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The Day The Earth Caught Fire - What can nuclear bombs do?
The Day The Earth Caught Fire (DVD)
Member Name: TimListfield
The Day The Earth Caught Fire (DVD)
Advantages: A brilliant plot, and some great film techniques and ideas.
Disadvantages: A bit slow at times. Some acting is too theatrical.
The Day the Earth Caught fire is a poignant sci-fi film that was pretty ground-breaking in its time, using interesting techniques to compliment the distinctly dark storyline that even now is very relevant in its way. During the 60's there were a lot of people who were for and against nuclear weapons. This film centres around that idea, and expands upon it t bring in even more disaster. Director and writer Val Guest is best known for his contribution to sci-fi and horror (He wrote comedy horrors Oh, Mr Porter and The Ghost Train, and directed numerous Hammer Horrors). This is probably one of his best films, and stars Janet Munro, Leo McKern and Edward Judd.
The film opens with a scene set in London, which has seemingly been partially destroyed. The colour of the scene is orange, but we don't know why. A lone man walks through the street. He is hot, and walks into a building. We learn that he's a report and is reporting on the end of the world. His name is Peter Stenning (Edward Judd).
We then flash back to several months before. Stenning has been through a messy divorce and his work has been in decline. His editor has decided that he has no more time for him, and has demoted him. He is now just a runner and has to fight his way through just for scraps of news.
At the same time, we learn about the detonation of two nuclear bombs by Russia and the USA at both the North and South Poles.
Soon, things in London start to get hotter and Britain and the world appear to be in the middle of a heat wave. However, there are some that begin to worry when an eclipse of the sun takes place nine days earlier than it should. Stenning and some others start to do some digging, and find to their horror that the nuclear detonations have had a huge effect on the planet, bringing the story full circle and leading to a meaningful and purposefully ambiguous climax.
This film has a superb plot, but at times is a little too slow because it's focused more on the newspaper trying to cover the end of the world story than the story itself. That said, it's only a small problem with the film, and there is still plenty happening that keeps you interested. This film does have some very clever techniques and ideas to show the world heating up. At the beginning and the end of the film, the scenes are given an orange tint to show how hot the world has become. During the flashback, everything is Black and White. There is also a standout scene where the Thames starts to evaporate and steams covers London. There are some other great action scenes as well, all showing the breakdown of society and how a few people in government have the power to wreck everything else for everyone.
The climax is also very clever. Clearly Val Guest wanted us to asks questions, so the ending is ambiguous and we are left to assume that the only way disaster can be avoided is if we as a race make our own decision.
The acting in this is good and bad. The three stars all hold their own, especially Edward Judd as Stennings. But there is also some acting that is far too theatrical, and at times does drag the film down a bit.
Overall though, this film is pretty good. The plot is very relevant and at times unnerving, and Val Guest's direction does focus on the disaster enough to keep you interested. Well worth watching.
Summary: A good, British disaster film.