The Late Great Planet Earth (1978): Another Look

Editor’s Note: Sam Panico previously reviewed this Christian post-apocalyptic film as part of our January 2019 “Tabloid Week” chronicling sensationalistic documentaries. As we fill out our ever-expanding database of reviews with some of the “Christian Cinema” films from the ’70s we’ve missed, we brought this prophetic classic back for another look. To say Sam and I are obsessed by this film is an understatement. And you should be, as well. And, one day: I’ll finally sell Sam on Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Who better than family nature film purveyor Pacific International (Challenge to be Free, Mountain Family Robinson, and The Adventures of the Wildness Family) to give us a good ol’ biblical prophecy gloom n’ doomer to scare the little ones into believing in Jesus? Hey, like the film tells us: 70 percent of The Holy Bible‘s predictions by the prophets of old have come true. So, if those predictions did, it follows the other 30 percent will happen in our lifetime.

Are you rejoicing in the light, yet?

Prior to the film breaking box office records, the 1970 book of the same title, penned by eschatologist (a theology concerned with the final events of history as told in The Bible) Hal Lindsay, competed for the title as one of the decade’s bestsellers (and with his first book!) against Erich von Däniken’s 1968 tome, Chariots of the Gods?, itself turned into a 1970 film. By the early ’90s, The Late Great Planet Earth sold 30 millions copies.

Initially, the book was produced as a prime-time documentary special in 1975. The ratings response was so favorable, a new, theatrical version narrated by Orson Welles was rushed into theaters. In addition to Welles’s voiceovers and occasional pop-ins on camera, Lindsey appears to weave his theories about the Earth’s future based on the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos in foretelling the arrival of Jesus as the Messiah.

While many of Lindsey’s projections — both in book and on film — are dated, and some proven wrong in our modern world, credit is due to Lindsey’s non-fire and brimstone approach (say, as opposed to Pastor Estus Pirkle’s approach in a series of Ron Ormond films, starting with If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?) in speaking calmly and reasonably correlating The Bible in a realistic, contemporary content — such as reasoning the weird creatures spoken of in biblical prophecies to modern-day war craft.

That is until those scenes . . . of a computer analysis calculating if Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, or Ronald Reagan (the whole “666” thing), is the Antichrist . . . wow. That’s a hard swallow. Then there’s our “final judgement” by way of a 10-nation confederacy (i.e., Daniel’s 10-horned beast), which Lindsey sees as the European Common Market, going into battle with Russia (aka, The Bible‘s Magog), which will happen in 1988. But not before the gravitational pull of “The Jupiter Effect” in 1982 stirs up the sun and scores the Earth as warm up for the end times. And, if all else fails, another educated talking head tells us that man will never make it past the year 2000.

Believe it not, as goofy as it all may sound, before Lindsey brought a soupçon of common sense to the discussion, the pastors and preachers I dealt with in my youth actually believed in literal, “wild and mysterious creatures of multiple heads and multiple horns with tails of scorpions,” cooked up by Satan himself, would run loose on the Earth. Pure insanity. And we believed it. And it scared us stiff.

Whatever. As you can see, we’re still here.

Sure, we can scoff now, but this flick scared the shite out of us wee lads, leaving us a paranoid mess ripe for a “Friday Night Activity” evening at the local Baptist indoctrination center. I mean, come on, what little kid wants to not be called up in the Rapture and left to suffer on Earth, then go to Hell, afterwards? Seriously. Talk about child abuse. Youth pastors telling you Communist minions will force you to watch your mom and dad being executed. That you’ll be beheaded if you don’t allow yourself be “marked” by a red-hot “666” branding iron.

Anyway, Lindsey has since written 14 more books. When his fifth book, 1983’s The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon became a runaway best-seller, luckily, it wasn’t made into a sequel film. Once again, he predicted the Rapture would happen at the end of the ’80s. And we are still waiting for Russia to attack Iran to gain control of the oil supply, with China not letting Russia get away with that nonsense — and all hell, literally, breaks loose — sans the multi-head and horned beasts (we hope).

Oddly enough: No predictions about a cyberattack on U.S. oil pipelines. Nothing about bat-born viruses cooked up in labs. Nada about social-media backed CHOP and CHAZ warriors overthrowing whole police precincts and running Walgreen’s out of business and out of San Francisco — none of that reality made it to either of Lindsay’s books or the film. And so it goes, as the prophetic wheels of fate, spin. . . .

You can watch The Late Great Planet Earth on the Internet You say you want your own copy? See, we told you an obsession for it would happen. The fine folks at Scorpion Releasing issued the film on Blu-ray available at Diabolik DVD.

You need more “Jupiter Effect” in your films, you say? Well, then, you need to check out our review for The Spirits of Jupiter. More predicted destruction of the Nostradamus variety? Then check out Japan’s inversion of an Irwin Allen flick with 1974’s Nosutoradamusu no daiyogen.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.