Name An SF Film With a Mimeograph In It

By Kim Huett: The Day The Earth Caught Fire is a 1961 British Lion/Pax Universal film produced and directed by Val Guest (director of the Hammer films, The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and Quatermass 2 (1957)), who with Wolf Mankowitz, also wrote the screenplay. Additionally, I also see in the credits that Beatnik music was provided by Monty Norman and you don’t see too many science fiction films featuring Beatnik music.

The film stars Leo McKern, Janet Munro, and Edward Judd and deserves to be better remembered as not only is it quite well made (barring some slightly dodgy special effects) but it also avoids the overused Earth being invaded by aliens plot. Instead The Day The Earth Caught Fire revolves around the idea of what would happen if H-bomb testing knocked the Earth out of its orbit and sent it spiraling towards the Sun. It’s a rather earnest anti-nuclear story that’s very much a product of the early sixties, but that’s what makes it so interesting.

(Just as an aside, I see Leo McKern and Edward Judd were both in an earlier SF film I’m keen to watch, X the Unknown, which features a living radioactive mass. These two don’t seem to have had much luck with radioactivity. In other startling news during Janet Munro’s disappointingly short film career she was in The Crawling Eye, a 1958 mess that made it on to MST3K. Despite the film being quite terrible it has her, Forrest Tucker, and Warren Mitchel in the cast.)

Anyway, apart from anything else much of the film is set in the offices of a daily newspaper which means that scene after scene is filled with the technology of yesterday in full use. However the best scene as far as I’m concerned involves Edward Judd entering the Press Office of the Meteorological Centre only to discover Janet Munro attempting to clean (or so I assume) a certain piece of technology once central to fanzine production. As far as I’m aware The Day The Earth Caught Fire is the only science fiction film to feature a mimeograph machine and that alone makes it special in my book.

[Reprinted by permission.]

12 thoughts on “Name An SF Film With a Mimeograph In It

  1. I know that I saw this but frankly don’t remember a thing about it. X the Unknown, however, which starred Dean Jagger, I remember as being quite well done for the time and in places quite horrifying.

  2. I remember watching the film when it was reshown on PBS at some point, just because it was a unique chance to see an old TV sf show in those pre-streaming (pre VCS and DVD for that matter) days. Later I came back to it again because Leo McKern’s performances in The Prisoner made me aware of him as an actor.

  3. @OGH: you hadn’t seen him in Help!? Or hadn’t found his first old-grump portrayal memorable?

  4. Chip Hitchcock: @OGH: you hadn’t seen him in Help!? Or hadn’t found his first old-grump portrayal memorable?

    Yellow Submarine was the first Beatles movie I ever saw. To this day I’ve never seen any of the earlier ones.

  5. HELP is a good, silly movie to see in a theater full of people. A HARD DAY’S NIGHT stands up to viewing under most circumstances. Less hilarious, but with more endurance and rewarding on rewatching. Bud Webster and I used to quote it at one another.

  6. Help! was one of the few movies my high school had on video. And because many of the teachers had been Beatles fans when younger, we used to watch it in class just before the holidays. It was either Help! or Monty Pyton’s Flying Circus or Faulty Towers. And so I must have seen Help! five or six times, while at school.

    However, Help! is too long for a standard or even a double lesson, so I’ve never actually seen the end and still don’t know how Ringo Starr escaped being sacrificed to the goddess Kali. I assume he did escape, because he’s one the two Beatles still alive.

    A Hard Day’s Night still pops up on German TV on occasion (but never Help!). It’s a good film, though marred by the fact that John Lennon has the same German dubbing voice as Tony Curtis, which is extremely irritating.

  7. @Cora Buhlert:

    However, Help! is too long for a standard or even a double lesson, so I’ve never actually seen the end and still don’t know how Ringo Starr escaped being sacrificed to the goddess Kali. I assume he did escape, because he’s one the two Beatles still alive.

    How is that evidence? Penn and Teller both got killed in a movie thirty years ago, but I’ve met them since then so I know they’re alive (as I can’t prove for (e.g.) Paul).
    Evatb jneaf bss gur bgure Orngyrf’ erfphr nggrzcg; guvf npg bs frys-fnpevsvpr hafgvpxf gur evat (juvpu VVEP jr’ir cerivbhfyl orra gbyq pna unccra, ohg abobql rkcrpgrq gur tebhc’f unysjvg/pybja gb fubj pbhentr).

    John in Curtis’s voice? I can just hear it: “Yonda lies de castle of my fodda de Arthur.”

  8. X THE UNKNOWN was a decent low budget picture.from Hammer which was initially intended to be a sequel to THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT, but Nigel Kneal refused to loan out his character.

    I found my then 90 year old mother watching it once –I recognized the photography.

  9. The mimeograph is a Roneo Rapid 750.

    Owner’s manual:
    https://archive.org/details/TNM_Roneo_Rapid_750_precision_automatic_duplicati_20171020_0088

    More on its use in the film:
    http://www.electricwolf.co.uk/VintageSciFi/Films/The_Day_the_Earth_Caught_Fire.html
    “In an early scene Jeannie is struggling with a Roneo stencil duplicator, saying it is “over-inking”. The Roneo company threatened to sue the producers for the potential damage to the reputation of their products.”

  10. FWIW – I thought X The Unknown a fairly poor B-Movie – but I did spot an early appearance of a child actor named Frazer Hines – later, of course, Jamie McCrimmon in almost all of Patrick Troughton’s Doctor Who appearances.

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