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When Worlds Collide (1951)

The world ended with one heck of a big bang more than 70 years ago, thanks to special effects wizard George Pal. The Oscar-winning technical work that flooded Times Square, sent a rogue star crashing into Earth, and launched a space ark with the last of humanity will be analyzed by sound designer Ben Burtt and visual effects artist Craig Barron in a special presentation preceding the feature.

In this adaptation of the 1933 novel by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie, the Earth is on a collision course with the star Bellus. Though most of the world refuses to believe the scientists predicting doom, the man who discovered the rogue star works on a plan to rescue as much of humanity as possible by sending them to Zyra, Bellus’s sister planet, which he predicts will take over Earth’s orbit. Complicating matters are the meddling of the corrupt tycoon (John Hoyt) financing the venture and a love triangle involving the head scientist’s daughter (Barbara Rush) with a doctor (Peter Hansen) and a brash pilot (Richard Derr).

Paramount had originally optioned the novel as a project for Cecil B. DeMille, but the release of RKO’s Deluge (1933), another disaster epic, led them to put it on the shelf. Years later, producer Pal bought the property from Paramount, and when his independently produced Destination Moon (1950) became a huge hit, the studio bought it back with Pal in charge. The effects he achieved on a miniscule budget, many modeled on paintings by pioneering astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell, dazzled audiences and critics alike.

d. Rudolph Maté, 83 minutes, DCP

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures