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HALL OF FAMEon 19 April 2009
There was a time, long, long ago, when teachers taught their young students to crouch under their desks for protection if the Russians lobbed nuclear bombs into the town square. There was a time when kids would look at the marvelously detailed galactic paintings by Chesley Bonestell and rush to read more science fiction stories. There was a time when the human hand, not computers, created special effects in movies that made kids go "Wow!"

George Pal's When Worlds Collide, based on the science fiction novel by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie, may seem dated to today's jaded crowds fed on computer-generated excess, but give your inner young teen a chance to enjoy this good movie. It's all about, of course, an attempt to save a remnant of humanity from oblivion by whisking them off in an untried rocket ship to a new planet.

Astronomers have determined that Bellus, a star a dozen times larger than our own, is hurtling through the cosmos directly at earth. Circling Bellus is a new planet, Zyra. This planet will sweep past Earth bringing cataclysmic disaster. Then Bellus, days later, will obliterate Earth. A small group of scientists plan to build a space ship that will leave Earth just before Bellus hits and travel to Zyra, which, it is calculated, will be captured by the sun's gravitational pull and settle in to an orbit similar to what Earth's was. The rocket will only be able to take 44 men and women, plus a selection of animals and plants. Humanity's skills, dedication, selflessness...and ruthless desperation...will be tested to the full.

Among the people we'll get to know are Dr. Cole Hendron (Larry Keating), a wise scientist who heads the project and who sounds like an avuncular radio announcer; his daughter, Joyce (Barbara Rush), conflicted by her love for two men and evidently a recent graduate of the Ann Blythe School of Self-Consciously Gracious Acting; Dave Randall (Richard Derr), pilot, adventurer and a man who discovers he loves Joyce; Dr. Tony Drake (Peter Hansen), a man who also loves Joyce who must make a decision only he can make; and, best of all, Sydney Stanton (John Hoyt), an immensely rich businessman, confined to a wheelchair, whose idea of humanity would make a pride of lions at feeding time look like pussycats. He will fund the project if he gets a seat on the ship. He also brings rifles along to the building site. "Your salvation doesn't interest me; mine does," he snarls at Dr. Hendron.

When Worlds Collide offers up two great pleasures. First, the story hums along. Except for a lull in the middle when we have to deal with the Joyce-Dave-Tony triangle, there are no slow or dull spots. Granted, building a rocket ship in the mountains may not seem exciting, but the movie establishes the rush to get it done before Bellus hits. We also get to deal with the disasters that occur when Zyra speeds by. Rudolf Mate, the director, keeps his foot on the accelerator.

The second and best pleasure comes from the model work of George Pal. With no computers to make improbable disasters mundane, Pal gives us meticulous handmade models and special photography that stops us in our tracks. Just the work on the huge rocket ship, poised at the top of a ramp that sweeps down into a valley and then up the side of a mountain, is enormously satisfying. Pal and his memorable models give us everything we could hope for: exploding volcanoes with white-hot lava moving right towards us, oceans roaring across the land, buildings crushed, Manhattan seriously awash, a dramatic send-off of the rocket ship, and a hopeful look at humanity's new planet, combining snow, green-carpeted hills and some unusually tall and weird flowers.

Sure, the acting and the actors are all B-movie quality. The brief angst of the three-way romance is small stuff by today's Jen-Brad-Angie standards. The optimistic science is sketchy at best. The movie now seems more than a little naive. Well, so what? It moves quickly, looks great and it sure beats crouching under your desk waiting to be incinerated.

There are no extras on the DVD. The video and audio are good.

To find out what happened after the landing on Zyra, you'll need to read Balmer and Wylie's After Worlds Collide. Pal planned to film it but couldn't get financing. Let's just say it involves evidence of an older civilization, plus the realization that...perhaps...more than one rocket ship was able to escape Earth's destruction. I've got a feeling that life won't be all milk and honey for our new Zyranians.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 March 2007
This 1951 film is a minor classic in the history of science fiction films.

The film has tended to be overlooked as it came out the same year as The Day the Earth stood still (which IS a better film). But if you look back prior to 1951 there is really only Metropolis which stands out.

The title explains everything about the plot. A passing planet is going to pass near the Earth and cause chaos, however it will be closely followed by its star which will destroy the Earth. A team of scientists have to build a Rocket to take a selected few from the Earth so that the human race can survive. This provides a lot of opportunities for various sub-plots about the morality of who should get a place on the Rocket.

Its only real flaw is the science, where the film just doesn't add up! For example when the star is getting very close this doesn't seem to raise the temperature on Earth all.....

The special effects now look incredibly primitive, but for the time they were brilliant. In 1951 at the Cinema, this film, which is in colour must have been absolutely stunning for the audience at that time. You might want to see it first before buying, but for me it is a milestone movie of its day.
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on 4 April 2007
I must say, War of the Worlds and this movie have been fantastic. The post war angst of disaster is there, in your face. But the characters are interesting, and I now know where the concept of burning money comes from.

There is a touch of humour, in the midst of disaster which makes the film more of a human epic. The special effects aren't all that bad, remember, man on the moon was in the realm of sci-fi at the time, so whatever they came up with is amazing in its imagination and often so close to the truth. The burning up fuel, nothing left to land with is a reality in our modern space shuttles of today. And yet, they thought of it in great detail in this film. Re-entry into atmosphere, hadn't been addressed or landing gear, but then the landing wouldn't be as dramatic at the end.

Only criticism is right at the end, the canvas painting foreign planet looks like a painting.

If you like classic sci-fi, this one is a gem.
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VINE VOICEon 1 February 2004
Made half a century ago by George Pal who was a pioneer of movie making in what is commonly termed nowadays "Blockbusters", this movie has stood the test of time. Pal of course is renowned for making some fine movies during the 1950s, notably War of the Worlds; The Time Machine; and Destination Moon. Indeed, his contribution led to many blockbusters today such as Independence Day; Deep Impact; and Armageddon. The movie industry owes him a great debt because of what he achieved with limited budgets and technology which existed at the time. Overall, its a fine action movie with some good effects bearing in mind CGI did not exist then. Not surprisingly, When Worlds Collide won an oscar for its effects, the destruction of New York for instance. Ok, some of the background scenes are obvious matte paintings; but dont let that distract you though. Its a human drama as well, when people are confronted with the realisation that the world is about to end. The DVD contains a trailer, and nothing else which is a shame. Still, picture is quite good, but dont expect super duper sound though. A must buy for those who like the old movies. Dont forget the popcorn by the way.
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This 1951 SF film shows of course its age, but is still a darn good watch! Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

A new star is discovered near our solar system - scientists call it Bellus. It appears soon that Bellus is on a collision course, approaching fast - VERY FAST! Some amongst scientific community believe it can pass near Earth, close enough to burn all life on our planet - and those are actually the optimists... Then, a planet orbiting this new star is discovered - scientists call it Zyra. It appears soon, that Zyra may have a breathable atmosphere and the conditions on its surface allow existence of liquid water... I will say no more about the story.

This film is based on a popular SF novel written in 1933 and therefore is definitely NOT linked to any kind of Cold War scares, unlike what some critics wrote back in the 50s. Far from being a parabol of nuclear war, both the book and the film are in fact SF variations on the theme of Deluge and Noah's Ark...

This review will be short, because I really don't want to give away too much - so let me just say, that this film indeed is aged and yes, the plot has many holes, but it still remains a nice watch and of course a pretty powerful story, with the ending being particularly good.

Actors are mostly forgotten today, even if both Richard Derr and Barbara Rush had a long and rather succesfull career, mostly on TV - she also played the main female character in another SF classic from 50s, "It came from Outer Space" (1953). Veteran specialists of second roles, Larry Keating and John Hoyt are in fact even more important in this film than actors who are in principle cast in leading roles.

A sequel was planned, to be based on the second part of the book, "After Worlds Collide", but ultimately the project was abandoned. A remake of this film was considered also already for some time, but for the moment it seems also that all those plans were shelved. And it may be for the better, because this film, with all its weaknesses, still packs some punch and is still a darn good watch. Enjoy!
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on 24 February 2009
I have to admit that this now one of my most favorite movies...great story....great effects(for it`s time)...and thought provoking in the extereme.
What would we do if the earth was threatened in this way?
A clever start with one of the main characters having no clue as to the value of the information he is transporting from africa to america,yet he shows the kind of strength we all think we have once he learns the awfull truth.
As the time ticks away for the Earth, we draw on peoples own hopes for the future, will they be one of the lucky few to gamble on a seat to salvation.....or have to stay behind and face certain doom?
A very 1950`s love intrest spoils it slightly yet does strangely add an element of jealously that brings a couple of scenes into sharp focus.
Buy it and enjoy one of the 50`s classics of sci-fi (without the need for ray-guns and pathetic monsters).
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Possibly Spoilers

Humanity is in peril, and only a modern-day Noah's ark do – or just plain denial that Earth will somehow survive. The coming destruction of the Earth by the rogue star Bellus and the desperate efforts to build a space ark that will save and transport a small portion of humanity to the star's single orbiting planet, Zyra.

David Randall a skilled pilot finds employment in the form of delivering some mysterious pictures. These would be from one renowned astronomer to another. The recipient, Dir. Hendron, confirms the awful findings of the sender: the Star Bellus will collide with destroy the Earth and thus wipe out all of humanity. The movie is awash with Biblical allusions and kicks off with a preface that would not feel out of place in a Biblical epic. The Plans are hatched to build a modern “Noah’s Ark”– a rocket uncannily resembling a V-2. With the help of certain people, it is proposed that to create a rocket ship that will transport 40 or so people to the planet Zyra to keep the legacy of humanity alive.

As you might have deduced, When Worlds Collide is totally a product of its time. This being the 1950s after all, a more civilised era, the caveat here is the sexual repression and racism. The final scene in the film for me is perhaps the more interesting with the unusual visual art, the sunrise landscape on Zyra were a “Bonestell sketch”. Due to budgetary constraints, the director was forced to use this colour sketch. When Earth's survivors gaze out over “Bonestell's vista”, there are three unusual rectangular shapes are clearly visible to the left of the scene. Could this be done by another intelligent species? Warts and all this is an innovative, thought-provoking science fiction film.

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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 October 2010
Made in 1951, This pioneering sci fi movie tells the story of an impending collision with the earth, involving a fast approaching star.

Surprisingly, the government refuses to listen to warnings, so industrialists decide to finance the building of a rocketship, which is hoped will carry a chosen few to a newly discovered planet, In hope that it will support life.

Those involved in the building of the ship will be allocated a "raffle" ticket, and the limited lucky winners will gain a place on the voyage, Joining an already chosen few.
Spectacular special effects (for the time) provided by George Pal (War Of The Worlds, The Time Machine) showing storms, tidal waves, floods and earthquakes, the rocket finally blasts off, with the scenes of the collision behind it.

This is an excellent slice of 50's sci fi, Highly recommended.

The 4:3 full frame colour picture is very good, with various soundtrack and subtitle languages, Including English. Also included is the Theatrical trailer.
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on 14 June 2014
When another planet is found to be on a collision course with Earth, our only hope is being picked to escape to another world by the use of special Rockets constructed to transport the lucky ones to populate a new planet

Great special effects for the time and a decent story told that was more than likely the inspiration for a few modern tales. Great stuff and recommended.
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on 29 July 2010
Enjoyed this 1951 film. Interesting story line. Makes you wonder who was giving them technical advice and ideas when they were writing the film. Nice clear picture on a 40 inch TV too. Clear sound also.
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