Day the Earth Caught Fire, The

Date: 1961
Director: Val Guest
Production Company: Melina Productions, Pax Films

Stars: Janet Munro, Leo McKern, Edward Judd, Michael Goodliffe, Bernard Braden
Location(s): London

Region(s): ,


A newspaper reporter investigates a changing climate after the world’s super-powers simultaneously test nuclear bombs that send the Earth out of orbit.

Additional Information:

Replacement and additional screen captures by Phil Wilkinson, with uncredited comparison shots by John and Brian Tunstill

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Various matte shots of the heat scorched Capital open the feature.

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As a police car comes into view, it's loudspeaker booms “The time is now 10.41, 19 minutes before countdown. 19 minutes.” A matte featuring Piccadilly Circus as seen from Regent Street.

Journalist Peter Stenning (Edward Judd) enters the Daily Express building on Fleet Street in London EC4 to write what may be his final piece. The street features in 'Dead Lucky', 'Front Page Story' and 'Who Done It?' amongst many.

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Peter found the same place with changes to the surrounding buildings.

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Ninety days earlier, rain lashes down as Peter returns to the office in Bill Maguire’s car. Looking onto Shoe Lane off Fleet Street.

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Getting out of the Morris Minor, Peter is met by Ronnie (Robin Hawdon) who tells him that Dick Sanderson is looking for him.

As the rain continues, a taxi brings Peter to the Air Ministry. Facing west on Horse Guards Avenue SW1 with Whitehall in the distance.

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Looking towards a setting sun. SJ

The reporter runs into the building to question Sir John Kelly about the erratic weather plaguing the world. Outside the Board of Trade and Air Ministry building on Horse Guards Avenue. The street features in 'The Sexplorer', 'The Jokers', 'Make Mine a Million', 'Tomorrow at Ten' and 'Two Weeks in September'.

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Less pavement occupied by an additional wall. SJ

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Peter Stenning and Science Correspondent Bill Maguire (Leo McKern) head to Harry’s bar after an evening of rewriting the headline news when reports of a second nuclear test are received. Looking onto Fleet Street from the Daily Express building.

Bill tries to console divorcee Peter as the pair arrive outside Harry's bar. St. Bride’s Avenue off Fleet Street in EC4. The narrow thoroughfare also features in 'Something In The City'.

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Peter brings a bit of colour to the scene.

Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square SW1, beneath which a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament rally is in progress.

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A bright winter sky graces Peter's comparison.

The protestors voice their opinions about the recent simultaneous nuclear bomb tests by the United States and the Soviet Union. Trafalgar Square with the Royal College of Physicians in the left background and the fourth, empty, plinth on the right.

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Peter found fewer people about on the day of his visit.

Pro-bomb campaigners arrive in the square. Outside the National Gallery to the north of Trafalgar Square. A location seen many times before, including in 'The Mackintosh Man', ‘Yield to the Night’, ‘The Crooked Sky’ and ‘Foreign Correspondent’.

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A similar view from Peter.

Peter looks through the crowd as scuffles between the opposing groups begin. Trafalgar Square with Whitehall in the right of centre background.

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'Our' Peter admits he struggled to find the right angle.

With fights breaking out all over the square, Peter helps a bystander out of the fountain that he has been knocked into.

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Now. SJ.

Spotting a nearby television crew, Peter heads for the relative safety of their van. Looking towards Admiralty Arch and The Mall.

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Peter provides this rainy view.

Also sheltering on the van's roof, a Daily Herald reporter is shocked when he looks towards the sky. Buildings at the junction of Strand, Northumberland Avenue and Charing Cross stand to the left.

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No sign of the Earth catching fire in Peter's comparison.

Peter and the news Cameraman turn to see an unpredicted eclipse of the sun. The dome of the National Gallery stands in the left distance.

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The same background now, taken by Peter who recalls his youth and climbing onto the roof with a young friend.

Jumping down from the van, Peter grabs a Tourists camera and takes a picture of the event.

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Peter provides this, less crowded comparison.

A second unit or stock shot of the Brighton seafront and Palace Pier is seen as newspapers report temperatures reaching 95 degrees.

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A mere 66 degrees today. The shot seems to have been taken from a building on Grand Junction Road. My shot was taken opposite, from the top of a stationary open top tour bus. (SD)

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Summer wear is the fashion of the day as everyone enjoys the sizzling heat.

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At Battersea Fun Fair, Peter enjoys a rare afternoon with his son. The fair was located in Battersea Park SW11.

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Michael Stenning (Ian Ellis) tells his Dad that he wants to go on all the rides before settling for the ghost train.

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The concerned Nanny (Jain Aird) looks on as Peter and Michael run over to the chosen ride.

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Peter listens as the Nanny tells him that it's time for Michael to leave. Various parts of Battersea Fun Fair are seen in ‘The File of the Golden Goose’, 'The Mutations', ‘Torture Garden’, ‘The Internecine Project’ and 'Bedazzled'.

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Leaving the fair, Peter picks up the latest editions before spotting Jeannie Craig, who he had earlier upset at the Air Ministry. Outside the Fun Fair on The Parade, Carriage Drive North with the Tree Walk right of centre.

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While Peter gets to know Jeannie better, crowds gather along the Thames as a dense fog moves down river.

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Following the unprecedented fog, violent storms and winds sweep across the country. This is a matte of London featuring what appears to be the OXO Tower in the centre distance.

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Morning dawns over a swollen River Thames as the population assess the damage from the previous evenings storm. Looking towards Albert Bridge with the chimneys of Lots Road power station in the left distance.

Bells toll as the heat returns to scorch the City. The dome of St. Paul's Cathedral in EC4.

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The famous dome, by Peter.

The doom of mankind is preached on the streets. St. Paul's Churchyard with the Statue of Queen Anne to the left.

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Peter provides a wider shot of the area.

Workers patch up damaged buildings. Looking along Ludgate Hill to St. Paul's Cathedral.

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Buses create a differently cluttered view from Peter.

Peter arrives back at the Daily Express after spending the night with Jeannie. Outside the Daily Express building on Fleet Street.

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Just Fleet Street strewn with the odd paper and car. SJ

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When Jeannie phones Peter with information about the climate change he returns to Battersea Park. This is the boating pool within the Fun Fair.

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Peter finds Jeannie next to the boating lake. This is the Cremorne Beer Garden and Lynne Robinson tells us that the boating pool was one of the 'rides' within the Fun Fair and that nothing now remains.

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To prevent being overheard as she tells what she knows, Jeannie takes Peter on the big wheel. Battersea Fun Fair within Battersea Pleasure Gardens.

Finding Bill inside their favourite watering hole, Peter takes him outside. Nick Hall confirms the location as St. Bride's Avenue, London EC4.

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The same location . . . . but no Harry's bar.

Bill starts to explain when Peter asks what the nutation of the Earth is. St Bride's Avenue off Fleet Street.

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Brian Tunstill on the same corner.

Peter tells his horrified colleague that it has changed. St. Bride's Avenue with the entrance to St. Bride's church on the right.

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Peter provides this shot of the same corner.

Checking Peter's notes, Bill declares that "They've shifted the tilt of the Earth". Outside P. A. Reuters on Fleet Street.

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John Tunstill looking querulous, because his little brother is %$&?$3 about with the camera! Screw holes where the Reuters sign used to be. But is this the right place? Maybe, we've pictured the wrong corner here? It should be the wall around the corner, the one facing Fleet Street. Still it was brother Brian's fault. He, after all took the picture!

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After the story is written and the papers printed, news vans stream from the Express building. Shoe Lane alongside the Daily Express building.

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Distribution of the disturbing news continues through the night. Another sight from the past as newspapers are loaded onto trains.

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Peter arrives outside Jeannie's flat to find that she has been taken into preventative custody by a Security Officer. This has the look and feel of a studio set.

In the afternoon, vans begin to leave the premises of the Evening Standard. Looking along Shoe Lane with Standard House on the right.

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A rather changed view captured by Peter.

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The evening papers carry news of riots around the world. The junction of Shoe Lane and St. Andrew Street with Winton House to the left. Neither Standard House or Winton House survive but the location is also seen in 'Hue and Cry'.

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More of St. Andrew Street in EC4 with Holborn Circus in the right distance.

The Evening News reports that the Prime Minister is to make an announcement. New Carmelite House on Carmelite Street EC4.

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The same remodeled location captured by Peter.

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A line of yellow news vans heads for shops and vendors throughout the City. Facing south on Carmelite Street with a tree line Victoria Embankment in the left background. The street also appears in 'Hidden City'.

The Prime Minister's broadcast on the BBC attempts to calm the public. Broadcasting House on Portland Place W1.

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Peter's Portland Place picture.

The citizens of London listen as the transmission is relayed through speakers in the street. Outside Broadcasting House on Portland Place with All Saints' church visible to the top right.

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The background has changed dramatically in this shot by Peter.

Crowds listen to the Prime Minister in Trafalgar Square.

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Not as crowded in Peter's more recent shot.

Fire engine bells are heard as Peter and Bill leave Harry's bar following the broadcast. Looking onto Fleet Street from the corner of St. Bride's Avenue.

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Only the right hand corner stonework remains.

A Reporter runs from the Daily Express building and gets into a cab to report on a major fire in Covent Garden. Fleet Street with the Daily Express building to the left.

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Across the road now. SJ.

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Through the night, fire engines speed to fires breaking out all over the land. This sequence is borrowed from 'The Quatermass Xperiment' and shows the corner of High Street and Church Lane in Bray, Berkshire.

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The camera follows the appliance. High Street, Bray in Berkshire.

As reservoirs dry up, fire breaks out on Hampstead Heath. Looking along Hampstead High Street NW3 from the junction with Heath Street.

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A similar view by Tris.

The AEC Merryweather speeds past Hampstead Heath station at the corner of Heath Street and Hampstead High Street.

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Tris captures the station's facade now.

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Record temperatures continue to be recorded as Richmond Park goes up in flames.

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River Police call the public's attention to a further broadcast by the Prime Minister after confirmation is received that the Earth is moving towards the sun.

As Army water trucks pass in the background Peter heads to Battersea Park to meet his son. Chelsea Bridge crossing the Thames between Chelsea and Battersea. The bridge also appears in 'Up the Junction' and 'Pygmalion'.

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Chelsea Bridge now, and the screw holes are still there where the sign used to be!

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Peter is denied access to the park during water rationing hours. This is a set based on the entrance to Battersea Park's Carriage Drive North.

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After the Prime Minister tells the country that further bombs are to be detonated to correct the Earth's progress towards the sun, a young Policeman (Michael Caine) redirects Peter as roads around Jeannie's flat are closed because of rioting.

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Beatniks revel in the streets outside Jeannie's apartment block. A studio set included for completeness.

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Peter arrives on the street where Jeannie lives to see the the unruly mob. More of the studio set.

Jeannie is rescued by Peter and the two are driven back to Fleet Street by police. This aspect of St. Paul's Cathedral is also seen in 'The Glass Cage' and 'Lawrence of Arabia'.

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St. Paul's in full colour, by Peter.

The countdown towards detonation of the nuclear devices continues. St. Paul’s Church Yard EC4.

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Peter provides this more lively view of the location.

Jeannie and Peter arrive back at the Daily Express offices on Fleet Street.

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I think the screen capture is the real thing. SJ.

Peter, Bill and Jeannie come out of the offices and head across to Harry’s bar to listen to the final seconds of the countdown. Outside the Daily Express building on Fleet Street in EC4 which is also seen in 'Time Without Pity'.

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The Daily Express building now. The newspaper has gone but the building remains, including the really super Art Deco inside.

“So man has sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind. Perhaps, in the next few hours, there will be no remembrance of the past and no hope for the future that might have been.” A panoramic shot begins at the clock of the Daily Telegraph building, now known as Peterborough House and Mersey Hose on Fleet Street.

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Peter provides this ground level view of the refurbished clock.

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“All the works of man will be consumed in the great fire out of which he was created.” A transition brings the dark Daily Express building into view.

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“But perhaps at the heart of the burning light into which he has thrust his world, there is a heart that cares more for him than he has ever cared for himself.” Panning eastward, the Fleet Building on Stonecutter Street appears.

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“And if there is a future for man, insensitive as he is, proud and defiant in his pursuit of power, let him resolve to live it lovingly, for he knows well how to do so.” Further on, the spire of The Guild Church of Saint Martin within Ludgate on Ludgate Hill comes into shot.

“Then he may say once more, truly the light is sweet, and what a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to see the sun.” And finally, with an upbeat peel of bells added for the American market, the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London EC4.

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A last street level shot from Peter.