(director: Rudolph Mate; screenwriters: based on the novel by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie/Sydney Boehm; cinematographers: John Seitz/W. Howard Greene; editor: Arthur Schmidt; music: Leith Stevens; cast: Richard Derr (Dave Randall), Barbara Rush (Joyce Hendron), Larry Keating (Dr Hendron), Peter Hanson (Dr. Tony Drake), John Hoyt (Sydney Stanton), Hayden Rorke (Dr. Bronson), Stephen Chase (Dr. George Frye), Frank Cady (Ferris); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: George Pal; Paramount; 1951)
Best appreciated for its apocalyptic special effects.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Best appreciated for its apocalyptic special effects, rather than its cardboard characters, weak dialogue and unreal portrait of those facing doom.Rudolph Mate (“DOA”/”Union Station”/”Miracle in the Rain”) directs this fantasy pic with a no-name cast, but shows no skill to make things seem more real. Writer Sydney Boehm works in a tepid romance that’s not only not needed but turns out to be more unlikely than even its doomsday scenario. It’s based on the novel by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie.

Trustworthy pilot Dave Randall (Richard Derr) delivers to Dr. Herndon (Larry Keating) in NYC a black-box that has stored info on vital astronomical observations from Mount McKenna Observatory in South Africa. We soon learn that Dr. Herndon confirms the observations of the noted astronomer Dr. Bronson (Hayden Rorke) that within eight months the planet Zyra will come close to the Earth causing much damage through earthquakes and other disasters and shortly afterwards its dying orbiting star Bellus will collide with the Earth causing the Earth’s destruction. When Herndon gives the U. N. a heads up on the disaster, he’s called a crackpot. The good scientist decides that the only hope for mankind is to get the wealthy piggish businessman Stanton (John Hoyt) to finance the building of a rocket (designed by space artist Chesley Bonestell) that can carry 40 aboard to go to Zyra to ensure that the world will have human beings. Stanton gets to go because of his money donation, then Herndon chooses himself, his scientist daughter Joyce (Barbara Rush), her lovelorn boyfriend medical doctor Tony Drake (Peter Hanson), new romantic interest Randall, and George Frye (Stephen Chase) as chief pilot. The others are drawn in a lottery from among the 600 workers on the project.

It won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. The special effect highlight is the tidal wave that sweeps Manhattan into the Atlantic. If the banal chatter and the unconvincing corny humanitarianism doesn’t turn you completely off, then the spectacle will be pleasing enough to make things at least watchable.

When Worlds Collide Poster

REVIEWED ON 11/11/2010 GRADE: B-