When Worlds Collide is one of those films you hear of but never get round to watching. It's either on at 2.00 am in the TV schedules or it's way down on your list of films to see and you never get round to seeing. In fact, it would be fair to say that When Worlds Collide sounds like it could be a B movie disaster. As life teaches you - sometimes you shouldn't assume the worst.
When Worlds Collide isn't perfect, (far from it), but it is a film that is very entertaining nonetheless. It hasn't aged particularly well, at least, not when you compare it to The Wizard of Oz or Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Despite that, its premise and concept were certainly hugely ambitious for the time. Not least because cinema audiences would probably have a hard time swallowing a lot of the ideas the film presents here, (bearing in mind it would be another 18 years before America went to the Moon). And of course, the special effects were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are today, although someone liked them at the time, as the film won an Oscar for its effects. Certainly, the scene depicting a giant wall of water hitting New York is visually impressive, even today.
So, When Worlds Collide is an over-ambitious effort that just about manages to pull it off.
The storyline is fairly self-explanatory. Two rogue planets are on a collision course with Earth (one will make a close pass, the other will hit), and scientists build a rocket (ark) that will take them, (and lots of animals), to the nearest Earth-like world to escape the destruction of Earth. Viewers at the time might have thought that an out-of-control orphan planet spinning through space must have been total fiction, but recent discoveries prove otherwise...
When Worlds Collide actually reminded me of The Day The Earth Caught Fire. When Worlds Collide is intelligently handled and has great effects, even if the acting is cheesy and the feel is slightly melodramatic. The Day The Earth Caught Fire on the other hand, has a more intelligent script and is wittier, although lacks the special effects budget. Both films strike a similar cord in the sci-fi genre of that era and are interesting to compare.
The DVD picture is as good as can be expected and has scrubbed up quite well, the technicolor is rich and vibrant. The sound is OK-ish though I missed some bits of dialogue (perhaps this says more about my hearing than the audio track).
There's a trailer included as an extra, but that's all you get. A remake of When Worlds Collide has been greenlighted so perhaps to celebrate, a more comprehensive DVD will be released in the next couple of years to attract the renewed public interest. I'm surprised its taken until now to be remade as the premise of the film suits the time much better than it did in 1951.
When Worlds Collide is entertaining enough and is certainly the grand-daddy of Deep Impact and Armageddon. But its much classier and, if Fifties quirkiness and cheap retro effects are your bag, then you will probably enjoy it.
I can't really decide whether When Worlds Collide is a classic or a curiosity. This is reflected in my rating. The remake holds the promise of potentially imporving on the original.