When Worlds Collide (review by Doug Smith)

In keeping with my recent wave of 1950s sci-fi epics, I present to you, the oh-so-patient reader/viewer, “When Worlds Collide.” After the success of Fox’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” Paramount released this movie a couple of months later, thus establishing science fiction as a strong cinema genre. Based on the novel by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer, the film is about when our world … well … collides with another world. Hence the title.
Richard Derr plays the hard drinking, heavy smoking pilot, David Randall. Yes, I said hard drinking. What, a pilot drinking surprises you? Tell you what, next time you fly, ask the pilot to do a breathalyzer. Barbara Rush is Joyce Hendron, Dr. Cole Hendron’s (Larry Keating, of Mr. Ed fame) daughter and, at first, the love interest of Dr. Tony Drake M.D. (Peter Hansen), until she falls for Randall.
During the opening credits, it looks as though Rod Serling is just below the camera, what with the obvious cigarette smoke billowing up. After the credits, we get a few biblical passages to read. There’s not even a damn narrator to read them to us! Talk about challenging your audience. And I guess we’re supposed to be threatened and scared and impressed because it’s some passages about the end of the world. Because, you know, everything in the bible is true. So go out and slaughter a goat on a Sunday, for Christ’s sake! Literally!
After we get our Sunday school lesson, the lazy-ass narrator finally starts talking about stars and just before we think we’re going to hear “billions and billions,” a la Carl Sagan, we’re introduced to some dudes at an observatory, working feverishly while talking about some sort of impending doom. I hope the “doom” isn’t that Chicken In a Biscuit is stopping production. At any rate, just as their about to talk a little more, they hear a plane and hope it’s Randall. Man, I sure hope so too. I don’t know what we’d do if it wasn’t.
As it turns out, it is Randall and he’s got some little blonde honey in his cockpit with him. After he gets permission to land, you can just change the preceding sentence by replacing the “in” with an “on,” and then take off the “pit” and the “with him.”
Randall lands, in more ways than one, and goes to talk to the scientists, who proceed to give him a black box, which they handcuff to his wrist. I’m sure he’ll make use of the handcuffs some other way later on. Apparently the filmmakers temporarily forgot that Randall’s a pilot and that he flew his own plane in, because the next scene has him on a commercial flight, flirting with a flight attendant.
He arrives to his destination (New York City, I believe) and meets Joyce Hendron. Joyce talks to him as if he knows what the black box contains, and he plays along for the time being. They take a cab in front of a blue screen to Joyce’s dad’s laboratory, where Randall is introduced to Joyce’s current love interest, Dr. Tony Drake. Tony’s an eye, ear, nose and throat doctor. You can tell because as he’s introducing himself to Randall, he lights up a smoke.
Soon enough, Joyce’s dad, Cole Hendron whisks Randall away and opens the black box, while nearly tearing off Randall’s wrist. There’s some scenes of science stuff going on, which I guess is supposed to be impressive and then Hendron announces that the observatory dudes’ observations are correct and that the Earth will be destroyed by two planets on a collision course with Earth; Zyra will pass close enough to cause massive climactic and tidal effects, Bellus will crash into the Earth a short time later.
Well, the world’s going to end, so you know what that means; whoop it up in the ballroom! WOOOOO! By the time we join the party, Randall has downed about a half bottle of scotch, is lighting cigarettes with money that he lit on fire from the next door table’s fondue pot and is pretty much just making a general ass out of himself. So, in other words, he’s your typical wealthy white male. Randall then burns his fingers. Not that that’s really integral to the plot or my description of the movie, I just thought I’d throw it in.
The next day (I think), there’s an emergency UN (or something) meeting with Dr. Hendron trying to convince the world that the world will end on August 12 of the following year. However, they have an idea to build a rocketship that can carry around 40 people and land on Zyra. They’re laughed at and sent away. I’m thinking they felt like what good ol’ Gee-Dubyah Bush and Little Donnie Rumsfeld must’ve felt like when trying to convince the UN about the whole Iraq deal. And like, our fearless American leader (fearless, simply because he’s stupid), Hendron and the rest of his group go on with their business anyway, by getting some grumpy old dude in a wheelchair to fund the project. Oh, somewhere in the mix of all this, there’s the whole love triangle thing going on with Joyce, Dave Randall and Dr. Tony. It’s sad, really. I mean, Joyce should just leave the poor boys alone and stop trying to convert them!
The next few scenes involve the building of the rocket. How exciting. Eventually, the rest of the world decides Hendron was right (unlike Bush) and hops on the bandwagon. Soon after that, the end of the world is announced to the general public. The rest of the movie is pretty much “ho-hum” until Zyra causes tidal waves, volcanoes and earthquakes and what not. There’s some dramatic tension between people; Dave and Tony kind of butt heads over Joyce, then reconcile; Dave doesn’t think he should be included on the rocket to the new world until Tony lies to him to convince him to stay; Dr. Hendron commits suicide by staying on Earth and makes the old guy in the wheelchair stay with him. That sort of stuff. Eventually, Earth is destroyed and the rocket with the select group of people safely lands on Zyra, which consists of a terrible matt-painting that looks like the backdrop of that one Bugs Bunny, opera-esque, “Kill Da Wabbit” cartoon.
This movie was an ok time killer. At least it had some substance compared to some of your big screen blockbusters today. The middle of the movie gets a little tedious, but other than that, it’s worth a look. 3 yaks.