The Day the Earth Caught Fire – Blu-ray

It didn’t seem that long to me since I wrote about an earlier DVD release of this 1961 movie, but apparently it was over seven years ago, proving time flies, or something. So when I saw the Blu-ray version, I mentally filed it. And set up a price alert on camelcamelcamel, which I do with things that I’d like to get but which are currently a wee bit too expensive. Anyway, the price eventually dropped to a quite sensible £8.50, and I ordered it.

This is a newly remastered version – done by the conservation experts at the British Film Institute (BFI) with the care and skill they’re known for. They were able to go back to the original film negatives for most of the work, using a positive print for sections where the negatives weren’t up to standard. The usual levels of repair and restoration were done, and the whole thing looks quite lovely in glorious black and white, with that colour overlay for the opening and closing scenes.

I covered the film itself in my previous post, so this is more about the extras, which are numerous.

There’s a new documentary about the making of the movie, which helpfully corrects some misconceptions I had previously – the Express editor is played by the recently retired former editor rather than the contemporary one, and while the entrance and print room seen on screen are the real thing, the newsroom is a precisely recreated set. The documentary includes information about the restoration and the usual array of talking heads, but as one of the heads doing the talking is that of Kim Newman, this is a Good Thing.

There’s a gallery of production stills, the interview with Leo McKern that was on the DVD, a commentary (which I haven’t heard yet, even though I think it’s the same one as on the DVD) and a short audio piece which I also need to listen to.

Also included are some suitably relevant archive films. There’s a 1968 interview with director Val Guest and his wife Yolande Dolan, covering much of his career including this movie. There’s an only slightly scary 1952 documentary, Operation Hurricane, on the testing of Britain’s first atomic bomb. There’s a bloody petrifying 1956 training film called The H-Bomb, intended to teach civil defence and fire service personnel what to expect in the event of British cities being attacked (helpful explanations about blast radius, fallout and so on….), with the typical advice of the time about white-washing your windows. There’s a 1962 film, The Hole in the Ground, which shows how the Warning and Monitoring Organisation would deal with a nuclear attack. Made more than a little silly by the use of Also Sprach Zarathustra (six years before 2001: A Space Odyssey) and the total lack of anyone running around in circles shouting OhShitOhShitOhShit, which seems a much more realistic reaction to the news that several cities have just been flattened.

And finally, there’s an old TV spot from 1978 in which Edward Judd, whose career never really went that far after this movie, tells drivers to watch out for motorbikes.

So, not an essential upgrade if you have the previous DVD release, but much better value with all the juicy extras, not to mention being nicely HD (the transfer was done in 4K, so watch out for an upgraded upgrade once people work out how to distribute that kind of thing….).