When Worlds Collide


1h 21m 1951
When Worlds Collide

Brief Synopsis

Scientists race against time to build a super rocket ship that can save a select group before the earth collides with another planet. Naturally, no one wants to be left behind for the final Armageddon.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Nov 1951
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 22 Nov 1951
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Calabasas, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the serial story "When Worlds Collide" by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie in Blue Book Magazine (Sep 1932--Feb 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 21m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

At an observatory in South Africa, astronomer Dr. Henry Bronson hands pilot Dave Randall a black box containing top secret scientific data, with instructions to deliver it to Dr. Hendron in New York. Bronson does not reveal anything specific about the data and warns Dave not to discuss his mission, then handcuffs him to the box. At the airport in New York, Dave, a carefree playboy, is met by Hendron's daughter Joyce and a newspaper reporter. The reporter offers Dave a substantial sum for information about the box, but to Joyce's relief, Dave refuses the money. While taking Dave to see her father, Joyce alludes to Bronson's "end of the world" discovery, piqueing Dave's curiosity. At the observatory where Hendron works, Dave is introduced to physician Dr. Tony Drake, Joyce's fiancé, then turns the box over to Hendron. While Joyce double-checks Bronson's data with a differential analyzer, Hendron explains to Dave, Tony and members of the observatory board that Bronson has discovered a new planet, Zyra, circling the star Bellus, and that both spheres are racing at an incredible speed toward Earth. Bronson has predicted that in less than a year, Bellus will pass close to Earth, causing devastating earthquakes and tidal waves, and shortly after, Zyra will collide with Earth, destroying it. When Joyce announces that Bronson's calculations are indeed accurate, a pall falls over the group, and Dave gets drunk that night and flirts openly with Joyce. Later, Hendron presents Bronson's findings to the United Nations and proposes that a spaceship be built to take a few dozen people to Zyra just after it hits Earth. Although Hendron is dismissed as a crackpot by some leaders, two observatory board members, Glen Spiro and Marston, pledge money to start construction on the ship. Joyce then confides in her father that Tony wants to marry immediately, but she is having doubts, as she is attracted to Dave. Hendron advises Joyce to hold off on the marriage and promises to keep Dave in town. Soon after, wheelchair-bound millionaire Stanton agrees to finance completion of the spaceship in exchange for a spot on the passenger list. With only eight months to go, 600 men and women begin work on the ship, aware that only forty of them will be randomly selected to make the flight. During construction, Stanton tries to get Hendron to initiate security measures, anticipating that the doomed workers will storm the ship, but Hendron refuses. Meanwhile, Dave, who has been spending time with Joyce, upsets her when he declares that, unlike her and Tony, he is not vital to the operation. Months later, as Bellus and Zyra near Earth, mass evacuations begin. A series of disasters then rocks the planet, decimating coastal cities with floods and interior areas with earthquakes, volcanoes and fire. Although the construction area is badly shaken, the spaceship suffers little damage. While searching for flood survivors in a helicopter, Dave and Tony rescue a little boy, Mike, from a rooftop. During the effort, Tony, who is jealous of Dave, considers abandoning Dave on the roof, but quickly changes his mind. Construction on the ship resumes at a desperate pace, and workers are asked to pick numbers for the lottery, the results of which will be posted the day before the collision. Although Hendron announces that Dave has a guaranteed place along with his assistant, Dean Frye, Stanton, Tony, Joyce and him, Dave refuses to be given special treatment. Tony, however, informs Dave that because Frye, who is to pilot the ship, has a heart condition that most likely will incapacitate him during the flight, he must go along, as he is the only other person who can fly the machine. Joyce is overjoyed at the news and thanks Tony privately for his selfless act. With the ship all but completed, the winning lottery numbers are posted, and as Stanton had predicted, some workers protest their exclusion and form a mob. When lucky Eddie Garson finds out that his girl friend, Julie Cummings, did not win a seat, he declines to go. Stanton insists that, to avoid a dangerous overload, Eddie's vacated spot not be filled, but Harold Ferris, Stanton's aide, demands the seat at gunpoint. Stanton draws his own gun and shoots Ferris dead, but Hendron orders that Julie be included along with Eddie, even though the extra weight could jeopardize the flight. Fights and fires then break out, and Hendron instructs the ship passengers to board as quickly as possible. Moments before the ship is to take off, Hendron, who is outside pushing Stanton in his wheelchair, refuses to board, sacrificing himself as well as the millionaire. The ship blasts off, and as the space travelers lose consciousness, Zyra collides with Earth. Later, all of the passengers, including Frye, revive, and Dave realizes that Tony lied to him about Frye so that he and Joyce could be together. After the ship makes a rocky but safe landing on the Earth-like Zyra, Dave and Joyce disembark, ready to begin life in the new world.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Nov 1951
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 22 Nov 1951
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Calabasas, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the serial story "When Worlds Collide" by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie in Blue Book Magazine (Sep 1932--Feb 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 21m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Award Wins

Best Special Effects

1952

Award Nominations

Best Cinematography

1951

Quotes

Trivia

In the final shot we see the Ark passengers disembarking with an obvious painted background depicting Zyra. This bad painting was tacked on for the film's sneak previews. Originally, producer George Pal wanted to depict Zyra as a miniature set, but Paramount shipped the film out before this could be done.

Their is a shot toward the end of a group of people sitting around a country store listening to the radio. Among them the little boy and dog later rescued by helicopter. The same shot shows up in War of the Worlds, The (1953)

Notes

In the onscreen credits, the film's title is flashed word by word over shots of a raging fire. The following quotation from the Bible, Genesis, Chapter 6, Verse 12 and 13 appears before the film's first scene: "And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth..." The final scene concludes with the written statement, "The first day on the new world had begun..." Voice-over narration is heard during the film's opening scenes.
       Contemporary sources provide the following information about the production: Paramount purchased Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer's novel in 1933, intending it as a vehicle for Cecil B. De Mille. That project, titled End of the World, was never made, and the story was shelved until October 1949, when producer-director George Pal, who was known for his puppet-cartoon series "the Puppetoons," bought it from Paramount. Irving Pichel, who was preparing to direct Pal's 1950 science fiction release Destination Moon (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50), was announced as the film's probable director at that time. After Pal signed a producing contract with Paramount, he resold the novel to the studio, and according to modern sources, Paramount agreed to finance the film. In May 1950, Hollywood Reporter reported that John Archer had been signed to play a "top role" in the revived project.
       Modern sources add the following information about the film: Pal hired Jack Moffitt to write the first draft of the screenplay, which Pal then rewrote. Moffitt's draft was submitted along with a complete cast list, which included such actors as Ronald Colman, Susan Hayward and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Paramount replaced Moffitt with Sydney Boehm, who had worked with director Rudolph Maté on the 1950 Paramount release Union Station (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). Boehm's script cost the studio less than one million dollars to make.
       Stuart Whitman, who is listed in the CBCS as Kip Whitman, made his screen debut in When Worlds Collide. The following actors were announced as cast members in Hollywood Reporter news items: Eddie Morse, Ned Glass, James Rosenberger, Hal Rand, Billy Bailey and George Curtiz. Ned Glass was not in the viewed print, but the appearance of the other actors has not been confirmed. Technical advisor Chesley Bonestell was a well-known astronomer and scientific artist, who had worked with Pal on Destination Moon. Modern sources note that Paramount, hoping to capitalize on the success of Destination Moon, rushed When Worlds Collide into production, forcing Pal to use Bonestell's painting of "Zyra's" landscape as a matte, instead of as a guide for miniatures, as he had originally intended. Publicity materials, contained in copyright files, state that the U.N.'s representative in Hollywood, M. Skot-Hansen, assisted the filmmakers on the U.N. sequence. Publicity materials also note that the exterior launching scenes were filmed in Calabasas, CA. According to a ParNews item, the spaceship set was approximately one hundred feet long and thirty feet wide. ParNews also claimed that the film's sound crew received permission from the U.S. Army and the FBI to record jet testing sounds at the Lockheed aircraft factory in Los Angeles, but for security reasons, were not allowed to observe what they were recording.
       The film, which won an Oscar for Best Special Effects, includes stock footage of natural disasters. In March 1952, Hollywood Reporter announced that Paramount had purchased the rights to Wylie and Balmer's sequel to When Worlds Collide, a serial story titled After Worlds Collide, which also was published in Blue Book Magazine, for a possible screen sequel. The film sequel was never made, however. The serial stories were published together in book form in 1950, under the title When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall November 1951

Released in United States March 1975

Released in United States Fall November 1951

Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Science Fiction Movie Marathon - Excerpts shown) March 13-26, 1975.)