The Day The Earth Caught Fire

Here is a piece I wrote a couple of years ago about the 1961 film, “The Day The Earth Caught Fire”. It’s essentially a breakdown of the film including my verdict on it.

 

Premise:

  • Nuclear experiments gone wrong
  • Strange happenings: freak weather and early eclipse highlight that something is wrong
  • The bomb experiments have shifted the earth off its axis and orbit, causing it to be moving towards the sun and a change in equator

 

 

Plot:

A male journalist working for the Daily Express notices strange interference after a nuclear bomb experiment. In trying to find out more information he meets a woman (Jeana) who connects his call. Freak weather erupts over the world including heat waves, huge mist and massive storms. They form a relationship and she discloses to him that she overheard government officials discussing that the earth had moved off its axis and tells him in confidence. He ignores his promise to keep it a secret and breaks the story sending the woman to jail. Water shortages erupt causing it to be rationed worldwide. After the woman is released from jail she is employed by the Daily Express and they re-kindle their romance. It is then announced that in order to try and move the earth back, more explosions will be set off in a last attempt to prevent the earth from meeting its untimely fate. The movie ends after the explosions have been detonated leaving the audience on a cliff hanger as we don’t know if it has been successful.

 

Pacing:

  • Starts mysteriously, easing the audience into the plot
  • Newsroom scenes fasten the pace as information is revealed to the characters and the audience
  • Overall slow paced as information about the plot is steadily revealed

 

 

Message:

  • How would the world cope in a nuclear situation?
  • How would the press reveal to an audience that the world was possibly ending?

 

 

 

Quotes:

 

  • ‘Is it the end or another beginning?’
  • ‘What about a Daily Express arc?’
  • ‘Water is life. Save it’

 

Strong/Weak Scenes:

 

  • Effective first scene. Shows time just before the bombs are detonated the flashbacks 90 days prior to tell the story. This immediately draws in the audience and makes them ask questions.
  • Faster paced scenes such as those in the newsroom keep the plot interesting and stop it from becoming boring and slow
  • Scenes involving special effects are weak as the film was made in a time when then they weren’t very realistic (1961)

 

Visual Effects:

 

  • Very fake looking compared to modern special effects.
  • When showing rain on the window, it was only visible going down the centre of it. This is a very noticeable mistake.
  • Scene with fog engulfing the river is ineffective as it looks massively fake and unrealistic

 

Quality of Acting:

  • Typical of the time use of only pretty, young actresses compared to older male characters
  • Bad acting shown on phone conversations as they seeming react to a response to quickly, they don’t give a normal time for someone to respond before they talk again making it seem unrealistic
  • The two children featured are understandably unexperienced and so their acting abilities are a little stale (the man’s son and a little lost girl).

 

Topical Resonances:

  • Nuclear warfare is a constant issue in our time and so it prompts more questions relating to the controversial weaponry
  • Opens the idea of nuclear issues from a different angle. Rather than radiation and destruction, it takes it from a scientific perspective of what effects it could have on the planets position and weather

Overall Verdict:

 

I think that if this film concept was re done in modern times, the special effects of today would make it a much better movie. It wasn’t to my personal taste as it seemed a bit farfetched as far a plot lines go and I didn’t like the fact that it was shown in black and white. I did however find the use of a brownish tint effective showing the effects of the heat but still think colour would bring the plot much more to life. I would personally give it a 6/10.

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