: This is the same review as done on the
the Earth Stood Still"
DVD. Picture and sound quality notes have been added.
Foolish Earthlings! Will you never learn that violence and weapons won't
solve your problems? Robert Wise directed "The Day the Earth Stood Still"
and as dated and silly as some of the film is today, much of its message
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" is now available on DVD
and Blu-ray. This is a review of the Blu-ray disc.
The film is truly of its time, and I mean that as a compliment. I love
the era of the 1950s. The films, the technical innovations, the music, the
styles, the cars, etc. It seemed like a perfectly innocent and carefree era
in which it was safe to walk through most neighborhoods, and one could get
away with such words as "golly" and "gee." Even many historians and pop
culture historians cite the 1950s as an era of tremendous growth in the
economy. There was a sense of freedom enjoyed by most Americans. This was a
time that the country could finally relax after the Depression and World War
The stark reality was that all was not well on the homefront. Racism still
very much existed in some parts of the country. We were fighting a war with
Communist Russia in a propaganda and nuclear weapons race for world
superiority. Joseph McCarthy reared his ugly head and many innocent people
were labeled Communists in a witch hunt. And we were at war in Korea.
That being said, the decade still seems so innocent, and "The Day the Earth
Stood Still" reflects its goofy optimism and preachniness. The film's theme
is that if mankind doesn't stop its fighting and the spread of nuclear
technology, it's doomed. And who better to decide the fate of the Earth than
an alien and his robot, Gort?
Though a bit slow, the film is very well directed and acted. Michael Rennie,
as Klaatu, is a bit heavy-handed in his approach as the alien who knows
better than us Earthlings. He's a very capable actor and carries the film,
even through some of the scenes with Bobby (Billy Gray) cause a bit of
discomfort and unintended laughter as seen today. If a perfect stranger came
to stay in your house and offered to watch your kid, you'd be suspicious and
kick the guy out of the house as you dial 911! But Helen Benson (Patricia
Neal) doesn't and goes out on a date with her boyfriend, leaving her son
with Klaatu. Different times, those 1950s.
The film's strengths outweigh any of the dated situations. The story of
mankind's war behavior is still valid today. The fine script by Edmund H.
North (based on a story by Harry Bates) hits on many of mankind's fear of
the unknown. Robert Wise's direction is solid and shows how adept he was at
directing different genres. He could come off as a bit heavyhanded at times.
But there's no question that he knew how move a story along and how to work
My favorite character in the film, and perhaps this goes for many viewers,
is Gort (Lock Martin). Although it's easy to see that it's a man in a
costume, it's still an incredibly frightening and realistic design. The
robot is truly memorable and that glowing laser eye gave me the creeps as a
kid. The Terminator had nothing on this 7-ft 7-inch creation.
Bernard Herrmann's score, which utilizes the Theremin, is memorable and
haunting at the same time. My father once had a record of 1950s science
fiction and horror movie theme songs ("Themes From Horror Movies" Coral
Records, 1959). Themes from "Them!" "It Came from Outer Space" and "The
Deadly Mantis" were on that LP, and they were strikingly similiar to
Herrmann's score. The use of the Theremin gives this film an otherworldly
feel and works perfectly.
The Blu-ray showcases an excellent and natural looking
picture that preserves Leo Tover's cinematography. The
film hasn't been overly "cleaned" and sharpened. It's
refreshing to see that a studio like Fox hasn't resorted
to digital trickery to make the film more appealing to
The soundtrack is equally excellent. Fox was wise to
include the original mono soundtrack. I found the new
5.1 mix excellent in sound quality, but it was a bit
disconcerting to hear it compared to the original mix.
The original audio mixed in with the multichannel stereo
music don't quite mesh. The stereo is so clear that at
times, though not bad by any means, overpowers the
dialogue tracks. The new mix is well done and it's nice
to hear Herrmann's score on an isolated DTS-MA track.
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" probably won't amaze the kids who will line
up to see Keanu Reeves in the remake. For fans of classic science fiction
and the original "The Twilight Zone" television show, this is an
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © 20th Century Fox. All