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When Worlds Collide (Chk)
When Worlds Collide
Chk
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy
2001

Winner of the 1951 Academy Award for Best Special Effects, this science fiction extravaganza set a new standard for the realistic depiction of cinematic disasters. Of course, it's a quaint curiosity by today's technologica...  more »

     

Movie Details

Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Sub-Genres: Science Fiction
Studio: Paramount
Format: DVD
DVD Release Date: 09/25/2001
Release Year: 2001
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
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Movie Reviews

A Quintessential 1950's Sci-Fi Film
M. Hart | USA | 10/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Based upon the 1933 novel by Edwin Balmer (1883-1959) and Philip Wylie (1902-1971), "When Worlds Collide" was adapted to film in 1951 under the direction of Rudolph Maté (1898-1964) and with a budget of approximately $936,000. (By comparison in the same year, this was only slightly less than the budget used for "The Day the Earth Stood Still", but a small fraction of the $7,000,000 budget spent for "Quo Vadis"). The story begins at a remote observatory where the eminent astronomer, Dr. Emery Bronson (Hayden Rorke, 1910-1987) discovers that a rogue star with its orbiting planet (that he names Bellus and Zyra respectively) may be on a collision course with Earth. In absolute secrecy, Dr. Bronson sends his horrific data to his colleague Dr. Cole Hendron (Larry Keating, 1896-1963) in New York via the leather-jacketed, ace pilot & courier Dave Randall (Richard Derr, 1918-1992). With the assistance of his daughter Joyce Hendron (Barbara Rush), Dr. Hendron analyzes Dr. Bronson's data on the "Differential Analyzer" (an old-fashioned analog computer) and confirms the trajectories of Bellus and Zyra. Dr. Hendron confers with other scientists and world leaders to ask them to build rockets to ferry as many people, animals and plants as possible away from the doomed Earth and to a new home on Zyra. (The similarity to the Judeo-Christian myth of Noah's ark is obvious.) However, the findings fall on deaf ears, except for the aging, wheelchair-bound millionaire Sydney Stanton (John Hoyt, 1905-1991), who agrees to fund the building of a single rocket that can take just over 40 passengers as long as he has a seat. The film follows the construction of the rocket, the devastating effects that the gravity of Zyra and Bellus have upon Earth as they approach, and the impact that the impending doom has upon the social structure.

For a film that was made long before computer-generated special effects existed, the special effects used in "When Worlds Collide" are effective and entertaining. It's especially fun to see how people in the early 1950's envisioned the types of technology that could be used to travel into space years before any nation had created an actual space program or trained any astronauts. Though the science used in the film was flawed and film's meager budget prevented a more realistic vision of a Zyran landscape, neither seriously adversely affects the film-watching experience. Overall, I rate the 1951 "When Worlds Collide" with 4 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it to any sci-fi aficionado."
"If our calculations prove to be correct, this will be the m
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 03/16/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"So where will you be when the end is nigh? And when I speak of the end, I'm talking about the end of the world, as depicted in producer George Pal's classic science fiction feature When Worlds Collide (1951), which won an Oscar in 1952 for best special effects. Based on the novel written by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie, and directed by Rudolph Maté (D.O.A., The Violent Men), the film features Richard Derr (The Bride Goes Wild) and Barbara Rush (It Came from Outer Space). Also appearing is Larry Keating ("Mister Ed"), John Hoyt (Lost Continent, The Conqueror), Peter Hansen (The Deep Six), Alden Chase (The Blob), Hayden `Dr. Bellows' Rorke ("I Dream of Jeannie"), and Frank Cady (The Bad Seed, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao), probably best known for his role as the amiable general store proprietor Sam Drucker on the television series "Green Acres". Also, keep an ear out for popular voice over/narration artist Paul `The Voice' Frees (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, The Monolith Monsters, The Time Machine), who's provided voices for such characters as Frances the talking mule, Boris Badenov, Morocco Mole, and the Pillsbury Doughboy, among a great many others.

The film opens with an apocalyptic passage from the Bible (Pal sure loved his scripture), after which we see some astronomers, working out of a South African observatory, busily crunching data and giving us the sense they've discovered something amiss with the universe, or, at least, our little corner of it...they pack up their materials and send them off with a pilot/courier named David Randall (Derr), to be delivered to Professor Cole Hendron (Keating), a scientist/astronomer who resides in the U.S. On arriving, Dave hooks up with Joyce (Rush), the professor's comely daughter and eventually learns the end of the Earth is but eight, short months away. Here's the deal...there's two planetoids, one called Zyra, and the 2nd, larger one called Bellus, headed directory towards the Earth, and total annihilation is imminent. Hendron presents this information to the U.N., but they give him the bum's rush. He then proceeds to find private backers to finance a wacky plan involving building a rocket ship (dubbed `the Ark') and using it to hop onto Zyra as the planetoid passes, just prior to the arrival of Bellus (the arrival of Zyra will cause massive destruction on Earth, but the arrival of Bellus will cause complete obliteration). The professor does find his financial backing, the majority of it coming from a cold, calculating, cynical, wheelchair bound industrialist named Stanton (Hoyt), who will only shell out for the project as long as he gets a seat on the rocket. As the project develops, so does a love triangle between Dave, Joyce, and her sort of fiancé, Professor Hendron and Stanton have various fallings out, and eventually the world comes to realize the threat, once perceived as non-existent, is actually very real. As the rocket ship and the associated preparations come to a close, the final task is to decide who among the workers shall get to go...space is extremely limited, and many will have to be left behind. Some sacrifices are made, both willing and unwilling, as the launch draws near...

As far as science fiction classics from the 1950s, When Worlds Collide is definitely in my top ten. What it may lack in scientific theory (which is quite a bit), it more than makes up for in imagination, and, as others have mentioned, just plain fun. The film does require quite a bit in terms of suspending one's disbeliefs, but this is made easy due to the fact it provides an engaging and engrossing storyline, with a number of interesting characters. I thought Derr did very well as David Randall, an individual caught up in the middle of the of the action, struggling with guilt based his automatic inclusion in the chosen few who get to go (Joyce's father, the professor, sees how she feels about him, so he makes an allowance for David), and the fact he feels he has so little to offer compared to the others working on the project, many of whom will not be able to make the trip (again, space on the ship is extremely limited). At times he did seem a bit overly benevolent and lacking the core, intrinsic trait everyone shares, that being a strong sense of self-preservation. I thought Ms. Rush also did well as a woman torn between two men, her dilemma heightened and brought to a head by having the specific knowledge of when the end was coming. Perhaps my favorite character was that of the industrialist Stanton, played by John Hoyt. The character was a near perfect cynical, self-serving `ying' to Professor Hendron's optimistic, altruistic `yang'...was it me, or did Hendron seem a little too naïve at times in terms of understanding human nature, specifically in times of desperation? Sure, there will be those willing to sacrifice much, even their lives, for the overall good, but, being a person myself, I've got a strong suspicion most will be overcome with the innate desire to survive, something which Stanton understood implicitly. Some of my favorite scenes from the film featured Stanton...the first being when Zyra was to pass the Earth, the expected result being cataclysmic, world wide destruction, particularly in the coastal areas. Predictions stated this would happen about 1 PM on a certain day, and when the day finally arrives, we see them all staring at a wall clock, waiting for something to happen. Time passes, and, for a moment, nothing happens, to which Stanton begins snidely mocking the `oh-so smart' scientists, only to be silenced moments later by the beginning of the end...what an a-hole...I think when they predicted 1 PM, there was probably some leeway in there, and not meant to be precise to the nanosecond. Another great sequence occurs when Stanton's assistant becomes desperate and tells everyone, at gunpoint, that he's going too...it's at this point when he lets loose his true feelings for his boss, and surprise, surprise, they're all negative. The last sequence comes near the end, as the wheelchair bound Stanton experiences sort of an ironic miracle...to say anymore would give it away, but the film is worth seeing if only for this scene. Given this is a George Pal production, one would expect excellent special effects and high production values, and both are present. The ship itself looks amazing, even if the relatively simplistic looking controls aren't. I especially enjoyed the disaster sequences that followed once Zyra passes the Earth. Earthquakes, burning cities, giant tidal waves, volcanoes erupting...the works! The only element that didn't work so well was the obvious oil painting used at the end. I had read Pal had originally wanted to include a develop miniature set, but the studio, in a rush to release the film, tacked on a somewhat crude looking oil painting instead...oh well...

The picture, presented in fullscreen, looks decent, but does appear slightly grainy in some spots, and fuzzy in others. The picture quality on the old laser disc release was much cleaner, so I was a little surprised this release didn't match. The Dolby Digital mono audio track comes across strong, so there's that...as far as extras, it's slim pickin's (no, not the actor) as all that are included is a theatrical trailer and English subtitles. Seems to me Paramount could have done a little more given the prominence of the film in terms of its significance to the genre overall, but they missed the opportunity.

Cookieman108
"
One of the best of the period
Cave Bear | Houston, TX USA | 04/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When Worlds Collide was (albeit loosely) based on the novel by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer, first published back in 1932. George Pal (who became known as the best producer of SF genre films of the 1950s) produced this film after his highly successful "Destination Moon". The cast was comprised mainly of unknowns, probably to save money, only Barbara Rush and John Hoyt (who played the nasty industrialist Stanton to the hilt). going on to moderately successful film careers. Or you might notice Frank Cady, as Stanton's assistant, who later became well-known in the 1960s TV shows "Petticoat Junction" and "Green Acres", playing the same character in both shows, or a very young Stuart Whitman in a bit part. The recently released DVD was long overdue, as the film has been restored to what I can only imagine was the original Technicolor clarity and hue of it's theatrical release. As has been pointed out, the film was a product of it's time (for instance, there are only white people on the space Ark). But if you keep in mind when the film was made, and the structure of American society at the time, such details, so politically incorrect today, fall into the irrelevancy they deserve. Also, I don't think this was Pal's effort to do some kind of nuclear holocaust allegory, as some have suggested. Pal was a deeply religious man, and this was reflected to varying degrees in all of his films, and after seeing this movie many times, I lean more towards it being a truly Biblical "end of the world" story, rather than the more common 1950's "atomic doom" sort, although he was certainly cognizant of this angle (see his version of "The Time Machine"). As usual, Pal got an Oscar for special effects (nearly all of his movies did). The acting is good in spots, stiff in others. I have never seen Richard Derr (David Randall, the pilot) in anything else, but always felt he played his character quite believably and well in WWC. The story starts slow, but picks up with the flow of events leading up to the launch of the space Ark to the new world. Technically, the film was fairly accurate for it's time, with a few scientific holes you could fly their spaceship through. But then the book upon which the movie was based had the same issues. Master space artist Chesley Bonestell's fingerprints were all over this one, as was his excellent artwork. Yes, I know some complain about that last matte shot at the end of the movie, showing the new world's landscape, but I think both Pal and Bonestell intended for it to have that "stylized" look, and if you are not out to pick nits, I think they pulled it off. The DVD version of When Worlds Collide deserves a place of honor in any SF movie aficionado's collection."
Not Just An Asteroid...
A. Hoogeveen | The Golden State | 09/17/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Indeed, there is no question in reviewing the premise of this film: the Earth WILL be destroyed. It's not just a matter of blowing a piece of cosmic debris out of the sky...Doing my best to place myself in the position of one of the myriad cast, I have found the experience of viewing this film to be rather terrifying. And certainly the producers of "this telling" have done an outstanding job of translating the novel (written in the early '30s) into a cinematic "nightmare."Crisply told in an almost typical '50s style, the story moves along with little baggage to hold it back. And while the special effects are lacking in comparison to today's CG capabilities, they easily suffice for what the director was trying to convey.Prior to the launch of the "space ark," the steady build-up of anticipation and urgency effectively causes the audience to experience the panic and paranoia of Earth's final moments. Just imagine watching your world vanishing from existence...Finally, I recommend that one read the original novel (recently reprinted) which contains a more detailed exposition of humanity in the face of certain doom. Besides, the novel also features the sequel to the first story, written shortly after the original by the same authors. It's quite a tale in and of itself. Enjoy..."