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When Worlds Collide

Director – Rudolph Maté – 1951 – US – Cert. U – 79m

***

Review of 1997 UK PAL laserdisc

Originally published on London Calling Internet

Made the year before European-born producer George Pal’s The War Of The Worlds (Byron Haskin, 1953), this science-fictional disaster outing stages the end of the world by a star and orbiting planet Zyra rushing headlong towards the Earth. A handful of scientists build a Space Ark to save a chosen few humans via a perilous voyage to Zyra. But who will go – and who will stay behind and face annihilation?

From its opening Bible with destruction quotations to match, right through to its New Start For Humanity In A New World finale, this is infused with Pal’s Christian sensibilities. The script never allows that to get in the way of the story, however: the result is a compelling yarn that remains almost unique in the annals of SF cinema.

Director Rudolph Maté was a former cameraman whose prior experience included shooting Foreign Correspondent (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940) which features one of the most spectacular plane crashes in the movies. Together with lensing Dante’s Inferno (Harry Lachman, 1935) , this stood him in good stead for pulling off the outstanding special effects work required for When Worlds Collide.

There are two effects highlights. One sequence (alas, about 40 minutes in and therefore impossible to put in CAV on a two sided disc) comprises a montage of natural disasters as Zyra approaches – volcanoes erupt, the polar ice cap melts and cities are flooded. A high angle view looking down on New York buildings and flooded streets between them is a highlight. The other (on side 2 – and therefore in CAV) is the Space Ark’s launch along a track constructed down one hillside and up another followed by interplanetary flight – a state of the art effects sequence in its day, even if parts of the voyage appear less than convincing by today’s standards.

Despite occasional sparkle and surface scratches, the digital remastering works wonders and the print looks beautiful, particularly the CAV. The side break is fine and the trailers include one for Pal’s later The War Of The Worlds. But for all that, the movie is a curious choice for laserdisc release unlikely to be purchased in preference to any of the three titles trailered (The War Of The Worlds, Barbarella, Star Trek First Contact). When Worlds Collide might , however, be bought and enjoyed on the level of a B-title by buyers of any of those three.

Trailer:

Film 3/5

Picture 5/5

Sound 5/5

Distributor Pioneer LDCE

Cat No: PLFEB 36051

£19.99

BBFC Certificate U

Director Rudolph Maté (1951)

Starring Richard Derr, Barbara Rush, Peter Hanson

Running Time 79 min

Mono

Original Aspect Ratio (Academy 4:3)

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