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The Day the Earth Stood Still (Two-Disc Special Edition DVD) by Robert Wise (Director)
Review by Charles Mohapel
20th Century Fox DVD  ISBN/ITEM#: B001EZE5BK
Date: 02 December 2008 List Price $19.98 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Wikipedia - Léon Theremin / Show Official Info /

Watching the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still from 1951, you see just how much the movie was a product of the times (including the witch hunts headed by Senator Joseph McCarthy) and amazingly how few special effects there actually are in this classic of Science Fiction. Another thing that struck me is how relevant the antiwar message is 57 years later, perhaps even more so today. Back then the Soviet Union and its nuclear arsenal was the Boogeyman; now it's terrorists of all kinds and we're afraid of them getting their hands on pieces of that same nuclear arsenal.

Marshall McLuhan once said "The medium is the message." If that is true, in this case, Cinema's message got lost in the translation.

Disc 1:

    Sneak Peek At The Remake (2008)

    The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) (92 minutes)

    Special Features:
    Commentary by Director Robert Wise & Nicholas Meyer (Director, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan)
    I found this to be a very interesting feature, listening to the great Robert Wise answering Nicholas Meyer's questions - it was unusual seeing the younger director in the role of the interviewer. Hearing Wise say that black and white film was the accepted medium of the day made me think how lucky we are that it wasn't colorized like many old black and white films for the period and earlier. Frankly in this case I prefer the film the way it is since it doesn't distract unnecessarily from the message in Edmund H. North's screenplay.

    Commentary by Film & Music Historians John Morgan, Steven Smith, William Stromberg & Nick Redman
    Bernard Herrman was a freelancer not under contract to any one studio and was a minimalist, never using the entire orchestra at any one time. He scored only 37 minutes of 92, not playing music during long dialogues, a surprise to me since I and most other people I know are used to wall-to-wall musical scores from start to finish. In this case I say he succeeded.

    Isolated Score Track--On/Off

    The Making of The Day The Earth Stood Still
    This was a brilliant featurette where the people are the center of your attention and the minimalist special effects are there to enhance the story, not overwhelm it. We learn that Robert Wise had edited Citizen Kane and knew Bernard Herrman for more than 10 years before The Day The Earth Stood Still and Wise chose him to score the film. I loved the inclusion of photos of the actual annotated shooting script - it added an extra dimension to the featurette.

    The Mysterious, Melodious Theremin
    You see the original theremin used in over 50 Hollywood movies and how it works. Both this theremin and a second one were used in The Day The Earth Stood Still. Musician Peter Pringle gives you the history of the theremin (also called the thereminvox) and how it was invented by Léon Theremin (born Lev Sergeyevich Termen, Russian: Лев Сергеевич Термен), a Russian inventor who had served as a radio operator in World War I.

    The Day The Earth Stood Still Main Title
    Live Performance by Peter Pringle

    Farewell To The Master:
    A reading by Jamieson K. Price
    Here we get treated to a reading of "Farewell To The Master", the short story by Harry Bates that was turned into a brilliant screenplay by Edmund North.

    Fox Movietonews (1951)
    This is a small taste of the actual news features shown in theaters of that era before the main feature. It's notable because it includes someone from 20th Century Fox dressed up as Klaatu accepting a "Certificate of Merit" from Harry B. Moore, Chairman of Nolacon, the 9th Worldcon held in New Orleans from September 1-3, 1951. Fritz Leiber was the Guest of Honor and 190 people attended.

    Teaser Trailer

    Theatrical Trailer

    The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008 Trailer)

Disc 2:

    Decoding 'Klaatu Barada Nikto': Science Fiction as a Metaphor
    This gives us a background on what was happening around the world in the United States and around the world before filming began. Again I loved the inclusion of photos of the actual annotated shooting script. Edmund H. North's comparison of Klaatu to Jesus Christ, even down to having Klaatu take the Earth name of Carpenter (Christ's profession) was so subtle, it even escaped Producer Julian Blaustein and Director Robert Wise

    A Brief History of Flying Saucers

    The Astounding Harry Bates
    Hiram Gilmore Bates III (1900 - 1981) wrote the book the movie was based on. Surprisingly enough he disliked SF even though he was good at it, denigrating the majority of the writers from this period for their perceived lack of proper writing skills. From 1929 to 1933, Bates served as the original editor for "Astounding Stories of Super Science" and he published one novel under the pseudonym Anthony Gilmore, Space Hawk: The Greatest of Interplanetary Adventures. Editor of Strange Tales magazine, 1931-1933. You hear an audio recording of Bates laughing as he says they used only 2 things from his story "Farewell To The Master" in 1951 move.

    Edmund North: The Man Who Made The Earth Stand Still
    I was unfamiliar with Edmund North and was somewhat surprised to hear that he was very strongly anti-war, yet he also wrote Sink The Bismarck! (1960) and Patton (1970), an apparent contradiction. In his scripts you can see that he definitely understood that "less was more", understanding that too much window dressing would only serve to distract your attention from the message he was attempting to convey.

    Race To Oblivion: A Documentary Short Written & Produced by Edmund North
    This is an antiwar short where Edmund North attempts to get his message across - too bad he didn't use a bigger sledgehammer to get Humanity's attention.

    All in all an interesting collection of galleries for the serious fan with a tremendous thirst for more minutia and trivia.

    Interactive Pressbook

      Advertising Gallery
      Behind-The-Scenes Gallery
      Portrait Gallery
      Production Gallery
      Spaceship Construction Blueprints
      Shooting Script

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