I DVR’d The Night the World Exploded some weeks ago, when the pickings were slim (full disclosure: I did not make a note of the year and as I write this, I’m not even sure I’ve got the correct title) (further disclosure: the first draft read The Day the World Exploded; I had written the title but not the year in the TV Journal). I was not sure if it was the sort of cheesy horror movie I love to write about. Still, an old science fiction picture might not be too bad. Or, well, you know, too good. Last weekend, I finally got around to watching it.
Spoiler Alert: I’m probably going to give away everything but the ending, which I do not remember.
I don’t remember the beginning very well, either, but I did have a few minutes’ anxiety that the movie was going to turn out to be a precursor of the Irwin Allen disaster flicks of the ’70s. Of course those movies have a cheesy charm all their own. However, I felt fairly certain that a precursor made as a B feature in whatever year this was would not live up to the Allen opuses (can you use the word “opus” for movies or is it just for music?).
Having started right out with some earthquakes, the movie almost caught my interest when it was revealed that scientists did not know what was causing them. I right away thought subterranean monsters, maybe just woken up after vegetating in some tar pits or frozen during the ice age.
Before we find out the cause, we have to be introduced to the love story. This lady scientist named Hutch (honestly) is about to quit and get married. Some older guy advises her to don’t do that but continue to hold a torch for this other scientist. Sooner or later he’ll suddenly realize he’s in love with her.
Yeah, right. None of my crushes ever accommodated me that way, and I held a couple of torches for an embarrassingly long time. Actually, I don’t really feel too embarrassed about it, because so do a lot of people. One thing most of us do not need encouragement for is to continue to hold a torch, and Hutch is no exception.
(Two side notes: One, nobody in this movie uses the actual words “carry a torch.” That’s my embellishment. Two, anybody gearing up to tell us that they never have and never would carry a torch, don’t bother; none of us will believe you.) (At least, I imagine it must be true that SOME people never carry torches, but how obnoxious it would be to brag about such a thing.)
Where was I?
Ah yes, Hutch stays a scientist, the earthquake nicely providing her with justification for such doormat behavior. The object of her desires does not even treat her very well. When she gets hung up climbing down a loose ladder, he taunts her in an unkind fashion to goad her into continuing. Oh I know, taunting is a time-honored technique and I daresay it even works on occasion. However, I find it unbearably condescending, paternalistic and mean (so anybody thinking of using the taunting method on me the next time I have trouble writing a post, please do not).
So there they are, down a hole in the earth, looking for the cause of the earthquakes. And they find a rock which they say is a new element. Another disclosure: I don’t know from elements. I had to memorize the periodic table in eighth grade science, but all I remember is that Fe means iron and there are some numbers that mean something about electrons or something.
Pause for PSA: Remember, kids! Pay attention in science class! I wish I had!
Back to the blog: Even with my limited scientific knowledge, I think that you cannot just look at a rock and know it is a new element. Sometimes you can’t even look at a rock and know for sure what kind of a rock it is! Don’t they have scientific tests for these things?
But one guy gets all excited and takes the rock home with him (cue unkind jokes about science nerds not taking girls home). We see the rock — uh, element — burst into flames and explode. Cool. Apparently it is quite an explosion, because they never find the poor guy’s body.
The action pauses for a little more condescension toward Hutch from that guy (you know, the one who is GOING to realize he is in love with her SOMEDAY) when she feels sad over her friend, because, you know, a lot of people died in the earthquakes. Perhaps he was making some profound philosophical point. I sat there thinking, “There’s always someone.”
I lost track of the movie shortly after that, so I don’t know how they contained Element 112 or whatever they were calling it. I think Hutch finally got her man, though. I would only recommend this movie for fans of spurious science and condescending love stories. Or, to use another rating system I’ve toyed with: needs robot heads.