When Worlds Collide, brought to us by a very familiar name to 50s sci-fi, George Pal, is a frightening take on a theme that seemed to permeate the culture of the time. Taking the idea of nuclear destruction one step further with not only one or two countries being destroyed, but our entire planet, the film quite literally tells the tale of worlds colliding.
David Randall (Richard Derr) is a bit of a rogue, ladies man and transporter, and he is hired by a group of astronomers at an observatory in South Africa to ferry a suitcase to some fellow scientists in America.
On arriving Stateside, Randall is met by Joyce Hendron (Barbara Rush), the daughter of one of the scientists, who takes him to his delivery point, and because of their shared attraction, she vouches for him, and gets him into the inner circle to find out what is going on.
It seems two planetary bodies are going to pass through our solar system, one, Zyra, close enough to cause earthquakes and tidal waves, and the other Bellus, will strike, and destroy Earth days later.
In a surprisingly humanitarian effort, though some of it is induced by self-preservation, some companies, and big names start financing, and overseeing the construction of a giant rocket, an ark, that will leave Earth, and aim for Zyra, being the planet closest to us at the time.
The film is fun, though looking back, I think viewing it as young child in the 50s probably would have frightened a lot of kids, when the threat of nuclear war seemed to be everywhere.
Now however, I would put it on par with Emmerich’s 2012, though of the two of them, I would prefer this one, shoddy miniature and model work included, mindless and delightful fun.
I did get into the film though, and was quite happy to buy into the scenario, and all the things that happened, though a lot of it was very naive. I enjoyed it all, until the very last scene, and we get to see their new world.
In this case, Zyra is a painting, nowhere near as good as a matte, and honestly, it looked almost cartoon-like. It looked like our survivors were going to move in to Toon Town. It was the only time in the film that I laughed out loud, I may have scoffed and rolled my eyes at the fun effects and story beforehand, but this actually got a full-out laugh from me.
Sorry, but true.
But as mentioned, you can see why it would be considered an important science fiction film, it was a direct reflection of the fears prevalent at the time.
So if you had a rainy afternoon, like I did, there are worse things to watch, sometimes there’s nothing like a genre classic to fill your time.