BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE

By • Aug 27th, 2001 •

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1961

Simultaneous nuclear testing at the North and South poles throws the Earth off it’s axis and careering into the Sun. The only way to prevent annihilation is for the world’s antagonistic superpowers to get together and detonate four more nuclear bombs to try and put the Earth back on track. The events surrounding all this are seen through the eyes of London journalists Stenning (Edward Judd, THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON) and Maguire (Leo McKern, RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY, THE PRISONER). Steamy romantic interest is provided by normally clean-cut Disney girl Janet Munro (DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE) as the Government employee who innocently stumbles upon the terrifying truth the Government is trying to suppress. Temperatures rise in more ways than one as we are led to an ambiguous but entirely appropriate finale.

This is an atmospheric character driven drama and the performances are solid throughout, particularly from McKern as a dependable but gruff science reporter, and Judd, in his first starring role, comes across so well not only as the hard drinking, brash but charming reporter but also in his light romantic comedy scenes with Munro that it’s a wonder his career never amounted to much after this. The production is brisk and very slick and the minimal SFX by Les Bowie that graphically illustrate the bizarre climatic changes resulting from the rising temperature, in particular the River Thames drying out, belie the low budget director Guest had at his disposal. Stock footage is also used seamlessly and effectively, including some from THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, also directed by Guest.

The film is also important in it’s almost documentary style record of London’s newspaper industry of the time. It’s location shooting in the offices of the Daily Express in London’s famous Fleet Street wonderfully, and authentically, captures a bustling bygone age and even has then ex-Daily Express editor Arthur Christiansen portraying the editor. It’s no surprise that Christiansen was also technical advisor on the film.

The film has been fully re-mastered and restored including some semi-nude scenes with the aforementioned ‘clean-cut’ Munro that were cut from previous U.S. releases (Guest says in his commentary that this is the film where Munro ‘grew up’) and the restoration of the amber tint to the opening and closing scenes. The commentary by Guest is remarkably informative considering that both the film and his memories are over 40 years old, and is one of the best I’ve heard. I can’t recall a single silent pause and everything uttered is pertinent, and one feels at the end that the film has ended all too soon and that he has a lot more to say. Also of great interest is the interview with the now late Leo McKern, who walks us around the Fleet Street locations as they are today and discusses the subsequent, and in one case tragic, fates of his co-stars.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for a very young Michael Caine as a British Bobby directing traffic through the heat induced London fog.

Highly recommended.

(Details refer to the Region 0 release from Network. Other releases may vary)


Special Features:
Full length commentary by Director Val Guest
Interview with Leo McKern
Scene Selection
Production Notes
Biographies
Stills galleries
Trailer
US Television Spots
16:9 Anamorphic


Cast:
Jeannie Craig: Janet Munro
Peter Stenning: Edward Judd
Bill Maguire: Leo McKern
Night editor: Michael Goodliffe
News editor: Bernard Braden
Editor: Arthur Christiansen
Sir John Kelly: Austin Trevor
Newspaperman: Peter Butterworth
Policeman: Michael Caine

Crew:
Directed by Val Guest for British Lion.

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