WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Richard Derr, Barbara Rush, Peter Hanson, John Hoyt, Larry Keating
Director: Rudolph Paté
Audio: Dolby Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 82 Minutes
Release Date: September 25, 2001
dawning of the nuclear age gave way to a new breed of science fiction film in
the 1950’s…pessimistic visions of world destruction and human fallibility
that held mirrors up to us as a race and suggested we shouldn’t like what we
of the earliest, and still most noteworthy of these films, was When Worlds
Collide, one of effects wizard George Pal’s noted productions.
Here was a story about another star hurtling across the cosmos for
seemingly no other purpose than to wipe out our planet…and there’s not a
damn thing we can do about it.
story takes no time in getting started…we are spared the usual background
stories and ham-handed attempts at character development.
By the same token, we are left with only two-dimensional talking heads to
follow around for the duration. None
of them are particularly interesting…you may not even be able to name names
when it’s all over with…but it doesn’t matter much.
The humans are there to push the plot along.
We need something to react to the catastrophe.
many science fiction films of the era, Worlds is heavy on fiction and
light on science. Anybody with a
junior high level of science or better will snicker at some of the more glaring
problems. The math doesn’t add
up, for example, when the scientists compute the speed of the star, the distance
it has to travel, and what time they expect it to arrive. Not to mention, as the inevitable climax approaches, you’ll
wonder why the heat of a star wouldn’t have killed every living thing on the
planet long before hitting it, or why an object as big as the star wouldn’t
wreak worse havoc on the earth’s natural forces than it’s much smaller
singular planet did some days earlier (in Oscar winning effects shots).
that all has to be taken with a grain of salt.
The film is no educational set piece…in fact, the astronomy and physics
of it are only an excuse to tell a basic human story: what if we knew we had only a few months left?
The short running time doesn’t allow any really personal glimpses, or
scenes of emotion, reconciliation, chaos…it paints its pictures in much
broader strokes. The concept the
picture works around is that maybe 44 people on a densely populated planet might
be saved, but with a lot of ifs. If
they can construct a rocket in time, if they can manage to land on the planet
revolving around the doomsday star, if that planet can hold life, and if they
can actually peaceably and fairly collect a specimen of humanity to preserve
while the rest perish…all questions that will have to be answered while an
unstoppable clock winds down.
When Worlds Collide also stands apart for having a slight glimmer of hope
at the end. Our main characters
step out into a strange new world that looks like a Disney cartoon, but maybe
it’s a world of promise. At
least, as much promise as can be had on a planet circling a star that’s
blistering through space at .8 kilometers per week.
whatever reason you want to consider, the film remains an important and standout
example of a genre that’s come back to life in recent years with pictures like
Armageddon or Deep Impact. Those films were inspired by the Shoemaker-Levy comet
hitting Jupiter…every once in awhile, our eyes are opened to the fact of how
cosmically mortal we all are, and movies like When Worlds Collide reflect
a fifty year old film, there aren’t many real complaints with this disc,
transferred at the correct aspect ratio of 1.33:1. There are aging signs, to be sure…a spot here, a blemish
there, or in the case of lighter monochromatic scenes, a bit of running
dinginess that causes some image flicker. Generally,
the colors are a bit muted, which for a Technicolor print, almost makes them
more natural looking. However,
stronger colors like reds, greens and blues don’t seem to render to their full
brightness. From time to time, the
images are a bit soft looking, with some more distinguishable grain…other
times, the effect is more clear. Fans
should be placated overall…it’s just not going to be one of the best looking
discs you own.
original mono soundtrack is fairly effective, with some good dynamic range, but
again, age shows from time to time with a dropout here or a bit of static there.
It’s fairly clean overall; but the one or two noticeable flaws merit