When Worlds Collide on DVD
The First Disaster Movie?
Geroge Pal's 1951 science fiction classic about the end of the world has received
a nice transfer onto DVD.
It's a tale of heroism and despair set against a background of, well, as you
might guess, worlds colliding.
A group of scientists discover that a star system is on a collision course
with the Earth and will pulverize the planet to oblivion. Unfortunately, but
not surprisingly, the powers that be don't believe them, so their vision of
building an ark to save a representative sampling of humanity is pooh poohed
along with their discovery.
Fortunately, capitalism reigns supreme in the day of this flick, and some rich
industrialists bankroll the plan to build a rocket ship and save as many people
as is possible.
One of the less altruistic of these capitalists (John Hoyt) wants to use the
opportunity to send his own hand picked crew to safety, but compromises on saving
his own life in exchange for bankrolling the project.
Most of the film deals with the building of the ship and the buildup to the
first catastophe when the star Bellus' planet Zyra passes close by the Earth,
causing tidal waves and earthquakes that wipe out most of civilization. There
are some neat special effects shots (Oscar winners, too) of the aftermath, too,
shots that undoubtedly inspired many a sci-fi film that followed.
The rest of the film is the race against time to get the rocket finished and
manned, and launched to overtake Zyra before Bellus smashes into the earth.
We see humanity at its best as the crew is chosen and people work selflessly
to see the enterprise happen - and we see humanity at its worst as those unlucky
enough not to have been chosen decide to take the situation into their own hands.
The movie still works surprisingly well even after forty years (though you
may laugh at the computer they use to process their data!), mostly due to its
testament to humanity's character under pressue. This is a sci fi film from
the days when very few such movies were made, and it's nice to see it make the
transition to DVD.
The disc is presented in its original full screen aspect ratio, which unfortunately
ins't 16x9 TV compatible, but what can you do? The picture is sharp and colorful,
however, which makes the lack of widescreen less of a loss. The audio is Dolby
Digital mono and, considering the original source, it sounds fine.
Extras are limited to the trailer, in typical Paramount tradition. It would
have been nice to see a George Pal retrospective or something, but it was apparently
not to be.
When Worlds Collide, from Paramount Home Video
82 min, full screen, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Richard Derr, Barbara Rush, Peter Hanson, John Hoyt, Larry Keating,
Produced by George Pal
Written by Sydney Boehm, Directed by Rudolph Maté.
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