Jump to content



Sign up for a free account to remove the pop-up ads

Signing up for an account is fast and free. As a member you can join in the conversation, enter contests and remove the pop-up ads that guests get. Click here to create your free account.

Photo
DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: "The Day The Earth Stood Still" (guest review by Jack Briggs)



This topic has been archived. This means that you cannot reply to this topic.
250 replies to this topic

#1 of 251 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

Ronald Epstein

    Studio Mogul



  • 40,249 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 03 1997

Posted February 24 2003 - 09:31 AM

Posted Image

The Day The Earth Stood Still






Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Year: 1951
Rated: G
Film Length: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Subtitles: English and Spanish



Editor's Note: Jack Briggs came to me and asked if
he could review the upcoming DVD release of one of
his all-time favorite films. I could think of no
better person to give this movie the kind of review
it deserves than Jack Briggs. I hope you enjoy his
guest review



According to producer Julian Blaustein, he and
director Robert Wise felt it was essential that
their proposed science-fiction allegory and
cautionary tale be played with an absolute emphasis
on realism. The story had, he says, to be anchored
in the day-to-day reality of the paranoia-driven
politics of 1950s America. Otherwise, audiences
would have dismissed The Day the Earth Stood Still
as yet another low-budget outer-space tale not to
be taken seriously.

Too, says Blaustein, in order for him and Wise to
get their core point across—i.e., that an external
solution to an ever-deepening nuclear crisis is
necessary, perhaps in the form of United Nations
intervention—wrapping their tale in a science-fiction
veneer was necessary in order to enhance the film’s
chances of slipping past the censorship-wary studio
wags.

It was, after all, the zenith of the McCarthy era.

A search for suitable source material ensued, and
soon they stumbled across a Harry Bates short story
called “Farewell to the Master.” And from there one
of the all-time classics of filmed science fiction
began to take shape.

Another critical decision made very early in the
preproduction process was not to cast a name star
in the lead role of Klaatu, the interplanetary
emissary. Blaustein, during his interview for the
disc’s 70-minute documentary extra, Making the Earth
Stand Still
, states that he correctly believed a
recognizable star would draw audience attention to
the actor instead of the role. (Blaustein even had
to resist studio boss Darryl Zanuck’s insistence on
casting Spencer Tracey in the Klaatu/“Carpenter” role.)

Shortly afterward, British stage actor Michael Rennie
came to their attention, and Blaustein and Wise knew
they had their man. The rest of the cast soon fell in
place with Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe (as
the Einstein-like Professor Barnhardt), and Billy Gray
(as little Billy Benson, in one of the most memorable
performances ever by a child actor).

The resulting film is familiar enough: A saucer-shaped
spacecraft lands on a baseball field in Washington
D.C. Shortly after, a spacesuit-clad Klaatu emerges,
bearing a gift in his left hand. But a trigger-happy
GI mistakes it for a weapon and shoots the spaceman,
seriously wounding him. This forces the spacecraft’s
other occupant to emerge, an eight-foot-tall robot
called Gort. Immediately, the robot’s visor-weapon
vaporizes all guns, rifles, and artillery in the
vicinity. Bystanders flee in terror.

A presidential envoy visits the convalescent Klaatu
at Walter Reed Hospital, whereupon the spaceman
informs the aide that he has a message that must be
delivered simultaneously to all heads of state. When
this proves unworkable, Klaatu clandestinely escapes
the hospital and assumes the identity of an officer
named Carpenter. As Carpenter, Klaatu is able to
immerse himself in society, taking a room in a
Washington boarding house and befriending the
widowed Mrs. Benson (Neal) and her son Billy, despite
a jealous suitor’s (Marlowe) concerns.

The rest of the story unfolds with Klaatu’s cover
eventually being discovered. However, Klaatu confides
in Professor Barnhardt, who attempts to arrange a
meeting with the visitor and the world’s leading
scientists. The military, though, intervenes before
the meeting can take place.

And the fate of the planet hangs in the balance.
Will humanity respond to the challenge posed by Klaatu's
arrival? How will Gort respond?

The Day the Earth Stood Still, at heart, is a
human message for inhuman times, having lost none
of its relevance in the decades since. Its theme of
an enforced peace in the face of nuclear annihilation
is eerily resonant in the current era. As a result,
the film possesses a timeliness that transcends
its 1950s sensibilities—proof positive of its status
as art as opposed to mere entertainment.

Thus, it’s unfair to summarily dismiss the film
as “just” science fiction. But as science fiction,
The Day the Earth Stood Still has, to this day,
been surpassed only by two or three films. It’s a
classic, a story for the ages.


How is the transfer?


The studio meticulously restored the original
elements, and it shows. Robert Wise’s film has
probably not looked this good since those first prints
were struck in 1951. This reviewer’s exposure to a
pair of good 35mm prints as well as joint ownership
of an excellent 16mm print in the 1970s was not
preparation enough for how good this two-sided
DVD looks.

Such overused DVD-review clichés as “filmlike” and
“silky smooth” apply but do not do this disc justice.
Few black-and-white film-to-video transfers are
this good. One never gets the acute sense of “watching
video” when screening this DVD. It truly is like
screening a film print. Perhaps a 1080i high-def
master would look better, but not by much. Owning
this DVD is tantamount to owning the film itself.

The transfer is that good.


Special Features


Similarly, Fox has managed to squeeze every last
ounce of high fidelity out of this film’s monophonic
soundtrack. Frequency response at the extremes is
exemplary. An optional stereo soundtrack showcases
Bernard Herrmann’s brilliant, theramin-propelled score
to great effect. But the monophonic track dazzles.

Besides the film itself, Side One features a
well-reproduced Movietone newsreel. Side Two features
the Making the Earth Stand Still documentary as well
as a fascinating look at the film’s restoration. The
trailer, a photo gallery, and shooting-script
reproduction round out the extras.

Fox has packed an awful lot onto one disc.


Final thoughts


The appearance of The Day the Earth Stood Still on
DVD has been an on-again off-again rumor for years.
When the present management team at 20th Century Fox
Home Entertainment took the helm and announced that
this title was in the works, fans just knew something
special was in the offing. It can be stated without
equivocation the disc has been worth the wait. One
of the classics of modern science fiction has been
given the treatment it so richly deserves. It’s a
black-and-white film with a monophonic soundtrack,
and the result is a DVD that’s as good as it gets.

A must-have, this DVD cannot be recommended highly
enough.


Release Date: March 4, 2003

Reviewed by Jack Briggs

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

 Click Here for the latest/hottest Blu-ray Preorders  Click Here for our complete Blu-ray review archive

 Click Here for our complete 3D Blu-ray review archive Click Here for our complete DVD review archive

 Click Here for Blu-Ray Preorder Release Schedule  Click Here for forum posting rules and regulations


#2 of 251 OFFLINE   Kwang Suh

Kwang Suh

    Supporting Actor



  • 849 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 04 1999

Posted February 24 2003 - 09:53 AM

Looks like a buy for me.

#3 of 251 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR

Jeff_HR

    Producer



  • 3,596 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 15 2001

Posted February 24 2003 - 09:56 AM

Very nice review Jack. Thank you very much. You have me salivating waiting for my copy to arrive next week. I can't wait to hear the Herrmann soundtrack. I hope all the films in this series are treated with this sort of care. This DVD is fabulous value for the money.
Cogito, Ergo Sum
My DVD Library / The BLOOD is the Life!
Pioneer Elite PRO PDP-111FD - 2/28/2009

#4 of 251 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

Patrick McCart

    Lead Actor



  • 7,474 posts
  • Join Date: May 16 2001
  • Real Name:Patrick McCart
  • LocationAlpharetta, GA, USA

Posted February 24 2003 - 10:02 AM

Great review!

I'll be buying this as soon as I get the chance. I've only seen clips, so this will be wonderful to see.

#5 of 251 OFFLINE   TonyD

TonyD

    Executive Producer



  • 16,198 posts
  • Join Date: Dec 01 1999
  • Real Name:Tony D.
  • LocationDisney World and Universal Florida

Posted February 24 2003 - 10:26 AM

maybe that review gives away too much of the plot when it reveals what happens to klaatu in the cab.

otherwise a great review.

i can't wait till next week so i can watch this movie
facebook.com/whotony

#6 of 251 OFFLINE   Richard Smith

Richard Smith

    Stunt Coordinator



  • 162 posts
  • Join Date: May 26 2000

Posted February 24 2003 - 10:36 AM

Excellent review Jack! I've been waiting for this to come to DVD for a long time and I'm happy to hear its been treated so well. Thank you Fox. I received shipping notice on my copy earlier today, so hopefully I'll be watching it this weekend.

#7 of 251 OFFLINE   Nick Graham

Nick Graham

    Screenwriter



  • 1,409 posts
  • Join Date: Oct 16 2001

Posted February 24 2003 - 10:36 AM

1:33:1? Fool screen only on a sc-fi classic? BOYCOTT FOX!!!!


Oh, wait.......

#8 of 251 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR

Jeff_HR

    Producer



  • 3,596 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 15 2001

Posted February 24 2003 - 10:51 AM

Quote:
1:33:1? Fool screen only on a sc-fi classic? BOYCOTT FOX!!!!
This is not a widescreen film Sir.
Cogito, Ergo Sum
My DVD Library / The BLOOD is the Life!
Pioneer Elite PRO PDP-111FD - 2/28/2009

#9 of 251 OFFLINE   TonyD

TonyD

    Executive Producer



  • 16,198 posts
  • Join Date: Dec 01 1999
  • Real Name:Tony D.
  • LocationDisney World and Universal Florida

Posted February 24 2003 - 10:54 AM

jeff you didnt quote his entire post.

nick was kidding.
facebook.com/whotony

#10 of 251 ONLINE   Dennis Nicholls

Dennis Nicholls

    Lead Actor



  • 7,821 posts
  • Join Date: Oct 05 1998
  • Real Name:Dennis
  • LocationBoise, ID

Posted February 24 2003 - 11:09 AM

I'll skip on this release and wait for the colorized widescreen version....... Plus some of those special effects need to get redone in CGI.....
Feline videophiles Condoleezza and Dukie.


#11 of 251 OFFLINE   Mark_vdH

Mark_vdH

    Screenwriter



  • 1,035 posts
  • Join Date: May 09 2001

Posted February 24 2003 - 11:10 AM

The "sadness" of reading such a great review of a favorite title you already know you're gonna get, is that it doesn't serve its purpose of "winning you over", but instead only frustrates you about not owning it yet. Posted Image Posted Image

Non-US members should get the R1 version and NOT the PAL edition. That is if you want the 70 minute documentary.....
E-Mail | Collection

#12 of 251 OFFLINE   SteveGon

SteveGon

    Executive Producer



  • 12,267 posts
  • Join Date: Dec 11 2000

Posted February 24 2003 - 11:19 AM

Talk about anticipation...

#13 of 251 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

oscar_merkx

    Lead Actor



  • 7,632 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 15 2002

Posted February 24 2003 - 11:19 AM

Hi Mark

Don't worry as I am eagerly awaiting my copy.

Jack

Outstanding review indeed and as has been said before, I am waiting for my copy to arrive

Posted Image
Toastmasters International

Communication is Everything

#14 of 251 OFFLINE   Tim RH

Tim RH

    Second Unit



  • 375 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 20 2001

Posted February 24 2003 - 11:27 AM

Wait, what about the Robert Wise audio commentary? It is still on the disc, right?

#15 of 251 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

Steve Christou

    Executive Producer



  • 14,392 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 25 2000
  • Real Name:Steve Christou
  • LocationLondon, England

Posted February 24 2003 - 11:39 AM

Great review Jack, TDTESS has always been one of my favorite SF films, and I can't wait to get my hands on this dvd.Posted Image

"Klaatu... barada... Necktie Nikto!" Posted Image

Dave hören... auf, wille stoppen sie Dave... stoppen sie Dave... Mein gehirn geht... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin ängstlich Dave... Guter Nachmittag. Ich bin ein HAL 9000 computer. Ich wurde funktionsfähig am HAL-Betrieb in Urbana, Illinois auf January 12 1992.


Lord of the Hubs


#16 of 251 OFFLINE   Zen Butler

Zen Butler

    Producer



  • 5,332 posts
  • Join Date: Jan 24 2002

Posted February 24 2003 - 11:40 AM

Jack, thank you so much for your review. I have anticipated this release for some time.

Quote:
The Day the Earth Stood Still, at heart, is a human message for inhuman times, having lost none
of its relevance in the decades since. Its theme of
an enforced peace in the face of nuclear annihilation
is eerily resonant in the current era. As a result,
the film possesses a timeliness that transcends
its 1950s sensibilities—proof positive of its status
as art as opposed to mere entertainment.

Brilliant

bladerunner-thumb-510x227-39115_zpse210a


#17 of 251 OFFLINE   Randy A Salas

Randy A Salas

    Screenwriter



  • 1,348 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 25 2002

Posted February 24 2003 - 12:03 PM

Quote:
Wait, what about the Robert Wise audio commentary? It is still on the disc, right?

Yes, his commentary with director Nicholas Meyer from the 1995 laserdisc is on the DVD. Meyer infamously makes a gaffe in which he describes Michael Rennie's descent from the ship as if he is the robot Gort, then finally catches himself when the real Gort comes down. Then he corrects Robert Wise, as if he had made the mistake.

As far as the other features, Jack's review doesn't note it, but they are largely identical to those on the laserdisc. The only really new features are the restoration comparison and trailers for other Fox movies.

Calling Making The Earth Stand Still a documentary is a bit generous. Although fine, it's really just an aimless string of interviews with various cast, crew and fans that just peters out--with an exhaustive overview of collectibles (and their dimensions)--after 70 minutes. The content is interesting to a point, but it leaves a lot to be desired as far as real documentaries go. It just starts and ends, with no credits on either end. All of the interviews are from 1995, but they are never noted as being eight years old. (Producer Blaustein passed away in the months after his interview.) One just has the feeling that they are not current.

This is a nit, mind you. The DVD is wonderful. It's just a shame that nothing new to say about this classic film has been found in the eight years since the extras were assembled. A new, second commentary track, for example, with "Keep Watching the Skies!" author Bill Warren and maybe collector Bob Burns would have been fun. Or a trivia track.

But the movie is the main attraction, as Jack noted, and its presentation is ideal.
Randy A. Salas
DVD Columnist & Feature Writer
Minneapolis Star Tribune daily newspaper

#18 of 251 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR

Jeff_HR

    Producer



  • 3,596 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 15 2001

Posted February 24 2003 - 12:17 PM

Quote:
It's just a shame that nothing new to say about this classic film has been found in the eight years since the extras were assembled
A more up-to-date featurette or documantary would have been wonderful. Was it a money issue that prevented more up-to-date extras, or something else?
Cogito, Ergo Sum
My DVD Library / The BLOOD is the Life!
Pioneer Elite PRO PDP-111FD - 2/28/2009

#19 of 251 OFFLINE   Lou Sytsma

Lou Sytsma

    Producer



  • 5,287 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 01 1998

Posted February 24 2003 - 12:41 PM

Great review Jack! I'm right there with you. This is MY
Citizen Kane!
Every man is my superior, in that I may learn from him.

#20 of 251 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

Peter Apruzzese

    Screenwriter



  • 2,626 posts
  • Join Date: Dec 20 1999
  • Real Name:Peter Apruzzese

Posted February 24 2003 - 12:56 PM

Well done, Mr. Briggs. One of my most anticipated DVDs of the year! Even though I'm running this film in 35mm on March 8th, I'm still looking forward to picking this up immediately.
"What we're fighting for, in the end...we're fighting for each other." - Col. Joshua Chamberlain in "Gettysburg"