Review: The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)

Science-fiction is a notoriously tricky genre in which to age gracefully. Sincere attempts to depict the future have a fair chance of being openly mocked within a few short years, while plots that deal in visitors from outer space or tampering with the laws of nature tend to be reflections of present day concerns, often being overtaken by events in the real world, leaving them as half-forgotten relics of a bygone age. But a select few, through skill or luck, seem to become only more relevant down the years, defying their age as they continue to deliver their messages since audiences first laid eyes and ears on them.

THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE (unconnected to Robert Wise’s similarly groundbreaking THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, released ten years prior to Val Guest’s effort) is an outstanding example of just such a film. Its craftily sensationalist title disguises an intelligent, intimate and beautifully executed story about the prospect of the human race accidentally, but deservedly, signing its own death warrant. Some parts may have aged less well than others, but any film that explored man-made climate change (admittedly to an extreme degree) and realistically painted the prospect of planet-wide extinction almost a year before the Cuban Missile Crisis was clearly thinking ahead.

Full review: The Day the Earth Caught Fire | TAKE ONE

Review: The Innocents (1961)

If a gold standard for gothic cinema had to be chosen, then Jack Clayton’s THE INNOCENTS would surely be on the shortlist, probably at the very top. No other film can touch it in terms of subtle emotional complexity and haunting resonance. On the surface a deceptively straightforward tale of spooky visitations, it’s only with repeated viewings that its true mastery reveals itself. Coming back to the film after a prolonged gap, the thing that really takes you aback is how creepy the story is – and not just in a supernatural way. Dark forces are very much at work in the real world too, blurring the lines between reality and imagination.

Full review: The Innocents | TAKE ONE

Beverly Hills Cop II IS a classic 80s film! Plus: digital Dracula and rats

Just a small update following on my previous entry. Having now watched my Beverly Hills Cop II dvd, I can confirm that, despite being an inferior sequel to the great original, the film is still an 80s classic: Tony Scott’s flashy direction, the score, the fashions and Eddie Murphy still being funny help make this a decent enough sequel. No comment on part III I’m afraid – if I can get it for under 2 quid, then it may happen, otherwise no deal.

In other news, last night I caught a preview of Ratatouille, in a digitally projected ‘print’, courtesy of Cineworld Cinemas. Two things: the film is every bit as good as the reviews have made out; and digital projection is officially amazing. Visually the film is stunning (knocking the socks off other inferior computer-animated cartoons), and having it digitally projected was the icing on the cake; you could just soak up the Parisian atmosphere from the screen. A treat from start to finish – well done Pixar.

Whilst there I caught a poster advertising Hammer’s classic 1958 horror Dracula, which is returning to cinemas across the country at the end of October in a newly restored version from the BFI. Even better, at most Cineworld cinemas, it will be digitally projected. Having recently discovered Hammer’s horror classics for myself, I can’t wait. Unfortunately I can’t see anything about it on their website, but I just wanted to give Hammer fans advance warning. There will apparently be screenings on Halloween – I can’t think of a better way to spend it.