When Worlds Collide


When Worlds Collide Review

The granddaddy of apocalypse sci-fi is When Worlds Collide, which gives us not one but two foreign bodies (a planet and a star) on a direct collision course for earth. The first will graze us, wreaking havoc with the weather, but the second will smash us to bits.

A plan is hatched to build a latter-day Noah's Ark, taking 40 or so people from Earth to the first planet, after it has passed us by and before the second one hits. But who will get to ride the rocket to safety? And how will those who are left behind react to their imminent doom? And isn't it amazing that that first planet can support human life? And how did they get all these B actors together in one place?

The questions get more absurd from there. The film is meant to be a sober look at how humanity might deal with a terminal disaster of epic scale, but it's exceptionally far-fetched and hard to take seriously. Decades later, Deep Impact would explore a nearly identical story arc, but at least by then special effects had caught up. In Worlds, all the action takes place with clunky miniatures, against obvious matte painting backdrops, or simply off camera. There's lots of running and screaming, with plenty of smoke wafting in from off screen. (And my favorite: The spaceship's fuel gauge is a bobbing needle wavering between FULL and EMPTY.)

All told, this zippy 82-minute film would have been perfect for Mystery Science Theater 3000, but I doubt Paramount would have played along. Some people see Worlds as a classic. Classic cheese, to be sure, though some of the matte work, showing the earth's sorry state right before it is destroyed, is quite compelling. The film is being remade for 2008, and I bet it'll be at least a full hour longer.

When Worlds Collide

Facts and Figures

Run time: 83 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 1st August 1951

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures


Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Fresh: 17 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Rudolph Maté