SUPER 8 FILM REVIEW
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL 4x600ft (92 mins approximately) B/W Sound £269.95 Import available from Classic Home Cinema
From another planet comes a flying saucer bearing two occupants. One a humanoid, the other a malevolent robot. They bring a message which is also a threat to the whole of our civilization. Failure to comply with this threat will lead to the destruction of the Earth.
The full length 1951 landmark science fiction classic starring Michael Rennie as Klaatu, the alien from another world. There can be few of us who have not seen this film which was spawned from the USA’s 1940’s and 1950’s fascination with flying saucers. Despite the age of the material the film itself has aged well and is as pertinent today as it was back then. Perhaps even more so. It is certainly still having an effect on the modern film maker with just about every alien invasion special effects laden extravaganza showing some influence. Most notably is probably Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks”. The music from that film was lifted directly from the soundtrack of “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. Excellent music it is too, composed by Bernard Herrmann (“Psycho”, “7th Voyage of Sinbad”, “Taxi Driver” etc.), and certainly adds to the otherworldly atmosphere of the movie.
Michael Rennie appeared in many films but this is the one for which I know him. He’s totally convincing in the role as are the other cast members. I think it is fair to say it is brilliantly acted and generally well made; this is not surprising when you consider the director was Robert Wise (editor of “Citizen Kane” and the director of, most notably, “West Side Story”, “The Sound of Music” and “Star Trek The Motion Picture”). Recently the guest for a Guardian interview at the NFT, having now seen ‘Day the Earth Stood Still’ on the big screen I am questioning myself why I didn’t attend this event; it certainly would have provided me with a greater insight into the making of this film.
The film opens with the arrival of a fast moving unidentified flying object which is sending the nations of the world into chaos. The effects, despite their age, are effective. When the spaceship lands in a park in Washington D.C. it is surrounded by the U.S. army. Interestingly, throughout the film the American forces are portrayed us bungling, panic stricken buffoons, something that would not be tolerated by American audiences today. Klaatu has been sent by a federation of planets to warn the people of Earth to restrain from our naturally aggressive nature and to stop our nuclear testing. Failure to comply will result in the destruction of the planet. A soldier foolishly shoots Klaatu which unleashes the power of the robot Gort. There are no gimicks on this threatening silent shape and it works cinematically for that reason. Fortunately, the wounded Alien recovers sufficiently to stop the robot from unleashing total devastation and he is then taken to a military hospital where he is visited by a member of the US government. When it becomes obvious he will be unable to address his message to representatives from all the nations of the world he escapes - the knowing smile Rennie gives us when the door is locked tells us it will take more than a cell and a few guards to hold him.
Disguised as a normal human he takes refuge in a boarding house. From here he intends to learn what us inhabitants of Earth are really like and to decide on his next move. With the help of a young boy living at the house he visits Professor Barnhard (the film’s equivalent of Albert Einstein) and following this arranges a demonstration of his power prior to a meeting Barnhard is holding with leading scientists from all over the globe. This is where the title of the film has it’s origin - Klaatu returns to his spaceship and proves his power by shutting off all electrically powered machinery on Earth for half an hour with the exception of “hospitals, planes in flight, that sort of thing!”. The meeting is that night, but will Klaatu evade capture by the military long enough to deliver his message? Terrific tension, a plausible plot and a conclusive climax result in a hugely enjoyable night in at the movies.
Sadly with the non-availability of black and white stock we have to endure this classic on colour stock and the unavoidable blue tint that provides. There is also the odd scratch on the master and at the original reel changes there are some missing frames. Nowt’ much to worry about there though. At least the print is sharp and that is the main criteria to consider.
The sound on this review print was not acceptable but we understand that this was addressed for the release prints. Also, Classic Home Cinema are offering the release as either sound or mute giving those collectors who are able the chance to save some money and record the film for themselves. Given the missing frames throughout I expect this to be one of the more difficult prints to re-record. You have been warned.
An excellent science fiction film. In conclusion all I can say is "Klaatu barada nikto."
Print B Sound B/C John Clancy