The Day The Earth Caught Fire, 1961


Val Guest


visit the film locations

London: Flights: Heathrow Airport; Gatwick Airport


Fleet Street was once home to London’s newspaper industry, until the 1980s. The street is seen in Children of Men, but Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street was filmed entirely on studio sets.

The Day The Earth Caught Fire filming location: Daily Express Building, Fleet Street, London EC4

The Day The Earth Caught Fire location: the newspaper office: Daily Express Building, Fleet Street, London EC4

A surprisingly downbeat and detailed sci-fi, with global warming going to extremes after nuclear tests tilt the earth’s axis, which also contains the priceless credit: ‘Beatnik music by Monty Norman’. Groovy.

Much of the realism comes from the decision to film in the 1932 black glass, deco office of the Daily Express, 121 Fleet Street, EC4.

Although the Express has moved out, the office still stands on Fleet Street. It’s not open to the public, but take the chance to peer through the glass doors at the dazzling gold lobby, to glimpse a bit of Manhattan-style sophistication in the City.

The newspaper editor is actually played by Arthur Christiansen, the Express’ actual editor for 25 years, who also acted as technical advisor.

The ‘Met Centre’, where reporter Peter Stenning (Edward Judd) tries to ferret out the truth, is actually the Board of Trade Building in Westminster.

The CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) rally filmed, of course, in Trafalgar Square, in the days when anti-bomb protesters regularly marched from Aldermaston, between Reading and Newbury, which was home to the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

Stenning takes his son to the old Battersea Funfair, which stood until the 1970s, in Battersea Park, on the south bank of the River Thames across from Chelsea. You can see the famous old institution in 1963 comedy The Wrong Arm Of The Law, with Peter Sellers, and in the 1960 dinosaur-on-the-loose pic Gorgo.

The rides have gone, but you can still visit the peaceful park – now often seen standing in for other green London spaces, such as ‘St James’s Park’ (101 Dalmatians), ‘Clapham Common’ (Neil Jordan’s The End Of The Affair) and ‘Hyde Park’ (Wilde, with Stephen Fry as the celebrated playwright).

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