THE DAY THE EARTH MOVED (1974)
Article 4494 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Robert Michael Lewis
Featuring Jackie Cooper, Stella Stevens, Cleavon Little
What is it: Natural disaster movie
Aerial photographers discover that a defective batch of film stock is capable of picking up indications that earthquakes are imminent… and that the next place to be stricken by one is a tiny town with a handful of residents.
I don’t seek out movies that are topical on purpose, so it’s really just coincidence that this movie pops up at a time when earthquakes are in the news. I did, however, end up being rather charmed by this disaster-movie-in-miniature. It’s not so much the story, which is pretty standard stuff. It’s not the fantastic content; the existence of defective film stock that just happens to show where earthquakes are going to hit is a pretty far-fetched pill to swallow. No, what charmed me is the milieu of the town of Bates, a formerly thriving small town that has now become only a shadow of its former self with a single-digit population, many of which still hold on to the hope of the town regaining its former glory if they can only manage to clean and fix its tourist attraction, a “Santa’s Summer Village” display. I found the world of this small town so oddly compelling that I think you could have built a whole movie just around it. The print I found of this was on YouTube, and the blurriness of the image makes it a bit hard to say just how good the special effects were, but it seems effective enough. In the end, I liked the movie despite its flaws. But it’s the little village and its residents that I will remember.