Edward Judd, 1932–2009


Like the creations of the late Oliver Postgate, Edward Judd haunts my childhood imagination via the handful of very British science fiction and sf/horror movies he starred in during the 1960s. He did a great deal of acting before and after this—in the Seventies he was a very ubiquitous TV character actor—but it’s his run of genre films which remains notable. In these roles he was always the stalwart Everyman, usually with another older actor as co-star who supplies the requisite scientific explanations.

The first of these, The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), was a Val Guest production which followed the success of Guest’s Quatermass films in visiting another space-born calamity upon the world, this time an unprecedented heatwave caused by nuclear tests which throw the earth off its orbit. The film opens with a Ballardesque view of the River Thames parched to a thin stream, and features some great shots later of Judd stumbling through an abandoned, dust-strewn capital. The location work in the Daily Express building on Fleet Street adds to the realism, as does a strong script and decent performances.


Diving suits on the moon: Edward Judd and Lionel Jeffries.

First Men in the Moon (1964) was my favourite of these when I was younger, unsurprisingly because it was a) an HG Wells story, and I was a Wells fanatic at the age of 11, and b) a Ray Harryhausen film. Judd plays Arnold Bedford who voyages to the moon in 1899 with Joseph Cavor—inventor of the gravity-repelling Cavorite—and a token woman, Kate Callender, who isn’t present in Wells’ novel. There’s a further Quatermass connection with the screenwriting credit for Nigel Kneale. This isn’t necessarily the best Wells adaptation nor the best Harryhausen film although Harryhausen’s animated creatures retain an insectile mystery and I always liked the scenes of their crystalline world. Searching around I see this film has now found its way onto lists of Steampunk-themed films which no doubt guarantees it a continued audience.

dtecf2.jpgInvasion (1965) was a minor sf film with Judd as a doctor at a country hospital which receives as patients the occupants of a crashed alien spacecraft. Once again it’s surprising what emerges when you look at the history of these things; screenwriter Robert Holmes rehashed the idea five years later for the first of the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who stories, Spearhead from Space. The Autons in that series were satisfyingly chilling and I wouldn’t mind watching both these dramas again to see how they compare.

And speaking of chilling, the Silicate creatures in Island of Terror (1966) are distinctly unnerving, being blob-like things which crawl around the island in question sucking the bones out of animals and people. Judd plays a doctor again, as does Peter Cushing. The director was Hammer regular Terence Fisher. Web search revelation with this particular title: you can buy models of the Silicates from a company called Ultratumba Productions. And this film apparently belongs in the sub-genre of “pub invasion movies“, where human schemes to counter an alien invasion are discussed in the local pub.

Of all these films, the one I used to find least-interesting was the first, probably because there was too much solid drama and not enough weirdness. Also no monsters or aliens. From our current perspective of rising temperatures, The Day the Earth Caught Fire looks more unsettlingly prophetic than most other sf films of the period. It came to mind for me in 2006 whilst trudging along the banks of the Seine during that summer’s heatwave, especially the memorable scene of London immersed in fog as the Thames begins to evaporate. We don’t need to worry about the threat of aliens when we’re perfectly capable of destroying the planet on our own.

PS: hello Deborah.

Previously on { feuilleton }
HG Wells in Classics Illustrated
The man who saw tomorrow
War of the Worlds book covers
Mushrooms on the Moon

14 thoughts on “Edward Judd, 1932–2009”

  1. As an adjunct to this, while a Google News search doesn’t yield any other obituaries yet, there is a Top 10 atmospheric films at Den Of Geek that places The Day the Earth Caught Fire at number 2 alongside other genuine classics of cinematic atmos as Nosferatu the Vampyre, Apocalypse Now, The Saragossa Manuscript and John Carpenter’s The Thing…good company.

  2. I own five of those titles on DVD–two of them I have twice!–so I guess that establishes my geek credentials. Nice seeing Runaway Train listed, a very odd film with some great moments.

  3. Not sure why the link to the Britmovie Forum thread. It’s mostly speculation over the last four years about has he or hasn’t he died, was he or wasn’t he living in a retirment home.
    No-one over there seems to know for a fact that Mr Judd is now deceased.
    You have put ‘Edward Judd, 1932–2009’ but what is your source and is it reliable?
    Just wondering.

  4. That isn’t a link from me to the Britmovie forum, it’s the WordPress software recording a trackback link from them to here. If I’d made a link anywhere I would have put it underneath the original post before the Previously… list.

    My source is one his daughters, Deborah, who I’ve known for about 24 years. She commented above.

  5. Have just posted a reply on the Brit movie forum to confirm his demise. The Times has published an obituary today, but it says that my mum is still alive and she died in 1993!

  6. I worked with Edwards wife Norma Ronald in the early 90’s when she worked for a charity in Newcastle upon Tyne. I have to say she was a good friend to me. I can also confirm I attended her funeral service in Newcastle and recall Annette Crosby being there and a couple of people from the ‘Carry On’ movies who were friend of hers. I read the Times obituary and was shocked to read Norma was still alive!

  7. I live in a quiet rural town called Camden just outside Sydney in Australia,and I just loved Edward Judd and have quite a few of his movies on DVD, The long Ships, The first Men on the Moon just to name a few. My thoughts go out to Deborah Judd who is the daughter of Ed, I only looked up some info I need on Edward in google today on my ne lap top, and found that Edward had passed away in Mar 2009. I was so upset to find this out today. I am now going to sit down and watch both movies in respect of Edward and to honour his life. Michael Caine was one of his closest friends and I have a lot of movies of Michael as well.
    I do hope someone directs my email to Deborah as i would love her to know that her father was a icon in my eyes as Edward just fitted into the parts in the Long Ships and the first men on the moon.No other actor would have suited them only Ed. I do hope Deborah returns an email to me as I would love to hear from her.
    God bless you and your family, I would love a photo of Edward with you and your family in his later years I would cheerish it till the day I die.
    My address is 12 Merino Drive Elderslie NSW 2570 Sydney Australia.

    All my belated sympathys

    Kerry Pearson xxAustralia.Oh I am 56 years old :)

  8. Oh I forgot to add a little coincidence I was born on October 10 so ed and I have one thing in common we were both Librans. He must have been some sort of a guy. hahahahahahahah

    Kerry Sydney.

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