Monday, February 02, 2009

The Day the Earth Caught Fire

The Day the Earth Caught Fire is a 1961 British science fiction film directed by Val Guest (Quatermass Experiment, Quatermass 2) and featuring Michael Caine in an early role. It stars Leo McKern (I know him better as Rumpole). The music is by Stanley Black.

This story is told as an extensive flashback: "It's hard to believe that only 90 days ago..." I like this movie. I like Leo McKern better every time I see him.

It can be viewed at, but you have to install their player on your computer. I've done that and had so much trouble with it I will never do it again. trailer:

Moria has a review that says,
The Day the Earth Caught Fire concerns itself with the sweeping climactic changes of an entirely hypothetical (and scientifically rather ludicrous) situation. But whatever the film lacks as science, it more than makes up for with the entirely credible social portrait of the situation – water-riots, images of queues for communal showers, people buying water on the blackmarket just to tend their garden.

Million Monkey Theater likes it:
1961‘s The Day the Earth Caught Fire is an excellent movie.
I strongly suggest that any sci-fi fan find a copy of this one and give it a watch.

DVDTalk says,
Val Guest's The Day the Earth Caught Fire, one of the best science fiction films made anywhere by anybody, turns the world topsy-turvy and gives us a glimpse of what it might be like to have to live through it. If Sci-Fi really is about 'future shock', huge pieces of this film will still resonate for audiences 40 years after it was released to critical acclaim and good boxoffice.
Wolf Mankowitz' crisp, intelligent writing style would be welcome in any genre, and here he constructs an absorbing group of characters with which we immediately identify.
With good production values and Guest's fluid direction bringing out every aspect of the script there isn't a scene that doesn't work, a compliment indeed considering the phenomena the actors must react to.
Because it's about people and not warfare or wholesale slaughter, this is the most thoughtful and persuasive of the doomsday films. It's also not a morbid soap opera

2/24/2009: Edward Judd, who starred in this film, died today. obits: The Independent, TimesOnline, Flickr, The Herald


  1. Good choice. This is one of my favorite films.
    I love that It sets itself apart from other films by not having the hero save the day or come up with the solution. Everyone just has to deal with the situation. Also very cool to see how a newspaper used to work.
    Very inventive use of colour for a black and white film too:)
    Useless trivia: Michael Caine is in the film. His first ever film gig is a bit part as a traffic cop

  2. We like Michael Caine around here, and I did note his appearance. My younger son likes him a lot. He loves The Italian Job, The Man Who Would Be King, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.... The Last Valley is a favorite.

    There's no such thing as _useless_ trivia. lol