THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE (Val Guest, 1961)

I e-mailed these remarks to friends in late March 2006:

I just saw The Day the Earth Caught Fire twice on DVD—the second time, with director Val Guest’s commentary. Guest died earlier this month.
     With the exception of some excrutiatingly corny quasi-romantic stuff, this is a wonderful piece of work—and, given the current global warming crisis, scarily prophetic. Guest’s science-fiction film was produced in 1961, although he had been trying for eight years to get it made.
     The frames are beautifully composed. The black-and-white cinematography by Harry Waxman is gorgeous; the reddish-orange-yellow tint at the front and back of the film, to convey the end-game heating of Earth by the sun, is frighteningly vivid. The special effects are awesome.
     Renée Asherson has one exquisite scene as the protagonist’s ex-wife; look and listen for young Michael Caine, as a cop, in a fifteen-second part.
     Guest’s commentary is all the more amazing given that he is remembering back some forty years. The dude with him will opine how a shot was done, and Guest will pipe in, “No, no, no,” and proceed to tell how it was actually done. Only once or twice does Guest say, “I really don’t remember.”
     The Daily Express office scenes are absolutely convincing; the kids’ water-orgy after water is being rationed, a little less so.

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