No doubt, we’ll never run out of world threats grave enough to kickstart more Apocalypse film scenarios. Today, it’s Global Terrorism & man-induced climate change; in the ‘50s we had the Cold War & nuclear proliferation. But just when (and how) a genre largely confined to cheap kiddie-matinee fare turned into today’s big-budget/3-D Summer spectaculars is something of a mystery. (It can’t all be explained by the combination of ultra-sophisticated computer imaging with ultra-simplification of dramatic demands.) This one’s a particularly woeful example of its genre & era, with documentary footage largely substituting for any kind of F/X as the earth erupts and buildings collapse. (Those old analogue Special-Effects are often the main reason to check out these films.) On the other hand, you do get to enjoy the token female scientist on the team (Kathryn Grant Crosby) as she pours coffee and explains the bulge in the Earth’s crust with a comparison to an expanding cake of yeast. (She must have studied domestic science.) And keep your eyes open for a truly remarkably set, a cross-section of an airplane cabin where scientists & generals use folding chairs, corded telephones & sit around a bridge table. Everything in place but the thin mints.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Though not all it’s cracked up to be, the generally accepted Gold-Standard for this sort of thing is THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE/’61.