I haven’t seen this movie since I was a kid. Back then I had read the book and the sequel, “After Worlds Collide.”
(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)
The plot is relatively straightforward. Astronomers discover a small star and a planet circling it entering the solar system. It is calculated that within a year the star will collide with and destroy the Earth but the new planet will be captured by the sun and might provide a possible home for some humans to colonize if a rocket can be launched. At first most scientists discount the crisis. But a few industrialists believe the danger and begin building a rocket for the journey. One selfish millionaire, wheel-chair-bound Sydney Stanton, agrees to finish funding the rocket only if he is on the passenger list. The project team races desperately against time to complete the rocket before the end of the world.
The project is run by Dr. Cole Hendron who along with his daughter Joyce and Dave Randall provide the human interest for the story. Randall doesn’t want to go along on the trip because he doesn’t believe he is entitled due to a lack of needed skills that the mission requires. But Joyce (of course) is in love with him so eventually they trick him into going based on his abilities as the only qualified but unnecessary co-pilot. As the moment of truth comes, we see Earth devastated by volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tidal waves that destroy all the coastal cities. Finally, the fifty passengers are drawn by lots and just as the ship is preparing to launch the unlucky lottery losers attack the ship with guns. Dr Hendron decides at the last minute to remain on the ground to provide a margin of error for the fuel and while he’s at it he prevents Stanton from getting on the ship too. As the ship launches Stanton staggers to his feet. An Armageddon miracle.
We get to see Earth destroyed. Improbably the Earth blows up in a giant fireball without coming in contact with the star. The ship reaches the new world and Randall finally has to glide the rocket to a landing after its fuel tanks are completely emptied during the braking maneuver. The landing is rocky but doesn’t kill them. And of course, the air is good and there’s green life growing on the ground and it looks like there may be the ruins of cyclopean buildings nearby. Joyce and Randall embrace, a dog gives birth to puppies and everybody rejoices at the first dawn on their new world.
The only familiar faces were Larry Keating playing Dr. Hendron and John Hoyt as Stanton. The rest of them were completely unknown to me. The special effects aren’t very good. But they weren’t awful. The acting was sturdy B movie Hollywood acting of the time. About what you’d expect in a decent western or a melodrama. I quite enjoyed it. The plot is simple but quite relatable on both a human-interest level and as a science fiction story. I’ll say this is recommended for science fiction fans especially for connoisseurs of the 1950s period in the genre.