When Worlds Collide (1951)
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Okay, I know it's dated. know what?? I Don't care! This kind of movie making would put half the people in Hollywood out of work today. Maybe that's not such a bad thing. They did it right in the early days. They had their priorities right:
Then Special effects
Seems simple, doesn't it? How come they can't get it right today? (with few exceptions, of course). Nope, today it's Special effects, stars, then story.... in fact, even the stories aren't original!!!
This sums up why I like this movie so much and many like it from the same era. They're exciting, fun, and captivating. The kind of movie that leaves you thinking, dreaming, having nightmares, all in the name of fun. You're left dreaming of what it would be like, how you'd react, what you'd do. You'd sit and ponder about a new life on a new planet. And not once would the level of special effects tarnish your view of this gem.
When was the last time you felt that way coming out of a modern movie? My guess is a lonnnnnng time. There are very few exceptions today. The special effects in movies like "Worlds" was icing on the cake... BUT IT WAS THE CAKE THAT MATTERED! Today, it's all icing and the cake can't support it (crappy icing, in fact!!)
Eat your cake and have it too! Watch "When Worlds Collide"!
This was a truly marvellous film, brim-full of original ideas and for its day, excellent FX. The people LOOKED like there was an impending tragedy about to take-out life on earth. The film was a study of individuals under stress, corruption, bravery, acceptance of the inevitable. It was also about the value and sanctity of human life. When the mighty rocket ship took off down that marvellous launch ramp at the very last second with its human cargo, all mankind's history and most everything needed to start up life from scratch, you wanted to cheer for them, be up there with them - it WAS after all simply the greatest adventure possible!
Also, what sets it apart from just about every other "disaster" flick, there are no heroics, no last minute salvation. The fulltime scoreline read: Comet 1 Earth NIL. I liked that, we're talking realism here!
So what if the final shot on the new planet looked like a pretty scene a group of year five students might have painted? The point had been made and George Pal had made one of the greatest scifi classics ever.
It still is!
Oh, and lest I forget, for 1951, the special effects are absolutely amazing. Aside from a pretty flat-looking matte painting used at the end, the space ship effects and flood effects were just terrific and earned this movie a well-deserved Oscar.
This is a great sci-fi film that all fans of the genre need to see.
because the acting and limited technology were more crucial to
making an interesting movie. You have to try to place yourself in
the movie's time period and in the characters' environment before
Having done so, I believe this movie is a "thumbs-up" for carrying
out a lengthy story line in just 86 minutes. The actors all made up
for the absence of modern, computer-generated graphics and
second-class props, by today's standards. And they did a good job
of bringing to life the human problems and issues that would arise
in similar situations if their predicament happened today.
I first saw this movie in 1960 at the age of six. It blew me away
then. And today, I still enjoy watching it, but I have to remind myself
about my previous comments and put myself back in the movie's
This is a good Sci-fi movie for its time. Sit back, grab a bucket of
popcorn and a soda, and go back to the early 1950s if you can.
Then let the movie do the rest.
Also, having just watched - I'm not kidding - "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and "Invaders From Mars," this George Pal film looked like multi-million dollar Oscar winner in comparison. Except for the ending scene, the special-effects were passable, the acting was good and the dialog pretty realistic. The story plausible? Of course not, but what they did know of space travel in 1951? Hell, we didn't send a man on the moon until almost 20 years after this movie. No, this is not one of those popcorn flicks that "is so bad, it's good" or just plaint stink. No, this movie is just good......period....even today, almost 57 years later!.
This was a no-nonsense survival story without an overdone corny romance, no stupid or obnoxious kids nor goofy-looking adults. It had a solid reverence for God and to science at the same time, a realistic portrayal of people under stress and how they would react knowing their world was coming to end. For a mostly talky film, it moved fast with few, if any lulls.
John Hoyt, who plays the wheelchair-bound millionaire "Sydney Stanton," may not be a "name" actor but he's very good. Check his resume: it's awesome. The man was in about every good television show for decades. The man could act. So did the rest of this cast.
Overall, this "modern" Noah's Ark story was a good one, and far, far better than your normal sci-fi flicks from the time period. Well done!
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.
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
1.) The science is wholly convincing for 1951; it even takes into account such things as accumulated velocity and gravitational pull. Is it totally accurate? Certainly not; this is, after all, science fiction.
2.) It is made clear multiple times in the film that the US is not working on the project at all. It is a wholly private endeavor. Note the last of the newspaper headlines when we scroll down on the newsrack - "Laughed Out of United Nations." No government believes the scientists, so they must team up with industrialists and do everything on their own.
3.) Cultural diversity in 1951? I'm afraid the idea did not yet exist. It seems bizarre to fault any movie of this era for not being perfectly race-coordinated according to current fashions.
4.) It is true that it would be more efficient to have fewer men and more women, but the movie makes clear that the passengers are to be chosen by lot in as "fair" a way as possible. A moral point is being made here, not a scientific one. Regarding the genetics, let's not forget that DNA was not discovered until the 1950s, after this movie had already been produced. Eugenics had been around since the 1920s, but if anything it is a strength of this movie for resisting that kind of race-purity thinking (as walcaraz allows).
5.) These final images do stand out as different from the rest, which are more realistic. But remember, we are talking about a new world here, a magical and poetic (and dare I say spiritual) beginning of mankind, after the flight of a modern Noah's Ark. Why not add a touch of idealism here at the end? Let's not let jaded modern-day cynicism ruin this earnest and touching moment.
To me, if there is anything about "When Worlds Collide" that will mar it for contemporary viewers, it is the film's myriad Bible references. Scarcely 10 minutes will pass without a reference of this type. But I think that such gravity only adds to this film's impact. Indeed, it is perhaps most fair to see "When Worlds Collide" as a film that moves completely beyond the political, rising to the heights of archetype, religion, and myth.
A rogue planet has been discovered to be on a collision course with earth, and the end of the world is eminent. There is only one recourse: Build a spaceship that is capable of transporting a select few to a distant planet to continue the human race.
Overall, the f/x are as would be expected from the early '50's; but given the relatively low budget, they work quite well and at times are good. The approaching planet as it grows larger in the sky is quite good and adds to the panic and fear of those in the path of this doomsday vessel...primarily the entire population of earth! Now, don't expect any great accuracies in either Astronomy, Physics or Planetary Science, but what one can expect is a fun SciFi that grabs your attention and plays on our biggest fears: Our own extinction with which we have no control.
A suspenseful film with a great ending, When World's Collide is one of the best SciFi's from this era.
This film dared to tackle the difficult question of what we would do if astromomers found a fast-moving star/planet system heading directly for Earth, and one large enough to destroy us. We have about 8 months, and the only hope for mankind as we know it is to quickly build a spaceship, select about 44 people to go along, plus a good variety of various types of livestock, blast off right before Earth is destroyed, attempt to land on the new planet, and hope that the atmosphere will support life. Quite a lot to ask for, especially in 1951!
As with other sci-fi films of that generation, you have the straightforward, unsmiling scientists, you have the wheelchair-bound selfish rich guy who will finance the spacecraft if he can save his own skin, you have the beautiful young lady who has no greater purpose than creating love tension among two of the main protagonists, and you have the kid rescued with his dog off a rooftop.
The film's strength is neither the Earth's destruction nor the arrival on the new planet. Rather it is the interplay among the scientists, governing bodies, and common folk wrestling with the idea that our home, Earth, may be destroyed and what we can or should do about it. What a concept, what a slim margin for error. New wall calendars are printed, and as each day is peeled off, you see how much time is left before the destruction. Signs posted at the spacecraft construction site say "Waste anything but time. Time is our most valuable resource." When the space travelers are chosen by lottery, one man chooses to stay behind because his fiance' can't go. Some angry non-winners begin to revolt.
major SPOILER - As the Earth is being destroyed, the spaceship starts gliding down its mile-long ramp (never mind the bad physics here) and then upwards into space. Later, while running out of fuel, they manage to make an awkward but safe landing on what now has to be their new home. There can be no escape. While one says "let's test the atmosphere before we open the door", the brave pilot says, "it's the only air we have, it doesn't matter" as he opens the door, then says, "It's the best air I've ever breathed." We see a beautiful, verdant landscape, although a very strange one, and we only can imagine what could have happened in futue generations in this new home for mankind.
Possible Spoilers follow...
Now I saw this film at the tender age of seven when it first came out(I'll let you work out my age from that clue yourselves). I was blown away by not only the storyline which, to a highly susceptible seven-year-old, was the most frightening thing ever, but by the special effects--especially the much-derided last scene as well as the flooding of New York and other various sequences of nature running amok. Incidentally did anyone notice(in that last scene on Zyra), a futuristic city in the distance, almost on the horizon? Perhaps they were going to do a sequel about how the various refugees survived on Zyra(did they meet other Zyrans? Were there indeed any Zyrans?).
One other point; occasionally there have been references to high body counts in films(either on-screen or off) but this one has them all beat. There can be nothing higher, body-wise, than the destruction of an entire planet(the original Star Wars(1977) comes pretty close when the Death Star obliterates Alderaan but there is a definite population on Earth whereas Alderaan's is unknown. Go and ask George if he knows).
So what is left to say about 'When Worlds Collide'? I find nothing wrong with the acting, special effects nor the story-line. Simply put, the movie is everything I came to expect from the 50s and is one of the best sci-fi movies of an entire century. Forget 'Armageddon' or 'Deep Impact' (although I prefer the latter to the former since it stars a pre-Frodo performance by the extremely talented Elijah Wood), this one has them beat by more than the standard mile--more like a couple of hundred miles! All in all this is a film worth studying on how to make a really fine movie. And, until that company release a 'Special Edition' DVD, I will hang on to my extras-light disc.
My verdict: 10/10. A winner all the way!
Brilliant scientist, Dr. Cole Hendron tries to convince a doubting world that Earth is in the direct path of a rogue planet called Bellus that's about the size of our Sun. And a collision with it is inevitable.
With no time to lose, wealthy financier, Sydney Stanton orders the immediate construction of a giant spaceship to transport selected survivors safely to a distant planet known as Zyra.
A world lottery is held in order to determine who is to travel to Zyra on this astounding spacecraft.
The special effects (which includes the submersion of Manhattan) won an Oscar for this impressive, technicolor, "George Pal" production.
Just convince yourself that "When Worlds Collide" could really happen and I guarantee that you'll enjoy this throughly entertaining picture from start to finish.
The results still stand as seminal classics of science fiction filmwork, often copied, referenced and paid homage in one way or another. Although perhaps dated by the computer generated, digitally enhanced SFX of today's so-called masterpieces, these films still stand out as the major influences which helped shape our dream, visions and often spoke to our deepest fears, such as the end of the world.
From the inverted ski jump launch system (used today on aircraft carriers), to expendable booster rockets (a Space Shuttle standard), the Ark spaceship spawned the imagination of many filmakers, including some who reused the model for other films such as "Flight To Mars" and "The Queen Of Outer Space". The movie still stands as a milestone as the first science fiction disaster movie.
Once again, Leith Stevens' musical score enriches the experience, as it did for Pal's previous space adventure, "Destination Moon". The film's special effects won it the Oscar in 1951. All this, and in the rich tones of Technicolor that shall never been seen in a first run movie theater again. Thank you Lord for revival houses that still manage to seek out old time prints for festivals (the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas comes to mind).
There still remains a bit of controversy, though, about the film's ending. A wide, panoramic Bonestell matte painting is seen from the hatch of the newly arrived Ark. In the image can be seen two clearly pyramidal mountains in perfect proportions, as if artificial, as well as the base of what appears to be a building constructed by an alien intelligence. Although the actors don't react to this (the matte effect added in post production), the artwork hints at the planet Zyra as being inhabited (In the novel, the planet is known as Bronson Beta, and is indeed found to be once inhabited, and is explored further in the sequel "After Worlds Collide").
In the 1970s, producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown attempted to do a remake, which eventually mutated into the 1998 film, "Deep Impact". As in "When Worlds Collide", the human interaction was as important as the science fiction elements.
Another bit of incorrect science is the statement that Bellus had traveled one million miles in two weeks but also traversed three billion miles in under a year (if Bellus traveled one million miles for one year it would traverse 52 million miles, not three billion miles). Overall, I rate this movie a 6 out of 10. It boasts a good plot which streches our imaginations. In addition, the idea of not only flying to another world but landing and creating a new society, is far-reaching (space flight only begins in that era and the exploration of other planets doesn't come for a few dozen years). However, the graphics are poor, especially the landscape of Zyra, which appears to be a cartoon drawing. Also, the movie, in my opinion at least, revolves to strongly around Dave and Joyce instead of on the destruction and obliteration of Earth. Therefore, although I recommend this movie to scifi viewers, I do it with hesitations and the reminder that this is a movie created over 50 years ago.