Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)



  "The human race has been poisoning itself for years with a great big smile on its fat face."



Why I'm Watching

  • I was recently inspired to buy quite a few nuclear themed movies. 
  • Directed by Val Guest, who also directed The Quatermass Xperiment. 
  • Number 2, Leo McKern is always fun to watch. 
  • It makes me think of The Twilight Zone episode, "The Midnight Sun."
  • It's been so hot I had parts melting off my car, and the air is smoky due to the fires burning all around. I can totally relate to what's going on in this movie. 
  • There's nothing more cheerful than an apocalyptic tale. It helps one to remember that things could always be worse. Unless they already are.
  • When environmental conditions mirror those you're seeing in a disaster movie, it almost becomes cathartic to watch. Or perhaps anxiety inducing. It all depends on your temperament I suppose, and maybe your location.

Sorry, but if you're under 16 and British, you must leave now.


The Gist

Daily Express newspaper man, Pete Stenning, finds out from gal pal, and informant at the Ministry, Jeannie Craig, that simultaneous nuclear tests by the US and Soviet Union at the north and south poles have shifted the tilt of the Earth, causing all sorts of meteorological mayhem, sending Earth careening closer to the sun. Scientists come up with a plan to rectify the situation, and Pete readies two headlines to announce Earth's redemption or destruction.



Things I Like

  • The tinting at the beginning really gives a nice, fiery impression of hell. 
  • Foreboding, ominous tones coupled with the beginning of the end scenes was a great way to start the film with tension.
  • Rapid-fire, witty dialogue.
  • Specifically credited "Beatnik music" by Monty Norman.
  • Real footage of burning buildings, storms, and floods add a realistic quality of the picture.  
  • This is a movie I could watch repeatedly. Just a fine evening's entertainment. 



Things I Don't Like

  • The audio on this Lionsgate DVD is not crystal clear and subtitles would have been helpful.


Interesting Moments

  • The rapid rolling in of the dense fog was eerie, and the view above it from the top deck of the double decker bus was pretty cool. 
  • Interesting theory that the combined nuclear explosions at north and south poles shifted the tilt of the Earth, creating new climate zones. 
  • Jeannie sets up a place for Pete to crash in her bathroom, but then goes to bed nekkid, despite telling him that she's allergic to one night stands. When Bill calls, he comes out in his boxers to answer it, and soon after hanging up, she gives in to temptation, and the moment is punctuated by a violent storm that topples trees, cars, and a double decker bus. 
  • Jeannie gets busted for being a 'leaker'. Pete argues that he should be the one who was charged since he was the one who broke the story on the Earth going off kilter. 
  • Intense moment when Davis calls the reporters into his office to share the news that the Earth not only shifted its tilt, but altered its orbit, bringing it closer to the sun, while the camera pans around at their shocked faces. 
  • End of the world drunken dance party parading in the streets as Pete tries to make his way through to Jeannie's place. He has to abandon his car (Bill's car) when they decide they want to flip it, and then has to fight off a group of miscreants as they torment Jeannie. 


Notable Quotes

Pete Stenning: It is exactly [checks watch] 30 minutes since the corrective bombs were detonated. Within the next few hours, the world will know whether this is the end or another beginning. The rebirth of man or his final obituary. For the last time, man pursued his brother with a sword, and so the final fire was kindled. The earth that was to live forever was blasted by a great wind towards oblivion.


News Editor: Bill, you can't write a feature on thrombosis and call it, "You, Too, Can Be the Death of the Party."
Bill Maguire: Ah, we're all getting soft! That's what we're all getting...soft!


Pete Stenning: Well, your car's safely back. It's a fine vessel and should prove seaworthy for another hundred years or so.
Bill Maguire: What I don't understand--why bother to come back? You borrow my car for lunch why bother to hurry back at 6:30?


Pete Stenning: Tell me all about sun spots, Daddy.
Bill Maguire: Sun spots are caused when the rays of the sun beat down on an unprotected torso, thus causing a sun rash similar to acne.
Pete Stenning: I thought it was clean living that did that.


Pete Stenning: This may not be a revelation to you, but, and I quote, "The thrill is gone, but it's really gone."
Bill Maguire: You know what I think?
Pete Stenning: I should get my finger back on the typewriter.
Bill Maguire: Roughly.
Pete Stenning: Alcoholics of the press, unite!


Pete Stenning: Listen, your job is to pass messages on when you're asked.
Jeannie Craig: My job is to do what I'm told by the people who gave me the job. And anyway, this isn't my job. I'm from the Pool.
Pete Stenning: Well, why don't you dive back in and drown!
Bill Maguire: I take it you didn't get much change out of her.
Pete Stenning: I'm going over there and I'm going to shake her till her tilt sign goes up.
Bill Maguire: Fine, in the meantime, shake my car keys out of your pocket. I may want to use it before closing time.


Bill Maguire: Eight hundred grisly words on thrombosis and look what they do to me: "Stubborn Men and the Killer They Caught." What sort of impact heading is that? Might as well be working on the police gazette!


Bill Maguire: Oh, come on now. What did I do? Alright, I know, I know. I shouted at you on the phone, but that was four weeks ago. Does it have to be a blood feud? Besides, I was under stress and sober at the time.


Jeannie Craig: Looks spooky, doesn't it?
Bill Maguire: I'm fascinated to know what your friend Holroyd makes of this.
Jeannie Craig: He's not my friend. I just work for him now and then.
Bill Maguire: And turn down all his passes.
Jeannie Craig: He's harmless.
Bill Maguire: Nobody's harmless. Not if they're normal.
Jeannie Craig: And you're normal?
Bill Maguire: So far. There's very few of us normals left, you know. You should always be nice to us.


Jeannie Craig: Oh, come on now, Pete, we're too old.
Bill Maguire: I'm NOT too old.
Jeannie Craig: Look I said you could use the phone and that's all.
Bill Maguire: Oh, come on now, Jeannie, what do you want? A slow build up? Hot hands at the movies? Knee trembles in a coffee bar?


Pete Stenning: The human race has been poisoning itself for years with a great big smile on its fat face.


Premier addressing public: I felt it necessary to speak to you all if only to stop the many wild and irresponsible rumors, precipitated by a general lack of facts. There has indeed been a displacement in the direction of the polar axis, but it is not a catastrophe, nor is it the millennium. Theologists and astronomers have long had evidence that the tilt of the Earth has been altered more than once in the history of evolution, and it has survived them all. Now, what does this mean to us in our daily lives? Well, some of the seasons, as we know them, may be disturbed and change their intensity.  (unintelligible) have undoubtedly brought some regions nearer to the polar circle, whilst others have been carried further from it. But I have the utmost confidence the world's scientists can produce solutions for any of the climactic problems we are likely to meet. I know that many of you are blaming the combined effects of nuclear tests for this disturbance to the motion of the Earth. I must tell you that the majority of the world's scientists deny that this is the cause, however, I would be failing in my duty if I did not admit to you that there are many others who believe it could have been. But whatever the rights, or whatever the wrongs, the four major powers have now reached unconditional agreement to cease all further tests, experiments and manufactured work on nuclear projects.
Bill Maguire: What they'll do to get votes!
Premier: I ask you now to face the future calmly and constructively, remembering that here in Britain, at least, the weather is something we are used to coping with.
Jackson: I wonder who writes his punchlines.


Pete Stenning: I'm not up on my sci-fi. So, we're orbiting towards the sun. Well, how many billion light years...
Bill Maguire: If that were true, I'd say there's about four months.
Reporter: Before what?
Bill Maguire: Before there's a delightful smell in the universe of charcoaled mankind.


Bill Maguire: You want some?
Pete Stenning: I'm off it.
Bill Maguire: So I've noticed. It's a beautiful thing to watch a woman reform a man. You only needed the Earth to catch fire.


Pete Stenning: So man has sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind. Perhaps in the next few hours, there will be no remembrance of the past, and no hope for the future that might have been. All the works of man will be consumed in the great fire out of which he was created. But perhaps at the heart of the burning light into which he has thrust his world, there is a heart that cares more for him than he has ever cared for himself. And if there is a future for man, insensitive as he is, proud and defiant in his pursuit of power, let him resolve to live it lovingly, for he knows well how to do so. Then he may say once more: Truly the light is sweet, and what a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to see the sun.


Memorable Moments















































Love It or Leave It

Love it a lot! Trust the British to really know how to put together a fine little doomsday movie, with characters that are joking all the way to the delightful end. The ambiguous ending is perfectly well suited to it. It's fascinating to see the media's role in covering an end of the world scenario, and its responsibility to citizens who depend on it for factual information. It is unsettling that we recently had a solar eclipse, and are currently having major hurricanes and floods, massive wildfires, excessive heatwaves, and devastating earthquakes. Could we trust the media to inform us if the Earth had shifted on its axis and began orbiting closer to the sun, or would they keep silent so the beatniks would not come out and party in the street, tip cars, and douse hapless citizens with water? Frightening to think about. Just the sort of movie I enjoy.

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