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  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
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    The Day the Earth Caught Fire
    Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 95 mins . PG . PAL


    This budget release from Universal is short on extra features, but the drama quota is high.

    The place is London; the year is 1962. By idiotic coincidence, scientists in the Soviet Union and America have chosen the same hour to test the biggest nuclear devices yet unleashed.

    The combined effect is to push the Earth off its axis, and change its orbit to send it spinning towards the sun. The world is on fire, and the only people who may possibly be able to quench the flames are the same scientists who triggered the inferno. Can you trust proven pyromaniacs to put it out?

    This British science fiction thriller combines low-key special effects with high voltage scripting. The story is literate and highly believable - understandable when you notice that director Val Guest co-wrote the screenplay with one of Britain's famed practitioners, Wolf Mankowitz.

    The action is set on London's Fleet Street, home of the newspaper industry, and the settings of newspaper offices with chattering telexes and rumbling linotype presses are totally believable.

    And so are the myriad details of the newsroom where most of the drama is played out, where reporters Peter Stenning (Edward Judd) and Bill Maguire (Leo McKern) piece together details of the impending disaster as London starts to boil and fester. There is just enough time left for Peter to start a romance with young telephonist Jeannie Craig (Janet Munro), but this is low-key enough not to take away from the drama of the piece.

    Acting is first-rate throughout, with honours taken (of course) by our very own Leo 'Rumpole of the Bailey' McKern, looking a lot less rumpled and crumpled than we're used to. The special effects probably cost a couple of thousand dollars to mount, but their simplicity shows that a clever script is still the most important ingredient of all.

    This is a quiet but effective thriller. Cinema science fiction with an intelligent core, as it too rarely is. The core premise has dated now, but the masterly film-making remains.


    This widescreen anamorphic transfer of a good condition black and white print preserves the original and extremely effective use of an orange/sepia tint for the opening and closing sequences, to suggest the heat-haze enveloping the globe.

    The overall condition of the transfer is good, although there is some aliasing evident from time to time - a shimmer in some details not caused by heat. But despite that effect, this is a sound presentation of a minor classic British movie.

    Sound is basic mono, but very clear at all times. There are no extra features of any kind, no extra languages and no subtitles.

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  •   And I quote...
    "The world is on fire. Can you trust proven pyromaniacs to put it out?"
    - Anthony Clarke
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