The Day The Earth Caught Fire

The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Janet Munro, Edward Judd
Extras: Commentary Track, Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots, Radio Spots, Still Gallery, Director Bio

It’s certainly frustrating when a recent movie is released on DVD with no extras. What makes this practice even more frustrating and mysterious is that Anchor Bay Entertainment can seemingly effortlessly release a 40-year old movie with a ton of great special features. Their DVD release of 1961’s ’The Day the Earth Caught Fire’ is an impressive one indeed. We start with the film itself, which is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and has been letterboxed at 2.35:1. The transfer of this black & white film is simply amazing, as there are practically no defects to be found. The picture is sharp and very clear, showing zero grain or distortion. This print of the film includes the sepia-toned beginning and ending scenes, which (according to the commentary) have rarely been viewed as director Val Guest intended. The audio on this disc is a Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack, which provides clear and audible dialogue, with no hissing or distortion.

The most impressive special feature on ’The Day the Earth Caught Fire’ DVD is the audio commentary featuring writer/director/producer Val Guest and journalist Ted Newsom (who also appeared on Anchor Bay’s recent release, ’PIN’). The most amazing thing about this commentary is that 90-year old Guest can remember many more details about the making of ’The Day the Earth Caught Fire’ than most contemporary directors recall about their latest films. Guest speaks throughout the film, giving a great deal of detail about the making of the film, the actors, and some highlights of his career. Newsom does a fine job of asking thought-provoking questions and filling in some gaps. We are next treated to a 3-minute theatrical trailer for the film, which is letterboxed at 2.35:1. In addition, there are four TV spots, ranging in lengths from 60-seconds to 10-seconds, and all are framed at 1.85:1. As an added bonus, there are four radio spots, ranging in lengths from 60-seconds to 15-seconds. Next, the disc offers a still gallery, which includes 99 pictures (some of which are ’cheesecake’ shots, and two stills from a deleted scene from the British print of the film which contained nudity). Rounding out the special features is a very detailed biography of Val Guest.

’The Day the Earth Caught Fire’ is an interesting entry into the realm of British science-fiction films. The movie stars Edward Judd as Peter Stenning, a divorced newspaper reporter, who is down on his luck. He and his colleagues began to investigate some mysterious seismic activity and discover that the United State and the Soviet Union each detonated nuclear bombs on each of the Earth’s poles at approximately the same time. These explosions have caused the Earth to shift the tilt of its axis, therefore, throwing off its orbit. This results in rising temperatures. At first, the citizens of London revel in the warm weather, but soon, the heat creates a great fog bank. This event is followed by scorching hot winds, begining to destroy the city. As the temperature climbs and water becomes scarce (the Thames dries up!), the authorities begin to search for a way to save the Earth. Meanwhile, Stenning and new love interest Jeannine (Janet Munro) do what they can to survive the blistering heat and wait to see if the planet can be saved.

’The Day the Earth Caught Fire’ plays a bit slow by today’s standards (basically nothing happen for the first 20-minutes), but the film is engaging nonetheless, mainly due to the realistic premise. Guest gets good performances from his cast, who use rapid-fire dialogue to increase the tension. Once the disasters begin to happen, the film becomes very suspenseful and the ending is quite a shocker. Those who love classic sci-fi will certainly want to seek out ’The Day the Earth Caught Fire’. The film is good and the DVD is a hot one!