Saturday, February 25, 2006

DVD Review - The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

This Golden Globe winning classic is probably the first of the infamous ‘anti-atomic’ classics. It also has an unsettlingly predictive anti-American undertone. The Day the Earth Stood Still is the story of an intergalactic ambassador (played by Michael Rennie), Klaatu, here on Earth to warn us about ourselves and that our growing stock pile of Cold War weaponry could destroy the universe, as well as our humble little planet.

The story is simple, but the message is timeless. When this film was made, World War II had ended only six years ago and American paranoia was focused on Communism. The US was in the grip of ‘flying saucer hysteria’. While The Day the Earth Stood Still is seen as a quintisential science fiction movie, with a title designed for the drive-in audience, but it’s a film that has political undertones as cutting as the likes of Dr Strangelove.

As America lives in fear of the iconic Gort (played by the ‘giant’, Lock Martin), the ten foot robot who will blow up the city if his emissary is harmed, Carpenter (Klaatus alter ego)lives among the humans, observing their pettiness and fear of each other. Rennie is superb as the slightly 'off-kilter' Carpenter, with his almost constipated alien demeanour and his refusal to judge too harshly the humans and their simple ape-like ways. Sam Jaffe plays Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Fitting the Einstein or Von Braun archetype, he sympathizes with Carpenter’s message and takes up the visitor’s cause.

The recent ‘Fox Home Video's Studio Classics’ of The Day The Earth Stood has the slick video restoration and crystal sound quality of their earlier titles, especially when it comes to using image enhancement and cleanup technology without destroying the texture of the old B&W image. The special effects are excellent, especially for a film of its age, and this is a must for any serious DVD collection.

This made for the keystone of an excellent theme evening. We had burgers, milkshakes, popcorn, and an outstanding motion picture. This film has held up beautifully through the years, and its message is just as true today as it was then. If you don’t have a copy already, treat yourself.

Movie: 4.5 out of 5
Extras: 4 out of 5

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