Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951). Director: Rudolph Mate. Produced by George Pal.

Earth has a real problem. A star called Bellus is entering our solar system and bringing with it a planet named Zyra. Unfortunately as these planetary bodies approach earth, they will tear the planet apart in only eight months. At first scientists are unable to convince skeptical, frightened authorities of the sad truth of the matter, but eventually they find a wealthy benefactor, Stanton (John Hoyt), to fund the building of a rocket that can take forty or so people to Zyra to start human life anew. Although as handsome as a peacock, Richard Derr makes a human and appealing hero as pilot David Randell, with scientist's daughter Joyce (Barbara Rush) as his love interest. [There is a triangle with Dr. Tony Drake (Peter Hansen) but this never overwhelms the story, although it adds another dimension to it at times.] The movie never makes it clear whether or not Earth will be completely destroyed or if there's any remote chance of some people surviving the cataclysm [why bother to evacuate 8 million people out of New York if they're all going to die anyway and where exactly do you put them?] and the final throes of the planet are never shown, except for the tidal wave that engulfs Manhattan [there's a great shot of the island under water with overturned ocean liners in the harbor]. A sequel might have dealt with the fact that Zyra appears to have "man-made" structures on it at the finale. There are some moments of pathos but at only 80 minutes the film concentrates primarily on action. Derr also appeared in Terror is a Man and The Invisible Avenger as the Shadow. Hansen has had a long, long list of credits. Rush also appeared in Bigger Than Life with James Mason and many other movies. A miscast Larry Keating plays Rush's father, and while he has his moments, sometimes his delivery carries all the urgency of a man ordering liverwurst in a deli. Mate also directed such fine pictures as D.O.A. and No Sad Songs for Me.

Verdict: Fast-paced and satisfying if imperfect. ***.

2 comments:

dj Buddy Beaverhausen said...

A disaster film before its time, but Susan Sontag already declared sci-fi as "The Imagination of Disaster" well before Irwin Allen made a franchise of it.

William said...

Depressing that views of the future are generally so negative! But a happy future wouldn't be as dramatic, LOL.