DVD Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) (Blu-ray)
Thursday, December 25th, 2008 at 10:12 am
The Day the Earth Stood Still Blu-ray Edition (1951)
Directed by Robert Wise
Starring Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Lock Martin, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe, Billy Gray
Fox Home Entertainment
Release date: December 2, 2008
While it may not have the walloping humor of Dr. Strangelove or the technicality of 2001, The Day the Earth Stood Still is every bit as interested about atomic bombs, violence, and our galaxies infinite amount of possibilities. The movie is one of science fiction’s only films, certainly one of its great ones, that conceals a Biblical meaning of such heightened velocity. 2001 dealt with every nuance that life itself had to offer to the universe, where as The Day The Earth Stood Still deals with the coming of a life form from a distant planet and what he has to offer us. Here is an almost accurate testimony that mirrors what the Biblical book of the future — the book of Revelation — has in store for the entire world.
Robert Wise directed the movie and had guts to go after every single nation on planet Earth as he did it. Making the movie during the height of the Cold War in 1951 and with all the paranoia surrounding McCarthyism, Wise goes the cold route by not siding with any country. He makes planet Earth look like the extraterrestrials, and singles the planet out as being deaf, dumb, and blind. It’s one of the rare science fiction films that sympathizes with the visitors from the other planet rather than with the humans.
It’s with this formula that one of the greatest science fiction movies comes into existence. Washington, D.C. becomes paralyzed by fright and curiosity when a gigantic spaceship — made solid by indestructible metal — lands in a baseball field in broad daylight. This scene, like many others the movie has to show us, is a disguised attack on America — the baseball field which is the pastime of our country becomes a sideshow as people pour onto the field to surround the spaceship with fierce curiosity that undoubtedly has a sense of fear attached to it.
Playing the spaceman is Michael Rennie with an uncanny ability to attract our attention with such little ease. He has a face of stone. A Buster Keaton face that allows Rennie to resemble many individuals and ideas. Almost through the whole movie he has the same expression stamped on his face. His composure resembles that of an all-knowing extraterrestrial or that calmness found in an everyday casual man living in a boarding house. He goes by the name Klaatu and when the ship opens to reveal him to the crowd, he’s in human form with a helmet covering his entire head. Behind him comes forth an 8-foot-tall robot, made out of the same metal as that of the ship, named Gort. The robot only operates when given commands in Klaatu’s foreign dialect and acts manually when he senses violence. Razor-edged beams shoot from his eyes to eliminate anything they highlight.
Klaatu tells the American people that Gort can “destroy the entire world if the people on Earth don’t cooperate and stop fighting each other which is becoming a threat to the entire universe.” Here’s an ode to the atomic bomb situation but it’s given a startling twist to it: Earthlings now control their own fate.
Wise, who also directed West Side Story, shows his wide range of talent as he gives the impression of a world that’s both supernatural and very delicate, ready to rip at the seams at the slightest moment. The cinematography by Leo Tover does exactly what the movie itself does and that’s siding with the Earth’s foreigners. Shots throughout the film tend to be biases as they seem to show the ship, Klaatu, and his robot in a protective shield. All the while, planet Earth is constantly being shown in a state of paranoia and on its hinges of falling apart.
What makes Day the Earth Stood Still so resounding is the fact that Harry Bates, who wrote the novel, criticizes the entire Earth for acting like little children by having ideas of blowing each other up if we don’t like one another. The magic of the movie comes when Klaatu and Gort arrive on Earth, seeming more intellectual than the humans. Oddly enough, the two of them act just like the Earthlings; ready to blow the entire world to smithereens if they don’t co-operate.
Sometimes one has to sacrifice all the explosions, computer animation, CGI effects, and the glitz and glam, that, for the most part, are constantly being injected in modern movies. That evidently is what usually makes for a great Blu-Ray. But once you’re able to put behind glorious color and all that other good stuff, you’ll be exposed to simplicity that has boundless limitations. Being that this the first black and white Blu-Ray I’v had to review, I’m here to say that images still manage to pop off the screen despite the fact that the palette of color is extremely limited. Keeping in mind that this film was made in 1951, while viewing it the picture, eerily, began to take a modern form. Dazzling whites and blacks shimmer like new. Some of the best scenes occur inside the Klaatu’s spacecraft. Not a single scene fails to live up to the last, making it one of the very few consistent Blu-Rays on the market right now. Any buyers who feel hesitant about plopping down $30 for a black and white high-definition film should consider Day the Earth Stood Still.
Once the disc is entered into the player the marketing for the new version of this movie starring Keanu Reeves is shoved down our throats. A seven-minute snippet of a scene.
There are two commentaries. One has director Robert Wise along with Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer. The other commentary track is by film and music historians John Morgan, Steven Smith, William Stromberg and Nick Redman. I say stick with Wise and Meyer.
Mysterious, Melodious Theremin: HD (6 min)
A fascinating look at how musical composer Bernard Herrmann scored the film’s haunting music. The music was created on a Theremin; the only instrument you don’t touch to create music. A wonderful history lesson here!
The Day the Earth Stood Still Main Title Live Performance by Peter Pringle: HD (2 min)
Peter plays it on the Theremin. If you haven’t seen anyone play this instrument before now’s your chance.
Interactive Theremin: Create Your Own Score: HD
One of the most unique features I’ve ever seen on a Blu-Ray disc. This feature gives people the opportunity to create their own music by selecting from eight one-second notes to create 30 seconds of Theremin music. Once complete you can preview your score and then it gets attached to a main scene in the film.
Gort Command Game!: HD
An interactive shooting game that allows you to navigate through a single level while more and more police and military personnel pop out trying to gun you down. Using Gort’s eye beam as a weapon the more personnel gunned down the better your score.
The Making of The Day the Earth Stood Still: HD (24 min)
Details how the film was put together and how it was conceived from Bates’ novel.
Decoding Klaatu Barada Nikto: Science Fiction as Metaphor: HD (16 min)
The film’s famous lines are put under the microscope and we find out what those words actually translate to.
A Brief History of Flying Saucers: HD (34 min)
People have seen this feature air numerous times on PBS or an ABC special. A bunch of intellectual men talk about their experiences or others’ experience dealing with actual UFO’s.
The Astounding Harry Bates: HD (11 min)
A worthy feature to the man who is responsible for this science-fiction classic. Bates is more than happy to offer his two cents about the film.
Edmund North: The Man who Made the Earth Stand Still: HD (15 min)
This feature focuses on the screenwriter and how he worked with Bates to get Bates’ novel to the big screen.
Race to Oblivion: A Documentary Short Written & Produced by Edmund North: SD (27 min)
A short that involves children singing for peace on earth while war footage is being played.
Farewell to the Master: SD (97 min)
At times a hypnotizing watch. Jamieson K. Price reads Bates’ short story while a flying saucer is in the backdrop.
Fox Movietonnews 1951: SD (7 min)
U.S. and Japan shown in news clips signing a peace treaty.
Still Gallery: SD
Teasers and Theatrical Trailers: SD
Grade: Movie- **** out of ****
Picture- ***Â½ out of ****
Features- ***Â½ out of ****