Brave New World – Rediscovering ‘When Worlds Collide’ (US 1951 – 83 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - February 06, 2016
Brave New World – Rediscovering ‘When Worlds Collide’ (US 1951 – 83 mins)

A very good cult fantasy with no major stars, the colourful apocalyptic drama ‘When Worlds Collide’ is an exciting sci-fi picture, notable for being one of the few movies in which the world is ultimately destroyed rather than saved.

After studying astronomical charts, scientist Dr. Cole Hendron (Larry Keating) learns that there are two planets hurtling towards earth, risking its total destruction. When his findings are dismissed by the UN, Hendron creates a space-like Ark, funded by egotistical millionaire Sydney Stanton (John Hoyt) that will take a team of chosen individuals to the newly discovered planet of Zyra.

While the main plot is strong, the acting here is pretty pedestrian. Unremarkable character actor Richard Derr played the ships pilot, while, as Hendron’s scientist daughter, pretty Barbara Rush was the sole love interest. Larry Keating was good as Hendron, and would later become better known on television, appearing in both ‘The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and’ ‘Mister Ed’.

Famed cinematographer Rudolph Maté directed while George Pal produced, a year after making another space travel favourite ‘Destination Moon’ (’50). Sydney Boehm wrote the mostly serious screenplay, which he adapted from the 1933 novel by co-writers Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie.

Although the love-triangle subplot is rather needless, the story itself has enough going for it to pull you in. The most memorable moment is the Manhattan tidal wave sequence, which remains impressive, and holds up well today. It was the movie’s effects (which also included volcano eruptions, fires and floods) that were recognised by the Academy, winning the Oscar for Best Special Effects.

What also worked (better than it should have) was the cartoon scenery used for the climactic scene of the spaceship arriving at Zyra’s Shangri-La-like planet. While Science Fiction has never been a favourite genre of mine, I’ve always had a soft spot for this exciting little movie. It may be dated, but it moves along at a nice pace and ends on an optimistic note, as the chosen few safely land on their new home planet.

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