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The Day the Earth Stood Still(1951)
The Day The Earth Stood Still depicts the arrival of an alien dignitary, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), who has come to earth with his deadly robot, Gort (Lock Martin), to deliver the message that earthlings must stop warring among themselves--or else. After being shot at by military guards, Klaatu is brought to a Washington, D.C. hospital, where he begs a sympathetic but frank Major White (Robert Osterloh) to gather all the world's leaders so he can tell them more specifically what he has come to warn them about. Losing patience, Klaatu slips into the human world, adapting a false identity and living at a boarding house where he meets a smart woman with a conscience and her inquisitive son. Both mother and son soon find themselves embroiled in the complex mystery of Klaatu, his message and the government's witch hunt for the alien.
For more about The Day the Earth Stood Still and the The Day the Earth Stood Still Blu-ray release, see the The Day the Earth Stood Still Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 21, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Director: Robert Wise
Writer: Edmund H. North
Starring: Michael Rennie (I), Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe, Billy Gray, Frances Bavier
» See full cast & crew
The Day the Earth Stood Still Blu-ray Review
Stand still in awe of Fox's first-rate Blu-ray presentation of this timeless classic.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 21, 2008
We have come to visit you with peace and goodwill.
Perhaps the definitive classic Science Fiction film of the 1950s, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a harmonious amalgamation of all the genre can do right, creating an exhilarating story that both exercises the mind and delights the visual and aural senses. Beyond its simple yet exciting visuals, excellent lead performances, first-class direction, chilling score, and superbly-penned script, is a film that is socially conscious and offers a message on the perils of its day and age. In essence, the film is the very definition of Science Fiction, the picture many astute film historians would likely identify as the high point of the genre, certainly within the confines of its era, but perhaps also in the entirety of the Sci-Fi's storied history, though several other films -- Metropolis and 2001: A Space Odyssey, in particular -- may wish to contest it as the most influential the genre has yet to offer.
On a bright Washington D.C. day, a flying saucer lands on the grassy fields of a baseball complex, and from the belly of the craft comes Klaatu (Michael Rennie), a humanoid alien adorned in a space suit. Surrounded by military personnel and hundreds of civilians, Klaatu is wounded in an accidental shooting by an overzealous soldier wielding a Colt .45. A second, larger, more menacing figure then emerges from the craft, a robot, with the ability to vaporize the soldier's weapons. Klaatu is able to miraculously recover from his wounds while in the care of human doctors. His wish to meet with the world's leaders is rejected, and Klaatu escapes from this hospital room in search of someone who may be willing to hear his reasons for landing on Earth. He rents a room where he meets Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) and her son Bobby (Billy Gray), whom he befriends, and from whom he learns much of Earth's history and culture. Klaatu ultimately meets with the world's foremost scientific mind, professor Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), and tells him that his people fear the threat aggressive humans with the power of the harnessed atom may eventually pose to their home world. Will humanity listen to reason, or will Klaatu continue to be treated as an enemy, proving his point and possibly spelling the eventual destruction of all mankind?
One thing that sets The Day the Earth Stood Still apart from many other films is its to-the-point presentation. No time is wasted introducing unimportant characters or setting up secondary or even tertiary plot points that bog the story down and almost always add nothing but a chorus of groans to the proceedings. Shot after shot, scene after scene, sequence after sequence plays out to no end other than for the betterment of the story. The film also succeeds in creating many memorable and expertly staged scenes. For example, Klaatu at one point enters a house offering a room for rent. The occupants of the house, unaware of his presence behind them, huddle around the television, taking in the latest news of the mysterious spacecraft and its alien inhabitants. The juxtaposition of the family and the alien makes for a fascinating scene and an important moment in the film that will set off a chain of events that perhaps forever will alter the course of history. It is simple yet nevertheless infinitely remarkable filmmaking. Director Robert Wise's (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) direction serves as a model for filmmaking done right, never becoming intrusive or taking emphasis off of the characters or the story, allowing all that makes the film come together harmoniously without a detached sense of style and importance placed on more trivial aspects of the filmmaking process.
To that end, most of the film, and certainly its key sequences and lines of dialogue, reinforces the primary plot. So well-developed is the plot that repeat viewings and critical analysis only reveal its complex brilliance in its simplistic presentation. There are few to no mysteries about the story. Klaatu has been sent to warn against aggression. He is at first and throughout the picture met with aggression from those under the command of the men he has come to meet, reinforcing his statement that people "substitut[e] fear for reason." Time after time his attempts at dialogue are met with either violence or petty excuses as to why said dialogue cannot occur. The film's anti-war, anti-atomic age message is never obscured. Even the dialogue is to-the-point, never straying from message. In one scene, Klaatu informs young Bobby that on his world, there are no wars, to which Bobby replies, "geez, that is a good idea!" By film's end, viewers are left only to ponder the impact of Klaatu's visit and determine for themselves the consequences of further aggression, not to mention the film's obvious religious overtones.
Aside from the success of its to-the-point storytelling, The Day the Earth Stood Still is also a good old-fashioned entertaining movie, not to mention a technical success. This is riveting cinema; each scene leaves viewers anxious for the next. It is both at once fearful and enthralling, offering up edge-of-your-seat tension while playing as gripping drama. Also uniformly excellent is the primary cast. Michael Rennie is excellent as Klaatu, the alien whose power and purpose is matched only by his calm and collected demeanor. His portrayal in the film -- that as an intelligent, handsome, yet purposeful and politely insistent alien in the shape of a man -- makes the character all the more chilling yet at the same time, particularly as viewed through his relationship with Bobby, compassionate. Hugh Marlowe, Patricia Neal, Sam Jaffe, and Billy Gray also deliver top-notch performances. The Day the Earth Stood Still also features simple yet effective visual effects that lend credence to the story and add a bit of pizazz to what is a very serious, dramatic film. Last but not least, the film's astounding score, courtesy of Oscar winner Bernard Herrmann, is equally melodic, hypnotizing, and chilling, the unique sound of the Theremin (see supplements) in particular lending to the score what has become a trademark Science Fiction sonic experience.
The Day the Earth Stood Still Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Day the Earth Stood Still's black-and-white imagery has never looked better, presented here in 1080p high definition and in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, which will place black bars on either side of a 16x9 television set. The movie isn't razor sharp in every shot, but it looks fantastic nonetheless, with an appreciable sense of depth, particularly during the film's opening, long-distance shots of Washington. Detail is particularly high; close-ups of articles of clothing, for example, reveal intricate textures. Blacks are deep and dark, looking particularly good at every turn. The print exhibits some spots in a few places, but the image never greatly suffers as a result. The high quality of the transfer even reveals some obvious wires at a most inopportune time that might be seen as a distraction to one of the film's most crucial sequences. Still, the film has never looked better, cleaner, more defined, and certainly never so good on large screens at home as it does here. This is no doubt the definitive home video presentation of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
The Day the Earth Stood Still Blu-ray, Audio Quality
20th Century Fox presents The Day the Earth Stood Still with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack, in addition to the original monaural sound presentation. The lossless track makes for a nice improvement of the mono offering, sounding fuller and more precise, noticed immediately during the film's opening credit sequence that is accompanied by the haunting notes of the Theremin. The score plays loudly and pleasantly across the front throughout the entire film. As the craft lands in Washington, the reverberations of its power can be felt permeating the entire listening area. The soundtrack produces some excellent lows within the confines of its original mix. Nothing ever sounds trumped up or phony. There is little in the way of appreciable rear channel activity, but the track does feature a few doses of low frequency effects in accompaniment of several crucial sequences. Dialogue reproduction is fabulous throughout. Much like the video presentation, listeners and longtime fans of the film will appreciate the high quality of this soundtrack.
The Day the Earth Stood Still Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Day the Earth Stood Still lands on Blu-ray with an enormous amount of bonus materials. An Exclusive First Look at the New Movie (1080p, 7:49), which no doubt is everyone's primary reason for purchasing this disc, plays upon insertion. Headlining the "real" supplements are two commentary tracks. The first features director Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer (director, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Meyer plays the role of interviewer, asking Wise a series of questions about his involvement in the picture at various levels of the production, the themes and issues the films deals in, and more. The discussion format works well and the two seem to share a camaraderie that makes the track flow nicely and proves worthwhile as a listen. The second track features film and music historians John Morgan, Steven Smith, William Stromberg, and Nick Redman. The track is a fascinating listen as four passionate and highly knowledgeable men share their thoughts on the film. Again, it plays as something of an interview piece that feels more like a dialogue rather than a series of detached questions. The discussion focuses primarily on Bernard Herrmann's memorable score at first, and moves on to further discuss other aspects of the film. Also included is an isolated score presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. Selecting this option removes all dialogue and sound effects from the film, allowing listeners to enjoy the soundtrack unobstructed as the film plays.
The World of Theremin is a feature divided into three parts. The Mysterious, Melodious, Theremin (1080p, 5:40) is a pleasing piece that examines the origins and workings of this fascinating instrument, as well as its place in both The Day the Earth Stood Still and Science Fiction film history. 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' Main Title Live Performance by Peter Pringle (1080p, 2:17) features the host of the previous segment playing the instrument. Interactive Theremin: Create Your Own Score allows users to not only create a Theremin-based theme, but to also hear it over a scene from the film. Next is Gort Command Interactive Game. Players must blast human military and law enforcement personnel using the remote's arrow and enter keys. The Making of 'The Day the Earth Stood Still (1080p, 23:53) looks at how the film differs from its other 1950s Sci-Fi brethren through its more real-feeling story, the origins, themes, and quality of the film, the career of director Robert Wise, the casting of the key roles, shooting locations, and more. Decoding 'Klaatu Barada Nikto:' Science Fiction as Metaphor (1080p, 16:14) is an examination of how the film fits in with the political atmosphere of the time it was released.
Moving along, users will find A Brief History of Flying Saucers (1080p, 34:02). This fascinating piece features UFO historians discussing the more important and fascinating UFO cases of the past several decades. The Astounding Harry Bates (1080p, 11:03) examines the life and works of the famed writer, upon whose short story the film is based. Edmund North: The Man Who Made the Earth Stand Still (1080p, 14:43) looks at the work of The Day the Earth Stood Still screenwriter Edmund North. 'Back to Oblivion:' A Documentary Short Written & Produced by Edmund North (480p, 26:52) is a 1982 piece penned and produced by the film's screenwriter, reflecting his views on nuclear disarmament. 'Farewell to the Master:' A Reading By Jamieson K. Price of the Original Harry Bates Story (1080p, 1:36:56) is just as it sounds, the story read aloud, divided into three selectable chapters, against a static background. Fox Movietone (1951) (480p, 6:21) is a piece of archival news footage. Also available are the film's teaser (480p, 1:04) and theatrical (480p, 2:09) trailers, as well as a trailer for the 2008 remake (1080p, 1:47). Concluding this extensive supplemental package are seven galleries: Interactive Pressbook, Advertising, Behind-the-Scenes, Portrait, Production, Spaceship Construction Blueprints, and Shooting Script.
The Day the Earth Stood Still Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Day the Earth Stood Still is a bona-fide classic both in its genre and in the annals of cinema history as a whole. The film epitomizes Science Fiction like few others, creating in the viewer a sense of wonder but also conveying a socially aware message that even today remains one of utmost urgency. Robert Wise's film endures, playing both as timely and entertaining as ever. While the remake of this film is currently enjoying a high-dollar run at the box office despite its mostly negative critical reception, one must wonder for the future of what is arguably the most important and influential cinematic genre yet, one that offers viewers both what is often the peak of movie magic, witnessing firsthand the incredible, the unbelievable, the impossible, but also, perhaps, through that awe-inspiring storytelling better understanding the world as it is or once was. No doubt, like many other genres, Science Fiction seems to have taken something of a wayward turn, though films like Danny Boyle's Sunshine are able to recall the classic feel of the genre with the updated visual effects of the modern era. Thankfully, no matter what direction Sci-Fi may take next, modern technology allows for the preservation and presentation of these classics like never before, and 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release of The Day the Earth Stood Still is certainly a benefactor of its high definition release. Audiences may enjoy this picture at the current zenith of home presentation, with a beautifully presented picture quality and several audio options, including the film's original monaural presentation, which make enjoying this classic easier -- and better -- than ever before. To top it off, Fox has seen fit to load the disc with supplemental materials that alone are worth the price of admission. As such, The Day the Earth Stood Still easily earns my highest recommendation.
The Day the Earth Stood Still: Other Editions
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