When a scientist realises a runaway star with a planet sized object in its orbit has entered our solar system and is on course to collide with the Earth, he must convince the authorities to build a spacecraft to at least save a chosen few.
A sci-fi disaster movie, brimming with pessimism that predates more recent high-tech doom-mongering like Armageddon and Deep Impact, with its scenario of the world’s end and how we, the poor beleaguered human face up to it. It’s big, showy and pretentious, getting bogged down in chewy great lumps of philosophy and religiosity, while its science is scatterbrained, but there is still that charge of ‘50s paranoia that runs in its veins when the world must have felt a very vulnerable place. Most interesting, in Sydney Boehm’s set-up (based up the novel by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie) is the notion of inevitability — no one is going to save the day, it’s just a case of who will be allowed to survive.
The big disaster sequences boasted the finest in special effects for their day that, with age, take on a quaint quality no matter that you are supposed to be witnessing tidal waves, earthquakes and volcanos spewing up their innards, as the small planet first sweeps past Earth. The now iconic shots of New York flooded by waves (using superimposed images) was homaged, shall we say, by Roland Emmerich for his equally verbose The Day After Tomorrow.
The second half of the movie is the Noah’s Ark scenario, as a rocket ship of ‘50s art deco design, is financed and constructed with room for animals and only 40 men and women. Which much wooden acting, and much turgid scenes of self-sacrifice, romantic cliches and warbling guilt, all the while the clock ticks and death looms. Richard Derr (as the handsome pilot), Barbara Rush, and John Hoyt don’t have the range to tap any great drama even in such a morbid possibility. It’s tacky and melodramatic, but a fascinating insight into the preoccupations of the ‘50s rather than a look at some dread possibility of the future.
Sci-fi disaster from the 50's is very different in style, content and attitude and pretty interesting as a historical snapshot of the fears of the day.