When Worlds Collide (1951)

When Worlds Collide (1951)


Mankind’s total destruction becomes a possibility when scientists discover that a planet is en route to a direct collision with Earth. As experts try to convince the international community of their impeding doom, engineers are working on creating a space ship that could take a handful of people to another habitable planet.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Your salvation doesn’t interest me; mine does.”

Producer George Pal was a master at developing great looking, grandly produced fantasy films that served not only to stretch our imaginations, but also to further push technological advances in the film industry, especially in the optical effects department. The War of the Worlds, Tom Thump, and The Time Machine are among Pal’s most interesting and successful productions, and they all share the same ideas — fantastic stories vividly told using an array of visual imagery.

When Worlds Collide was imaginatively directed by cameraman-turned-director Rudolph Mate (D.O.A.) from a screenplay by Sidney Boehm based on a novel by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie and lavishly filmed in Technicolor by John F. Seitz (Sunset Boulevard) and W. Howard Greene (Nothing Sacred).

This was Pal’s third production, and his good eye for detail pays big dividends -– the slow disintegration of the planet is neatly realized for maximum impact. Full of great visual and sound effects (for 1951), this film could be considered the granddaddy of all disaster films, decades before the genre acquired popularity in the 1970s.

The film’s then innovative, Oscar-winning special effects blend exceedingly well with the actors and the sets, creating a believable futuristic atmosphere. I’m a big fan of miniatures so it goes without saying that I greatly enjoyed the technical aspects of the movie.

During the collision of planets, some of the optical effects show their age. However, a possible hokey sequence becomes an imaginative way of presenting two planets on the verge of destruction. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tidal waves are presented with ample fidelity and good synchronization.

Although the effects don’t look as fresh as they did almost 60 years ago, When Worlds Collide provides a good alternative for those of you tired of today’s highly digitized Hollywood films. Only the final shots are a disappointment — a cheesy painting that doesn’t fit with the rest of the film.

The actors are just right. Richard Derr (American Gigolo) and Barbara Rush (The Young Lions) are okay in the leading roles. John Hoyt (Winter Meeting) is a great villain. Stuart Whitman (The Comancheros) has a bit role. Film debuts of Rachel Ames (TV’s General Hospital) and Mary Murphy (The Desperate Hours).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

When Worlds Collide is one of the most influential science fiction films ever made. Although the technology is dated, this is an essential movie for those movie buffs that treasure classic science fiction. This is a delightfully corny film that the entire family can enjoy. Color, 83 minutes, Not Rated.

10 responses to “When Worlds Collide (1951)

  1. I only know George Pal’s name from the opening theme of Rocky Horror Picture Show, believe it or not… “but when worlds collide, said George Pal to his bride…” I need to start learning more about him and his production as I feel I’m seriously missing out on good stuff here. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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