Saturday, November 02, 2013

Tonight's Movie: The Night the World Exploded (1957)

THE NIGHT THE WORLD EXPLODED (1957) is an agreeably silly sci-fi film about "Element 112" expanding inside the earth, causing worldwide quakes, not to mention the tilting of the planet. Can Planet Earth be kept from exploding into smithereens?!

Dr. David Conway (William Leslie) has just completed construction of a machine which will predict earthquakes. Naturally, it immediately predicts a massive earthquake will hit Southern California. He flies to Sacramento and attempts to convince the governor to evacuate the region, but the governor is reluctant to put stock in completely untested equipment. The quake does strike, causing widespread damage, but that's only the beginning of the world's troubles.

The earth keeps quaking and tilting, and soon Dr. Conway and his assistant, "Hutch" (Kathryn Grant, who became Mrs. Bing Crosby that year) and colleague Dr. Morton (Tris Coffin) are at Carlsbad Caverns, crawling deep down into the earth to try to discover the source of the rocking and rolling. Hence, the discovery of Element 112, a "new element" whose rapid growth calls to mind THE MAGNETIC MONSTER (1953).

The movie is at times charmingly stupid, with a creaky script and some dialogue that just made me smile. (The world's about to end and the Assistant Secretary of Defense is worried about passports? Really?) It cracks me up how in many of these movies, it's up to just a couple of people to save the world from impending doom -- although, unlike in CITY OF FEAR (1959), at least these folks notify the state and federal authorities! And they do receive help from scientists from around the world -- once the Assistant Secretary of Defense gets over worrying whether or not their passports are in order.

To the film's credit for its era, as in many of these sci-fi films, a brave woman is one of those working to save the earth. Sure, Hutch momentarily becomes claustrophic when descending into the bowels of the earth, but later she valiantly keeps transmitting the numbers off the dials of the machines deep in Carlsbad Caverns even as she's being buried alive.

With a 64-minute running time, the movie doesn't have time to be dull. It's a fun watch and would be perfect on a double bill with the similarly themed CRACK IN THE WORLD (1965).

This Columbia film is out on a remastered DVD-R in the Sony Choice line, available from sources such as Warner Archive, Amazon, and Deep Discount.

It can be rented from ClassicFlix.

The trailer is available on the Turner Classic Movies site.


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