Friday, March 30, 2018

THE END OF THE WORLD BLOGATHON: When Worlds Collide (1951)

The Midnite Drive-In and MovieMovieBlogBlog are cheerfully hosting The End of the World Blogathon running from March 30th to April 1st. After that...who knows? Click HERE if you dare.

George Pal

The creative mind and artistic talent of George Pal gave us the Oscar-winning Puppetoons, fantasy classics such as Tom Thumb and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, and sci-fi favourites The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine.

Pal's first science fiction film 1950s Destination Moon won an Oscar for Best Effects, Special Effects. The Robert A. Heinlein novel Rocket Ship Galileo was the basis for a screenplay he wrote with Alford Van Ronkel and James O'Hanlon. Directed by Irving Pichel (The Most Dangerous Game) and filmed in Technicolor by Lionel Linden (Around the World in 80 Days), Destination Moon owes much of its stunning visuals to matte artist Chesley Bonestell.

The inspiration for 1951s When Worlds Collide is a serialized novel by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer that was first optioned for films in 1932 by Cecil B. DeMille. George Pal enlisted Chesley Bonestell as technical advisor, and this movie, like its predecessor, won the Oscar for Best Effects, Special Effects. Cinematographer turned director Rudolph Mate (D.O.A., Miracle in the Rain) was in charge and his cinematographers John Seitz (Double Indemnity) and W. Howard Greene (A Star is Born) were nominated for the Oscar for Best Cinematography, Color.

Richard Derr, Hayden Rorke
A routine job for the pilot. Doomsday for the scientist.

Dr. Emery Bronson (Hayden Rorke), from his observatory in South Africa, has determined that a star named Bellus is on a collision course with the earth. Also entering Earth's atmosphere, close enough to influence tides and cause earthquakes is the planet Zyra. Daredevil pilot/courier David Randall (Richard Derr) is tasked with bringing the information to Dr. Cole Hendron (Larry Keating) in New York City.

"There isn't any error."
Barbara Rush, Larry Keating

Randall doesn't realize the import of the information with which he has been entrusted, but once delivery is made finds himself involved with the Institute and its plans, and with Dr. Hendron's daughter Joyce (Barbara Rush). The end of the world may be nigh, but people being people, a love triangle develops among Randall, Joyce, and her intended, Dr. Tony Drake (Peter Hansen).

Will it work?

Dr. Hendron and his associate Dr. George Frye (Stephen Chase) have brought their concerns to the United Nations where, for the most part, their fears are scoffed at and their plans rejected. The plan is a bold attempt to build a ship capable of bringing people and animals to the Earth-sized planet Zyra, colonizing a New Earth. It is mentioned that various people around the world are working on a similar plan. It is the only hope.

The money man makes demands.
Frank Cady, John Hoyt

Thankfully, a few industrialists with the money and means to assist are believers. While their own lives will not be saved, it is for the greater good of humanity that they give their resources. Only one man, Sydney Stanton (John Hoyt), a crippled and embittered billionaire will provide necessary funds on the proviso that he be one of the few to leave Earth on a "Noah's Ark" spaceship. Along with his cowed assistant (Frank Cady), Stanton uses his money to control the project.

Now is not the time to speak of love, but it is the only time they have.
Barbara Rush, Richard Derr

Joyce is conflicted by her feelings for Dave Randall, but is able to share her concerns with her father. Dr. Hendron then does what he can to keep Dave in Joyce's life. Dr. Drake almost succumbs to his jealousy, but his better nature takes over. Tony even devises a plan to get Dave aboard the ship.

Will they have the luck of the draw?
Rachel Ames, James Congdon

We watch the preparations for the end of the world and get to know some of the people involved. Only 40 of them will be allowed, by lottery, to make the fateful trip to Zayr. Among the crowd and a young couple in love, Eddie (James Congdon) and Julie (Rachel Ames in her film debut), and when the lottery separates them, Eddie makes the sacrifice of his lottery win which precipitates an emergency.

There's always room for a puppy.
Peter Hansen, Rudy Lee, Barbara Rush

Scenes of destruction upon the arrival of Bellus and when Zyra enters the Earth's orbit are eye-opening thanks to the award-winning effects, and the sight they offer of a potential future. An orphaned boy Mike (Rudy Lee) now joins those looking to the hope of a planet that may or not support life as the only option for a doomed humanity. Can a puppy be far behind?

The scientist and the industrialist in conflict until the end.
Larry Keating, John Hoyt

Stanton has been predicting that when the end is in sight that the crowd will turn on them in their fear. Dr. Herndon, optimistically believes in the innate goodness which is driving the project.

Dr. Herndon: "This project was started by real humanitarians, Marston and Spiro. They gave their money with no strings attached. You're not here under any special licence. You're always shouting for facts. Remember these facts, our chance of reaching the new world is as thin as you becoming a humanitarian!"

Only imminent destruction will prove who is right in their belief. Imminent destruction also reveals true character between Stanton and Herndon.

A literate and sympathetic script increases the sense of reality in this speculative fiction. The basis for the events and the horror of the unavoidable catastrophe motivates all the action and helps the audience identify with the characters in the movie. The beauty of the Technicolor and the craftsmanship evident in the artwork and effects contribute to a genuinely satisfying 1950s science fiction film experience.

Trivia wrap-up:

Stuart Whitman draws his ticket.
Just make him a star already!

Among the familiar faces in smaller roles in the movie are Queenie Smith (Show Boat) in a cute bit in a restaurant, Leonard Mudie (Foreign Correspondent) as a UN official, Kirk "Superman" Allyn as a frightened man, John Ridgely (Air Force) as a customs official, James Seay (Miracle on 34th Street) as a reporter, Kasey Rogers (Strangers on a Train) as a stewardess, Mary Murphy (The Wild One) as a student, Stuart Whitman (The Mark) as a worker, and the voice of Paul Frees as the narrator and the president.

Peter Hansen, Rachel Ames
Dr. Drake and Julie moved into General Hospital.

Peter Hansen who played Dr. Tony Drake and Rachel Ames who played Julie Cummings would go on to television success as lawyer Lee Baldwin and nurse Audrey Hardy on General Hospital which this year is celebrating 55 years on the air. Peter Hansen passed away in April of last year, and the program honored his character. Rachel Ames, the daughter of character actors Dorothy Adams and Byron Foulger, retired from the show in 2007, reprising her role for special occasions in 2013 and 2015.


  1. I read When Worlds Collide and the sequel After Worlds Collide in high school. I'm still retaining a hope to see the film before i die.

  2. This one is on my must-see list. Your terrific critique just makes me want to see it more. Thank you for contributing to the blogathon!

    1. My pleasure. On behalf of myself and George Pal, we're pleased the movie has moved up on your gotta-get-to-it list.

  3. One of my favorite movies, Pat. I remember going to the theater to see this one AND War of the Worlds. If I'm not mistaken, it was a double bill. Can you imagine? To this day, I love these movies. John Hoyt was such a nasty little man in this - well, he always played nasty little men. Ha. I would love to read the book, but I've not been able to get my hands on a copy.

    1. What a double bill! I'm glad you shared that memory and that this post helped spur it. I love to hate John Hoyt. I recall a couple of occasions where he wasn't entirely odious, but they are few and far between.

  4. I LOVE that poster for "When Worlds Collide". The whole look of this film is very appealing to me, and your commentary on it has made me want to watch it for myself!

    1. I'm so pleased. I agree that "look", as you say is very appealing and it works very well throughout the entire film.

  5. First, how does a person get a ticket on that roller coaster rocket? That looks like a lot of fun.

    Second, Barbara Rush? Sign me up!

    Third, I love the look of this film, and I especially like that it's in gorgeous colour.

    Fourth, I've never heard of this one, but I think I've been missing out on a good time.

    1. Fantastic design. Fantastic colour. Barbara Rush. I couldn't be more pleased that it is I who was able to introduce you to this 1950s sci fi classic.

      You can tell that care was taken in this production, and the tons of familiar faces throughout make it even more fun. This wasn't included in TCMs salute to George Pal a few months back. I don't understand that at all.



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