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The Day the Earth Caught Fire

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The Day the Earth Caught Fire, starring Edward Judd, Leo McKern, Janet Munro, by Val Guest
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The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1962), starring Edward Judd, Leo McKern, Janet Munro, by Val Guest

Synopsis of The Day the Earth Caught Fire

In The Day the Earth Caught Fire, British reporters and a weatherwoman get the facts after U.S./Soviet same-day nuclear tests.

Peter Stenning: I’m not up on my sci-fi. So, we’re orbiting towards the sun, but how many billion light-years…
Bill Maguire: If that’s true… I’d say there’s about… four months.
Dick Sanderson: Before what?
Bill Maguire: Before there’s a delightful smell in the universe of charcoaled mankind.

Product description of The Day the Earth Caught Fire

 When the United States and the Soviet Union simultaneously set off nuclear explosions, The London Daily Express begins to report on bizarre weather changes around the world. But when the reporters dig deeper, they discover that the blasts have knocked Earth off its axis and sent it hurtling towards the sun. Now, as scorching heat and devastating floods plague the planet, cities explode in chaos and mankind is left with one last hope:

A final massive detonation that will either re-balance Earth’s orbit or destroy our world forever. Produced, directed and co-written by Val Guest (THE QUARTERMASS XPERIMENT), this British classic is legendary for its brilliant dialogue, chilling realism and one of the most provocative endings in sci-fi history. THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE has now been completely remastered from original vault materials, including the restoration of its stunning tinted sequences not seen since the movie’s original theatrical release 50 years ago,

Editorial review of The Day the Earth Caught Fire, courtesy of

Despite its melodramatic title, which carried on a ’50s doomsday naming convention, this taut 1961 English science fiction thriller offers an object lesson in the power of story over special effects. When both the Soviets and the West detonate nuclear tests simultaneously, the seismic double whammy jolts the earth off its axis and onto a new orbit sending it fatally closer to the sun–a fate that writer-director-producer Val Guest views from the street-level perspective of its principal characters, rather than an off-world vantage point. The street in question, however, is London’s Fleet Street, the venerable hub of its newspaper and tabloid publishers, and the hard-nosed reporters growing realization that their number is up carries its own stark punch.

Edward Judd is Peter Stenning, a rugged, appropriately grim reporter, Leo McKern is tough but compassionate editor Bill Maguire, and Janet Munro is Stenning’s love interest, in an elfin, sexy turn that’s a striking contrast to her best-known turn in Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People. With an effects arsenal that consists largely of a spray bottle to apply beads of “sweat,” Guest and his small but crack cast are surprisingly effective, and the cold war plot hook still works, thanks to its uncomfortable proximity to more contemporary environmental terrors. –Sam Sutherland

Cast of characters

  • Janet Munro (The Crawling Eye) … Jeannie Craig
  • Leo McKern (Ladyhawke) … Bill Maguire
  • Edward Judd (First Men in the Moon) … Peter Stenning
  • Michael Goodliffe (A Night to Remember) … ‘Jacko’ Jackson – Night Editor
  • Bernard Braden (All Night Long) … ‘Dave’ Davis – News Editor
  • Reginald Beckwith (Thunderball) … Harry
  • Gene Anderson … May
  • Renée Asherson (Henry V) … Angela
  • Arthur Christiansen … ‘Jeff’ Jefferson – Editor


  • Towards the end, Peter (Edward Judd) is driving to Jeannie’s (Janet Munro’s) apartment, when he stops to talk to a policeman, who was played by Sir Michael Caine.
  • As the Earth heats up, Bill McGuire (Leo McKern) asks for information on the melting point of “everything from steel to my glass eye”. McKern had a glass eye.
  • In an early scene, Jeannie (Janet Munro) is struggling with a Roneo stencil duplicator, saying it is “over-inking”. The Roneo company threatened to sue the producers!
  • The final spoken passage in the film is “Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to see the sun” – a quote from Ecclesiastes 11:7 in the World English Bible.
  • One of the final shots shows the print room with two copies of the newspaper pinned up. One saying “World Saved”, the other saying “World Doomed”. It remains unsaid which version they will print.

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