Rating: **** Threat: Collision with a comet
L'Ecran D'Art. Written by Abel Gance & H.S. Kraft based on Omega: Last Days of the World by Camille Flammarion; Dialogue by Jean Boyer; Photographed by Roger Hubert, Jules Kruger & Nikolas Roudakoff; Edited by F. Salabert; Music by Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky & others; Sound supervised by R. Baudouin; Produced by Harold Auten (U.S. version); Directed by Abel Gance. B & W, Original version, 105 minutes; U.S. version, 54 minutes.
Victor Francen (Martial Novalic, French astronomer); Jeanne Brindeau (Madame Novalic, his wife); Abel Gance (Jean Novalic, their son); Georges Colin (Werster, astronomer); Dr. Clyde Fisher (curator of astronomy, American Museum of Natural History).
In its present form, this film is an extract, a mere torso of the original work. Like an unfinished sculpture of Michelangelo, this fragment still has a tremendous power and impact. The high rating listed above is more a tribute to Gance and his original vision than an evaluation of the footage that remains. The background of the film needs to be thoroughly examined. Abel Gance was one of the giants of world cinema, and his final silent epic, Napoleon (1927), is one of the greatest and most innovative of all films, and certainly the crown jewel of French cinema. Gance conceived his end of the world epic near the close of World War I, after completing the silent version of J'Accuse (1917). He initially intended to call the film The End of the World as Seen, Heard and Rendered by Abel Gance. It was rather loosely based on an 1894 novel by the French astronomer Camille Flammarion that portrayed the future end of the world due to a collision with a large comet. When the backers of the project began to fear that the length of this film was becoming extravagant, the producers took control of the film away from Gance. Like Erich von Stroheim and Greed (1925), a stunning and exceptional vision was hewn down to a traditional length. The picture was released in France as La Fin du Monde (1931), at a length of 105 minutes. Disheartened, Abel Gance eventually disclaimed the truncated version. This film was never shown in the United States, and according to most sources, La Fin du Monde is considered a lost film today. The next step in the process was even worse. An American distributor, Harold Auten, bought up the rights to the film and trimmed it down to an unbelievable 54 minutes. A new introduction was shot featuring Dr. Clyde Fisher, who mumbles through an opening narration