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MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
A spaceship lands in Washington, D.C., capturing the attention of the world. But the alien emissary (Michael Rennie) it brings refuses to reveal his mission to any single government, leaving the military, the politicians, and millions of ordinary people to wait in fear. Soon their distrust turns to calls for violence. But one young woman and her son (Patricia Neal, Billy Gray) befriend him...and soon realize that they may be all that stands between the human race and total destruction.

Director:
Robert Wise
Cast:
Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe, Billy Gray, Frances Bavier, Lock Martin
Writing Credits:
Edmund H. North, based on the story by Harry Bates

Tagline:
From Out Of Space ... A Warning And An Ultimatum

MPAA:
Not Rated.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Monaural
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Cantonese
Mandarin
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 12/2/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Wise and Filmmaker Nicolas Meyer
• Audio Commentary with Film and Music Historians Josh Morgan, Steven Smith, William Stromberg, and Nick Redman
• Isolated Score Track
• Sneak Peek at 2008 The Day the Earth Stood Still
• “The Making of The Day the Earth Stood Still” Featurette
• “The Mysterious, Melodious Theremin” Featurette
• Live Performance by Peter Pringle
• “Interactive Theremin: Create Your Own Score”
• “Gort Command!” Interactive Game
• “Farewell to the Master: A Reading by Jamieson K. Price”
• Movietone Newsreel
• Trailers
• “Decoding ‘Klaatu Barada Nikto’: Science Fiction as Metaphor” Featurette
• “A Brief History of Flying Saucers” Featurette
• “The Astounding Harry Bates” Featurette
• “Edmund North: The Man Who Made the Earth Stand Still” Featurette
• “Race to Oblivion: A Documentary Short Written and Produced By Edmund North” Featurette
• Seven Still Galleries


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Day The Earth Stood Still [Blu-Ray] (1951)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 7, 2010)

Back in the Seventies, an album came out from a mysterious band called Klaatu. They produced one album that didn’t make much of an impact except as a source of semi-controversy. I never heard the record, but apparently the band sounded an awful lot like the Beatles. Given the total secrecy behind the group – who apparently presented no pictures of themselves or had real credits listed at the time – many believed that the Fabs had reunited and put out a new album under a pseudonym.

The theory that the Beatles had anything to do with Klaatu soon got debunked, and the group remains an odd footnote to history. What does this have to do with The Day the Earth Stood Still? Klaatu is a character from the film, but otherwise there’s no connection. But how often do I get the chance to display my knowledge of obscure Beatle-related trivia?

As for Earth itself, it influenced science fiction as a whole, and it also pops up frequently in pop culture references. Heck, Return of the Jedi even included minor characters named Klaatu, Barada and Nikto.

Despite all that, I never saw Earth until it came out as a DVD via the “Fox Studio Classics” collection. At the start of the film, we watch as people discover a UFO that speeds around the Earth at 4000 miles per hour. Eventually it comes to reside on a ballfield near the Washington Monument. The troops mobilize to surround it, and after a few hours, the door opens and a spaceman named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) emerges. He delivers a message of peace and goodwill, but a trigger-happy soldier blasts him after Klaatu brings out some doohickey.

From there a huge robot named Gort (Lock Martin) comes out to defend the territory. The authorities rush Klaatu to the hospital, and while he quickly recovers, he meets with an assistant to the president named Mr. Harley (Frank Conroy. Klaatu demands to deliver his message to all the representatives of the Earth governments, but political opposition makes this difficult.

Klaatu wants to go out and meet with ordinary people, but the government refuses to let him leave. Klaatu escapes, and this causes a public panic as people worry that he’ll do something horrible. Of course, he just wants to mingle, and he adopts the personality of a guy named Carpenter. Klaatu seems bemused as he witnesses the unnecessarily panicked reactions to his arrival on Earth.

Eventually he rents a room at a boarding house, and there he connects with Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), the widowed mother of Bobby (Billy Gray). Among others, we also meet Helen’s boyfriend Tom Stevens (Hugh Marlowe). The group befriends Klaatu/Carpenter, who spends an entire day seeing the sights with Billy.

When Klaatu wants to meet the smartest person possible, Billy leads him to a scientist named Professor Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe). The doctor’s out, but Klaatu leaves a message via a solution to a complex math equation. Eventually a government agent takes Klaatu to meet with the Professor, and the alien reveals his identity. If the Professor can arrange it, he agrees to speak to a panel of scientists. All of this leads to events related to Klaatu’s attempts to deliver his message and deal with the humans.

Though it usually gets classified within that genre, I didn’t really see The Day the Earth Stood Still as a typical science fiction movie. Those elements really only popped up sporadically during the flick, mostly when Klaatu demonstrated his powers or we saw the actions of Gort. Otherwise, the film largely dealt with the way people react to the unfamiliar.

Set during the period when Americans displayed a tremendous fear of Communism, the underlying influence involved seems pretty clear. I didn’t see Klaatu as a representation of Communists, as I definitely didn’t think the filmmakers wanted to convince us that Communists are as benign and thoughtful as the alien.

However, Klaatu came to represent the irrational fear of the unknown. People reacted to his presence based on their own biases and didn’t deal with what they got. As noted, the bemused Klaatu reacts to all of the imagined terror he supposedly will cause. Earth helps demonstrate that we don’t necessarily need to fear the unfamiliar.

Director Robert Wise bathes the proceedings in an atmosphere of paranoia and fear that allows these points to expand. Though Klaatu does represent something of a threat, it’s not a direct one at the current time. Yes, he warns Earth people that they need to clean up their act. He represents aliens who worry that rockets armed with nukes will eventually wreak havoc on their own societies, so Klaatu threatens Earthlings. He relates that if they don’t back down from their potential attempts at nuclear annihilation, the aliens will destroy the planet to protect themselves.

While this fact makes it sound like Klaatu’s pretty hostile, all the panic evidenced by humans has nothing to do with his warnings. They don’t know about his message, and they react simply based on ignorant fear. The movie does make the point that we shouldn’t be afraid of the unfamiliar just because of our lack of knowledge, but it comes across as a bit preachy and illogical at times. Some of the steps taken by fearful humans go too far, but it’s absolutely natural to freak out a bit when something or someone as unusual as an alien arrives on Earth. That seems especially true since it’s obvious anyone/thing that can zoom across space clearly possesses technology superior to ours, so we’d potentially have a lot to lose in such an encounter.

Not that you’ll find much explicit menace in Klaatu – at least not until he threatens to destroy us all if we don’t police ourselves better. The filmmakers lucked into a real find with Rennie, who seems absolutely perfect as Klaatu. He’s just handsome enough to fall into the leading man territory occasionally required of him here, but he also looks fairly offbeat, which gives him something of an alien appearance. Though Klaatu occasionally comes across as more smug and condescending than I’d like, Rennie delivers a nicely distant tone for the part that makes him eminently believable as an alien.

Overall, The Day the Earth Stood Still holds up as a contemplative and compelling entry in the science fiction canon, even if I think its sci-fi elements remain fairly incidental. The flick comes across as a little preachy at times, but it also seems thought provoking and intriguing. Some parts of it haven’t aged tremendously well, but for the most part, it works nicely.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus A

The Day the Earth Stood Still appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite a mix of moderate concerns, the picture generally looked quite good.

Sharpness usually appeared positive. For the most part, the movie consistently remained nicely detailed and distinct. Occasionally examples of softness arose, however; these weren’t substantial, but they occurred. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no problems, and only a little edge enhancement appeared. I saw light haloes at times, but these weren’t problematic.

Black levels seemed solid. The movie maintained good contrast and depth, as dark tones appeared nicely deep and rich. Shadow detail also appeared smooth and neatly delineated. Print flaws seemed acceptably infrequent for a movie of this vintage, but they still caused some concerns. I noticed occasional examples of specks and grit as well as a few scratches, marks and blotches. Ultimately, much of Earth appeared positive, but the print defects and minor softness knocked down my grade to a “B-“.

In addition to the film’s original monaural soundtrack, Earth included a new DTS-HD 5.1 MA remix. This track worked surprisingly well. The multichannel rendition didn’t reinvent the wheel. Bernard Herrmann’s score benefited the most from the new edition, as it showed nice stereo imaging.

Some effects also boasted decent involvement. For instance, military vehicles moved around the five speakers well, and other environmental information added a little pizzazz to the package. At no point did the new soundfield dazzle, but the movie didn’t offer many opportunities for it to do so. This wasn’t an action extravaganza, and the soundfield opened up the movie well.

Audio quality seemed good. Again, music benefited the most. The score was quite lively and full; it seemed more dynamic than one might expect given its age. Effects appeared more dated, but they came across acceptably clear and concise. Speech was also adequate, as the lines appeared reasonably natural. No issues with source noise interfered. I felt pretty impressed by this good remix.

How did the picture and sound quality of this Blu-ray compare to those of the Special Edition DVD? I thought the audio was a wash, really. The Blu-ray’s DTS track seemed a bit more dynamic than the DVD’s Dolby Digital counterpart, but since both took their cues from nearly 60-year-old material, they remain pretty similar.

At its best, the Blu-ray offered definitely picture improvements over the DVD. However, the increased resolution actually made some shots look worse. I noticed soft elements more easily on the Blu-ray, while these didn’t stand out as much on the DVD. The Blu-ray did provide the more positive image of the two, but it wasn’t a stunning difference.

In terms of extras, the Blu-ray mixes everything from the SE DVD along with some exclusives. I’ve marked the latter with blue type.

We start with two audio commentaries. The first comes from director Robert Wise and filmmaker Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Time After Time). Both were recorded together for this running, occasionally screen-specific track. For the most part, Meyer acts as interviewer, especially during the film’s first half. Wise discusses some specifics of Earth such as casting, story issues, and other topics, but he often talks about his general filmmaking thoughts. He tells us how he likes to work, and while this often touches upon Earth, Wise frequently digresses into other films.

Meyer becomes more active in non-interviewing ways as the track progresses, and that gets a little annoying. He tends to interject himself a bit too frequently. While it’s somewhat interesting to hear his negative opinions of Hugh Marlowe’s acting, he dwells on the topics too much, and he also reminds us of his own The Day After and other topics too often. The commentary peters out a bit during its second half, as more silent spots occur and the pair occasionally have to stretch to find something to say.

Despite these concerns, however, the commentary usually seems pretty interesting. Some people actively dislike tracks that don’t constantly focus on the film in question, but such pieces don’t bother me. I enjoyed Wise’s discussion of his experiences and thoughts in general, and despite his too personal involvement at times, Meyer generally works well as interviewer. Overall, this seems like an interesting and informative piece. (One disappointment: since both men directed Star Trek flicks, I’d have loved to hear them discuss their experiences with that series to a greater degree.)

For the second commentary, we hear from film and music historians Josh Morgan, Steven Smith, William Stromberg, and Nick Redman. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They tell us a little about cast and crew such as Wise and actor Michael Rennie, but the track usually focuses on composer Bernard Herrmann and his work.

That heavy emphasis surprises me, but it succeeds. The concentration on Herrmann allows the participants to dig into his score and career pretty well, so we get a more detailed conversation than usual. Things peter out a little during the film’s third act, as the participants often do little more than grumble about the current state of movie music. Nonetheless, the discussion usually informs and entertains.

Another alternate audio track provides an isolated score. This allows us to listen to Bernard Herrmann’s music in a Dolby Digital 5.1 rendition. It adds a nice bonus for film score fans.

Next comes a featurette entitled The Making of The Day the Earth Stood Still. It runs 23 minutes, 52 seconds and provides notes from Smith, Wise (via archival interviews), film historian Steven Jay Rubin, producer Julian Blaustein (via archival interviews), Blaustein’s widow Florence, The Films of Robert Wise author Richard Keenan, Wise’s daughter Pamela Conrad Rosenberg, Wise’s widow Millicent, filmmaker Lewis Gilbert, aerospace historian Curtis Peebles, Auburn University Associate Professor of History Guy V. Beckwith, and actors Patricia Neal and Bobby Gray. “Making” looks at the flick’s roots and development, how Wise came onto the project and his involvement, cast and performances, sets and locations, visual effects, music and the movie’s impact.

In “Making”, we get a good nuts and bolts look at the film. It’s too brief to provide a terribly full examination of the flick, but then again, with two commentaries and many other featurettes available here, it doesn’t need to include every element of the production. “Making” offers an engaging overview.

Another featurette offers a look at The Mysterious, Melodious Theremin. During the five-minute and 40-second piece, we hear from musician Peter Pringle. He gives us a quick history of the instrument as well as a demonstration of how it works. This turns into a cool glimpse of how the quirky instrument works.

After this we get a Live Performance by Peter Pringle. This clip runs two minutes, 17 seconds and shows Pringle he plays the theremin for the movie’s theme. It seems redundant after the prior featurette, so don’t expect much from it.

For something more unusual, look to the Interactive Theremin. This purports to allow you to “create your own score”. This lets you select a series of notes and then hear them applied to a scene from the film. Yawn!

Another Blu-ray exclusive arrives via the Gort Command! interactive game. This requires you to move the arrows on your remote to attempt to shoot Gort’s enemies. It got old in about three minutes and I quit; it offered no enjoyment.

Next we move toFarewell to the Master: A Reading by Jamieson K. Price. This audio feature goes for 96 minutes, six seconds and lets us hear the short story on which Earth was based. Loosely based, I should add, as Master provides the rough framework for Earth but not much more. That actually makes it pretty fascinating, as it’s fun

Movietone News provides a six-minute and 21-second clip from 1951. In addition to a little coverage of the movie, we get snippets about other news events like a Japanese peace treaty. It’s a brief but neat look at contemporary history from the time of Earth’s creation.

From there we go on to more featurettes. Decoding ‘Klaatu Barada Nikto’: Science Fiction as Metaphor goes for 16 minutes, 13 seconds and features Keenan, Peebles, Beckwith, Julian Blaustein, Florence Blaustein, Rubin, Wise, Gray, filmmaker Arnold Orgolini, London School of Economics International History Professor Arne Westad, producer Edmund North’s daughter Susie, and Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film author Vivian Sobchack. “Decoding” examines the geopolitical climate in the early 1950s and how Earth reflects this along with some other interpretive elements. It does this in a somewhat scattershot manner, but it still provides a generally thought-provoking look at the movie’s subtext.

Next we go to the 34-minute A Brief History of Flying Saucers. This show includes remarks from Peebles, George Adamski Foundation director Glenn Steckling, UFO Religion author Gregory L. Reece, journalist/author Dr. David Clarke, UFO researcher Dennis Bathaser, Roswell Convention and Civic Center director Dusty Huckabee, International UFO Museum and Research Center executive director Julie Shuster, Witness to Roswell co-author Thomas J. Carey, Saucer Smear Newsletter editor James W. Moseley, retired radar engineer Robert Gardenghi, radar systems analyst Glenn Van Blaricum, and Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped By Aliens author Susan Clancy. “Saucers” looks at the UFO phenomenon of the 1940s/1950s and how it continued into later years.

“Saucers” provides a very nice look at the subject matter, and it benefits from a lack of editorializing. It presents both the believer and skeptic attitudes well and doesn’t allow one to dominate. Oh, I suspect the show’s producers side with the skeptics – especially when they deal with the obvious crackpot George Adamski – but they still keep things pretty even-handed. That helps make this an involving and fun show.

We learn more about the short story’s author in The Astounding Harry Bates. During the 11-minute and two-second program, we hear from Sobchack, Rubin, Tor Books senior editor David G, Hartwell, writer/researcher Bob Gay, Locus Magazine publisher/editor Charles N. Brown, Pulp Culture co-author Lawrence Davidson, and radio interviewer Richard Wolinsky. Author Harry Bates also appears via some archival audio material. The program gives us some biographical notes about Bates as well as thoughts about Farewell to the Master and its cinematic adaptation. Apparently history hasn’t left much documentation of Bates’ life, so don’t expect a ton of concise details here. Nonetheless, we get enough interesting material to make the piece worthwhile.

Next comes the 14-minute and 43-second *Edmund North: The Man Who Made the Earth Stand Still. It provides comments from Gilbert, Orgolini, Florence Blaustein, Edmund North’s daughters Bobbie and Susie, and film historian John Cork. As expected, the show gives us a quick biography of the film’s screenwriter. It proves satisfying and tight.

An archival piece arrives with *Race to Oblivion: A Documentary Short Written and Produced By Edmund North. The 1982 film runs 26 minutes, 40 seconds and comes hosted by Burt Lancaster. A message against nuclear proliferation, we get comments from Hiroshima survivor Shigeko Sasamori and thoughts about the medical consequences of a nuclear war.

“Oblivion” cuts between those two elements to cover its subject. The documentary is clearly a product of its time, as fears of a nuclear battle between the US and USSR were high in the early 1980s. The possibility of nuclear war hasn’t vanished, of course, but it seems less relevant today, as we have other terrors to fear.

This factor makes the scenes about the consequences of nuclear war the show’s weaker link. Honestly, do we need all these talking heads to tell us that nuclear bombs are bad? Nope, so those segments tend to feel strident and preachy.

On the other hand, the memories of Sasamori become much more intriguing. She adds a real human face to the events; her simple, unemotional recollections prove much more effective than all the doom and gloom cries of the experts. “Oblivion” is an up and down documentary, but I think it’s a good historical addition to this set.

Finally, we find seven Still Galleries. These cover “Interactive Pressbook” (19 screens), “Advertising Gallery” (11), “Behind-the-Scenes Gallery” (55), “Portrait Gallery” (17), “Production Gallery” (59), “Spaceship Construction Blueprints” (21) and “Shooting Script” (412). All offer some interesting elements, but like the “Pressbook” – which allows close-ups of some pages – and the script the best. Don’t expect big differences between the film and the screenplay, though; the final film follows the script pretty closely.

We finish with a few trailers. We get both the teaser and theatrical ads for the 1951 movie along with a trailer for the 2008 remake. DVD Open opens with an *exclusive first look at the 2008 version as well. It runs seven minutes, 48 seconds and consists of movie clips; no interviews or behind the scenes tidbits accompany the film snippets. That makes it a long trailer and nothing more.

Does this release lose any components from the original 2003 DVD? Yup, and it’s a big one: the disc drops an 80-minute documentary. Granted, the new components here cover most of the info from that program, but its absence remains a disappointment. I don’t think reissued DVDs should omit anything from earlier releases; to cut such a substantial piece turns into an even bigger letdown.

One of the most influential science fiction films ever created, The Day the Earth Stood Still continues to hold up well after more than half a century. It shows artifacts of the era in which it was created, but its message remains timely, and the movie seems lively and compelling. The Blu-ray presents fairly good picture and audio along with an excellent roster of extras.

If you don’t already have the 2008 Special Edition DVD, then this Blu-ray is the way to go. If you previously purchased this set’s SD-DVD counterpart, though, I’m not sure it’s worth the upgrade. Yes, the picture looks a bit sharper, but the increased resolution also makes some soft shots seem more obvious and distracting. Also, the Blu-ray’s exclusive supplements are a waste of time. I don’t think the Blu-ray is good enough to warrant a double-dip for owners of the 2008 DVD, especially since it runs a not-insubstantial $30.

To rate this film visit the Fox Studio Classics review of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main