Rating: ***** Threat: Shift in Earth's orbit
Melina. Written by Wolf Mankowitz & Val Guest; Photographed by Harry Waxman; Special effects by Les Bowie; Edited by Bill Lenny; Music by Stanley Black & Monty Norman; Produced by Val Guest & Frank Sherwin Green (associate); Directed by Val Guest. B & W, 99 minutes.
Edward Judd (Peter Stenning, London newspaper reporter); Janet Munro (Jeannie Craig, telephone operator); Leo McKern (Bill Maguire, science editor of Daily Express); Arthur Christiansen (Jefferson, managing editor of Daily Express); Michael Goodliffe (Decker, night editor); Bernard Braden (Davis, feature editor); Charles Morgan (foreign editor); Reginald Beckwith (Harry, pub owner); Gene Anderson (May, Harry's wife); Renée Asherson (Angela, Stenning's estranged wife); Ian Ellis (Mike Stenning, their seven-year-old son); Austin Trevor (Sir John Kelly, head of Meteorological Center); Edward Underdown (Sanderson, assignment chief); Geoffrey Gather (Pat Holroyd, public relations director of Meteorological Center); Jane Aird (Mike's nanny); John Barron, Peter Butterworth (assistant editors at the Daily Express); Michael Caine (traffic cop who warns Pete about the rioters).
The Day the Earth Caught Fire is an earnest and thoughtful apocalyptic entry principally geared toward an adult rather than a juvenile audience. Val Guest, a filmmaker with an admirable record in the British film industry, including The Quatermass Xperiment (1956), Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957) and Expresso Bongo (1959), crafted this picture with great care as writer, producer and director. Guest's personal background as a journalist no doubt influenced his decision to view the end of the world through the eyes of a newspaperman, and this helps to give the film a solid, realistic environment from which to examine the last days of humankind.
The story opens as reporter Pete Stenning roams through the deserted, sundrenched streets of London. The office of the Daily Express is completely empty, and Pete must telephone to reach a copyeditor to take down his story (which may be the last story he will ever write) about the fate of humanity and a desperate scientific attempt to save the planet. As he speaks, the story flashes back ninety days to when the crisis originated. In the bustling newsroom, overworked science editor Bill Maguire is entrusted to write an article about the recent American nuclear test in Antarctica, the largest explosion ever attempted. The last few days have seen an outbreak of multiple natural disasters, floods, earthquakes