. Munro remarks admiringly, "You look comfortable carrying a child," and Judd replies, "My doctor says I have the perfect figure for it." It's not much. None of the wisecracks amount to much, but they do indicate that some clever hands have been at work on the dialog. Perhaps the saddest scene in the film takes place almost at the very end, in Harry's Bar. We've seen it in several earlier scenes, chock full of newspapermen talking their craft, having supper or a drink or both, kidding one another and flirting with Harry's wife. Now, at the end, it's deserted, dilapidated, and dry. Only Harry, his wife, and the three principal actors are there. The wife breaks out a hidden bottle and they share a hopeful drink for some kind of future. (Harry's wife speaks sharply to him about some petty fault and he replies weakly, "You didn't really mean that, did you?") There is nothing sadder than an empty, dusty pub waiting for the world to end.

For 1960, this was a frankly adult script. I don't mean the end of the world so much as the vulgar language and the near exposure of Janet Munro's bosoms. (I realize that "bosoms" isn't exactly the right word but I adopt that usage from fashion photographers who say things like, "Fine, now could you lift your left bosom a bit?") She's seems pretty and bright and has a perfect figure for carrying babies. A shame her world ended so soon.

The finale is corny, though, as if in an attempt to make up for all the cynicism that has preceded it. We hear vague church bells in the background (the producers wanted a heavenly choir) as Judd dictates a preachy speech about love instead of hate and all that, and the film ends with a slow zoom onto the cross that crowns St. Paul's. Stanley Kramer at least spared us that in "On The Beach." But that's only a few minutes out of an otherwise portentous and horribly horripilic movie. All we really need to do is substitute greenhouse gases for simultaneous nukes, and 400 months for four months, and the story we see elicits the slightest of shudders.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Sci Fi Great

Author: andymallinson from London, England
17 May 2004

A tense and gripping movie that runs at a fast pace, capturing the essence of London at the height of the cold war.

Loosely based on Science fact and intermingled with just a smidgen of hysteria. I imagine that many left the cinema in its day with a heavy stomach.

A classic which probably inspired many students to march in protest through the pavements of London.

Its one of my all time favourite films and thats some achievement, for a wee nipper like me, especially considering its in black and white!

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