The Day the Earth Caught Fire – Val Guest – 1961


The Day the Earth Caught Fire CoverOriginal title: The Day the Earth Caught Fire
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Year: 1961
Directors: Val Guest
Duration: 98 min.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama, Romance

The Day the Earth Caught Fire

I’m a sucker for old science fiction films. The Day the Earth Caught Fire is about the nuclear threat, and how it could destroy the world. The Russians and Americans test their weapons at the same time, and the explosions change the rotation of the earth. End result: massive floods, change in climate, extreme weather and government secrecy. In London a newspaper and its employees are trying to figure out what is going on, when at first the weather is just a little off. Maybe sunspots or just extreme weather because of this or that. But when experts are refusing to give satisfactory answers to their questions, and the weather around the globe gets more and more extreme, people are beginning to wonder just what is going on.

Intertwined with this fairly thin main story line is that of reporter Bill and a woman he falls in love with, Jeannie. She might have access to a big story, but Bill also loves her. So what is more important, a girl or a scoop? The film starts with a red-orange-ish tint. It’s hot outside. A man is talking, looking back on what happened. It seems like we’re arriving at a turning point in the history of mankind. Will we live or die? But as is so common the case – *whoosh* – we get a flash back to how it all started. See you in an hour and a half, orange tint. The film now switches to regular black and white, as we’re in normal circumstances again. For a while at least.

By now it must seem clear that the plot is rather silly by today’s standards.. but then again not so long ago we could plug a virus loaded USB stick into an alien mothership to save the planet, so who am I kidding? Without the flawed science, what remains is a pretty decent film. The best part however is its ending, but you’d have to wait 97.5 minutes for that, because I’m not going to tell you. Writing a good ending to a film is an art form in itself. Should you go for the plot twist, the happy ending, the sad one, the ambiguous ending or perhaps a combination? Either way, picking the right one and doing it well is tricky business. I feel that The Day the Earth Caught Fire totally nailed it.

Sir John Kelly: As I am sure most of you will know, a solar eclipse occurs as a result of the interposition of the Moon between the Earth and the Sun.
Bill Maguire: And that, children, is how the little bunny rabbit got his fluffy white tail.

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