When Worlds Collide (Rudolph Maté / U.S., 1951):

Noah's ark in a rocket ship, sure, but isn't 2001: A Space Odyssey really the Old and the New Testament? "The most frightening discovery of all time" is detected at a South African observatory and brought to America by the astronaut-to-be (Richard Derr); the scientist (Larry Keating) reveals that two cosmic orbs are on their way to flattening the planet, dissolve to a restaurant where Derr is charming Keating's daughter (Barbara Rush) by lighting her cig with a $100 bill ("I always wanted to do this"). The U.N. ninnies mock the news, so it's (white, Christian) Yankees only in the spaceship out of Earth, which is erected with capital from a paralyzed misanthrope (John Hoyt) and a placard reading "Waste everything except time." Scientists and farm animals (and the dopey Derr-Rush-Peter Hansen romantic triangle) are guaranteed a place in the vessel, the Bible is given a privileged spot on the shelf -- no Doomsday, just moving day. In cinema's most neurasthenic version of the apocalypse, newsreel footage evokes a world brought to penitent knees, still photography a deserted metropolis. It's not until lava is spilled on cardboard and a flood submerges the maquettes that a Rudolph Maté film effectively becomes a George Pal production; when the crimson globe hurtles in the sky, the landscape turns Martian and Hoyt anticipates Dr. Strangelove's rise from his wheelchair. No dispute between religion and science for them: The New World here is unveiled to heavenly choirs, who tastefully pretend not to notice that the matte paradise has been drawn by Chuck Jones. With Rachel Ames.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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