The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • 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.

  • After the explosion of nuclear bombs by the United States and the Soviet Unions, the weather in London and in the rest of the world changes. The Daily Express alcoholic reporter Peter Stenning meets the telephonist Jeannie Craig , they fall in love with each other and have a love affair. When Jeannie overhears a conversation, they learn that the explosions have altered by 11 degrees the Earth nutation, changing its orbit. Now the only chance to mankind is to explode bombs again so that the rotation shaft returns to its position. Will Earth be saved or doomed?

  • After the super-powers accidentally set off H-bombs simultaneously the staff at Fleet Street's Daily Express report dramatic changes to the world's climate. As London swelters and the Thames starts to run dry the paper's staff finally get the Government to admit that the earth's axis has shifted. Eventually they discover that the full truth is far worse even than this.

  • Journalists of the London Daily Express investigate reports of strange phenomena occurring all over the world, such as flooding in the Sahara, unseasonable blizzards in New York, and violent tornadoes in the Soviet Union. All over England, temperatures are on the rise, girls in bikinis are everywhere, and wonderful special-effects mists are blanketing the Thames River. Top scientists at the Meteorological Center refuse to give any official explanation, which makes the newspaper editor suspicious. He orders science reporter Bill Maguire and alcoholic columnist Peter Stenning to dig for information. When Peter begins a romance with Met Center secretary Jeannie Craig, he learns from her certain clues that there has indeed been a cover-up . . . and he begins to sober up, so that he may win her love. Ten days before the film begins, two nuclear bombs had been exploded, one at the North Pole by the Soviet Union, the other at the South Pole by the United States. Nobody noticed before now that they were set almost simultaneously, until the Chief Editor, in a conference with his reporters, draws a line from London to New Zealand, showing the path that floods and other catastrophes have created in a devastating line. Stenning gathers from hints Jeannie gives him that the two explosions shifted the Earth's orbit and set it on a course toward the sun. As water becomes scarce, the British government takes emergency measures to control hysteria, rampant looting, and rioting by teenagers. The only possible solution is for another explosion of bombs that will restore the Earth's orbit. On detonation day, Stenning heroically makes his way through a wasteland to the newsroom to write a story that will prepare for the results of the blasts. He instructs the typesetters to prepare two front pages. One has the headline "World Saved," the other "World Doomed."

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


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