When Worlds Collide (1951)

When Worlds Collideworlds poster
Directed by Rudolph Maté
Written by Sydney Boehm from a novel by Edwin Balmer and Philip wylie
Paramount Pictures
First viewing/Amazon Instant

Banner hanging over the Space Ark camp: Waste anything except TIME. Time is our shortest material.

I was looking forward to this for the special effects.  Unfortunately I did not find them convincing even for the period.

As the film opens, a group of scientists has made a terrifying discovery.  Within a year, the planet Zyra will come so close to the earth as to cause massive destruction.  Two weeks later a star will actually impact, obliterating the few survivors on earth.  Playboy David Randall (Richard Derr) is selected to take the astronomers’ top secret data to a university where a mainframe computer will be used confirm the findings.  The findings are confirmed.  The scientists conduct a special briefing for the UN but are not believed.

worlds 1

The scientists start fund raising for a Space Ark that will take forty hand-picked humans to Zyra to establish a space colony,  They get the final funding from an evil industrialist in a wheelchair.  Head scientist Dr. Hendron resists his demands to select the passengers.

Work begins on the Space Ark.  David Randall morphs from errand boy to critical employee/rocket ship pilot.  He has caught the eye of Dr. Hendron’s daughter Joyce (Barbara Rush) and she starts to reassess her engagement to square M.D. Tony Drake. Will the mission to Zyra survive the chaos that breaks out as disappointed prospective passengers arm themselves to storm the Ark?


I thought the use of miniatures and matte paintings was excruciatingly obvious in this one. The effects were more of a distraction than an asset as far as I was concerned.  I think maybe the same effects would have worked far better in black and white.  The story and acting don’t have much to recommend them.  The film ends with dawn on the planet Zyra.  I think there was an interesting movie to be made starting there.

When Worlds Collide won the Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects.  It was nominated for Best Cinematography, Color.


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