The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)

Article 2245 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-9-2007
Posting Date: 10-5-2007
Directed by Val Guest
Featuring Janet Munro, Leo McKern, Edward Judd

After the simultaneous explosion of two nuclear bombs, the earth begins to undergo a strange series of disasters. Reporters try to piece together the details of what has happened to the planet as a result of the tests despite the fact that the government is suppressing the knowledge.

The last few movies I’ve seen of Val Guest’s have been fantastically themed comedies that really didn’t impress me all that much. Here we have him working in the mode in which I like him best; this is a very effective end-of-the-world science fiction adventure. It’s a bit on the talky side, generally setting aside action for words, but I find it quite fascinating, especially in the way we follow the trail by which the facts of the matter are eventually disclosed, with chance conversations and government cover-ups playing a large part in the proceedings. We also see how the events affect the personal lives of those living through it, in some cases making them better and stronger people. The beginning and end of this black-and-white movie are effectively tinted in red, and it makes excellent use of stock footage. The most memorable moments for me are the vision of deadly fog rolling across London, and the unresolved ending which leaves us wondering which of the headlines will grace the front of the next edition of the newspaper. Fine performances all around, especially from our three leads.


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