The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)

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One of reasons for doing this blog, apart from chilling my inner Wolf urges, is to find new films to watch. The Day the Earth Caught Fire is one I knew by title but had never got round to viewing. That apocalyptic film title grabs you with it’s no nonsense words. Placing the literal “end of the world” plot splashed in big letters in much the same way The Day The Earth Stood Still did.

This is a British science fiction disaster movie and really very entertaining. What struck me most about the film is the dialogue, it’s relentless. Centered around a bunch of reporters, editors and journalists working for The Daily Express trying desperately to keep the newspaper updated with the world filled chaos. There isn’t a moment’s silence as these guys fire out nonstop sarcastic wit, quips and rude brash British banter. It’s just as you can imagine the fast paced, long hours and stress would bring working to deadlines on a real tabloid but with added heat and sweat.

Another fact that brings this film alive with realism is the way the cast moves around the working environment of the whole newspaper plant, traveling through all departments. From rooms filled with noisy chat of typewriters, to runners bustling back and forth with information and getting shouted at. Then being transported down to the deafening working press rooms filled with massive machinery pushing a constant hustle of printed pages through their metal jaws.

It’s so impressive when you find out it was actually filmed at the Daily Express headquarters in Fleet Street, London. Giving the film such a raw realistic feel.

Another touch that I loved was the black and white film print is gorgeous and when it shows scenes from the “future” right at the start of the film and again at the end, they use a beautiful sepia hue to tone the film print to give a feeling of intense heat. It’s very effective.

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The INCREDIBLE becomes Real! The IMPOSSIBLE becomes Fact! The UNBELIEVABLE becomes True!

What’s the plot in a quick rundown? Well in between grabbing quick rounds of drinks at Harry’s Bar,  America and Russia have been testing nukes on each side of the Earth which incidentally makes the world tilt on it axis pushing us closer to the Sun. Weather patterns go totally schizo, firing out snow, high winds and then a thick fog they call heatmist. The fog engulfs London giving for some effective scenes of half covered Battersea Power Station, Big Ben and the House Of Parliament and a few other national monuments. The Earth is doomed! Is there anyway the scientists of the world can save mankind!

Oh and add in a CND march, a riot and a truly bizarre scene where the youth have gone into some sort of New Orleans inspired Mardi Gras delusional water madness!

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There’s a big cast of players in this film but the three main heroes are Peter Stenning (Edward JuddFirst Men in the Moon) Bill Maguire (Leo MckernRumpole of the Bailey, Number 2 in The Prisoner) and Jeannie Craig (Janet Munro – A bonkers looking B-movie called The Crawling Eye, adds to wants list) and there’s also even a blink and you’re miss him Michael Caine as an uncredited Checkpoint Policeman.

The film is directed by Val Guest who had earlier made the creepy The Quatermass Xperiment in 1955 and, your only watching it because of Victoria Vetri, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Only joking, that is a fun film.

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Val Guest and Victoria Vetri on the set of  “When Dinosaurs Ruled The World” 1970

Here’s the trailer for The Day the Earth Caught Fire

Further Reading Links

BFI Article On The Making Of 

The Day the Earth Caught Fire – Wikipedia

The Day the Earth Caught Fire – IMDB

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