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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Day the Earth Stood Still [DVD] [1951]
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Few films are as iconic as this one - this became the template for sci-fi films...

This film will be 60 years old in just a few years time, and watching it now, you can't help but think that the central message has been conveniently ignored. This film was released only 5 years after the Second World War and the ironic ultimatum of peace or obliteration doesn't look like it's been heeded.

Klaatu the humanoid alien lands in Washington and emerges from his flying saucer in one of cinemas greatest moments. The message of peace seems seems even more relevant the moment you flinch as the nervous soldier shoots our inter-planetary neighbour. Already, you feel the shame of humanity - and just to make us feel even smaller (quite literally!) Gort the eight-foot robot appears and zaps away all the military's weapons without actually hurting anyone.

Michael Rennie is perfectly cast as Klaatu, he is a good looking fella, but with something odd about him. He has an extra-terrestrial air about him, and much of his acting is done through subtle smiles which hints at his superior knowledge, he seems to find some of what he experiences here to be either quaint, or plain silly. He manages to bring charisma in buckets to a role which would have ended up too wooden by many other actors.

Patricia Neal puts in a convincing performance as Helen. Helen isn't your average 50's sci-fi lead lady - she isn't relegated to 'screamer'. Yes, she does have a few moments of over-acting, but that's the charm of the era/genre - and her portrayal is on the whole quite natural. Kudos to Billy Gray, the young lad who befriends Klaatu and enjoys his tales of advanced technology.

The film hasn't dated that badly - you don't cringe at the special effects because they're actually very good, the spaceship is the best I've seen! A smooth metallic structure with no discernable joins, the door opens and the ramp appears from the base in perfect synchronisation. Gort is now a legendary figure in sci-fi history - okay, his suit looks a bit rubber at the end when you see it bending as he walks - but that could be down to the unique metal he is made from, it could flex. Well, it could!

The film focuses on the role of the media in a media-obsessed post-war America. This is another parallel with the modern day, we are media-saturated, but now instead of radio and newspapers - we rely on television and the internet. When the world experiences the 30 minute powercut it brings pandemonium and panic, the world today would be brought to it's knees.

There is a remake planned for this soon, with Keanu Reeves as Klaatu. I'll watch it - to see how bad it is. This is a film perfectly casted, and superbly directed. In short - it does not need remaking. It's unfortunate that many filmgoers refuse to watch an old black and white film, but would rather watch a CGI laden slick flick. This film was made with a genuine passion for the final message, being released so soon after a world war the fear and hope was genuine. The remake is made with a passion for generating revenue; you chose which will stand the test of time.

In a nutshell: Everything from the electronic music, the flying saucer, the robot Gort, the scientist complete with mad-scientist hair, and the special effects have been emulated by many other films since. This is an important film, it gets you to think - the final message isn't one to embrace, it's one to consider. The society as explained by Klaatu of his own planet doesn't seem appealing (zero tolerant nazi-robots who enforce the law in order to force social order), but then, neither does the one we have now. With wars and genocide, if we continue to behave like that off our own planet then we will be destroyed. From the point of view of an alien, our wars do seem petty and childish - maybe we need that perspective to realise that we are in charge of our own destiny. Maybe it will take the discovery of intelligent alien life to view ourselves as a single human race.

"The universe grows smaller every day, and the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all, or no one is secure."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2005
Robert Wise's "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is a prime example of how well science-fiction films excel in examining universal issues. The proliferation of nuclear weapons following the end of World War II spawned this cinematic treatise on the new dangers the world had to face in the atomic age.
A flying saucer touches down in Washington D.C. and is immediately surrounded by armed troops. A hatch on the saucer opens and a figure named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) emerges. After he is shot by a nervous soldier, his robot companion Gort (Lock Martin) destroys some of the weaponry gathered around the saucer. Klaatu halts Gort's destructive spree and is taken to a nearby hospital. He soon escapes after making no headway in his plan to assemble the leaders of the planet to listen to a message he wants to deliver. With the help of a young boy named Bobby Benson (Billy Gray) and his mother, Helen (Patricia Neal), Klaatu makes contact with Professor Jacob Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), a respected mathematician, who he hopes will assemble for him an audience of the world's leading academics.
While other science-fiction films of the period were content with one-dimensional storylines complete with rubber-suited monsters and spaceships straight out of model kits, Robert Wise proved that the genre had much more potential. He avoided silliness and absurdity and instead infused his film with meaning and food for thought. Much like the television series "Star Trek" did a decade later, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" used science fiction to explore the human condition and to critique the puzzling obsession the human race has with total annihilation. Rennie's stoic performance is chilling because of the weight behind Klaatu's message. Gray, Neal, and Jaffe also turn in great work and more than manage to keep from being overshadowed by Gort. Although it is rarely referred to as a "Cold War" film, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" nevertheless effectively captures the nuclear anxiety and political grandstanding that characterized the early Fifties.
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94 of 100 people found the following review helpful
Before the review, a little about the Cinema Reserve series from 20th Century Fox (this issue is one of those titles).

"Cinema Reserve" is the title given to Fox's "premium" issues and releases started in February 2006 & are on-going. The blurb inside each tin promises best digital transfers, best audio, best extras, dedicated and unique booklet - and all of it wrapped up in a rather delicious metal tin exterior with slightly altered artwork. The series is numbered on the spine of the tin - from 001 on upwards (see list below). Most are 2DVD sets where the standard issue or Studio Classics issue is often only 1 disc. (Some of the doubles in this series are the 1st UK release of already released doubles in the USA on Region 1.)

I mention all of this because when you type in "Cinema Reserve" into the Amazon search engine, you get only 2 entries - "The Seven Year Itch" and "The Fly". No one at Fox seems to have alerted Amazon of the releases nor provided them with all of the proper artwork. Amazon's system has most of the titles available (not all) but they're not highlighted or recognised as "Cinema Reserve" releases. (The unique artwork is an easy way to spot them). It looks like the series will contain almost 20 titles by the end of the year. I've bought 6 others to date and 2 of them do have stock faults despite the "pristine transfer" claims in the booklet (more of those in later reviews). Still, if most are like this title (superb), then you may want to start saving! And the tin effect looks soooo good too - craftily geared towards the collector in us all!

For those interested, I've compiled an alphabetical list with the Series Number, Film Title, Film Release Date and finally the Cinema Reserve Release Date (including forthcoming titles):

1. Number 003: All About Eve (1950) (26 Feb 2006)
2. Number 013: Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970) (12 Feb 2007)
3. Number 007: Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (1969) (22 May 2006)
4. Number 019: Cleopatra (due 2007) - CANCELLED
5. Number 001: The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) (26 Feb 2006)
6. Number 009: The Fly (1986 Remake) (3 July 2006)
7. Number 010: The Hustler (1961) (18 Sept 2006)
8. Number 011: Kagemusha (1980) (27 Nov 2006)
9. Number 004: Laura (1944) (27 Feb 2006)
10. Number 005: Lifeboat (1944) (27 March 2006)
11. Number 018: The Magnificent Seven (1960) (due 2007) - CANCELLED
12. Number 016: Midnight Cowboy (18 June 2007)
13. Number 002: My Darling Clementine (1946) (27 Feb 2006)
14. Number 006: Patton (1970) (24 April 2006)
15. Number 008: The Seven Year Itch (1955) (19 June 2006)
16. Number 017: Some Like It Hot (1959) (23 July 2007)
17. Number 012: Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) (18 Dec 2006)
18. Number 015: Valley Of The Dolls (1967) (14 May 2007)
19. Number 014: The Verdict (1982) (19 March 2007)

Back to this release. The film itelf is on Disc One and is a fully restored print in black and white - and looks just sensational. So good in fact that it's prompted my title for this review. There's a scene where the seven-foot seven Lock Martin (formerly a doorman at a Hollywood Theatre) who plays Gort the Robot has to pick up Patrica Neal in his cumbersome silver suit. It was impossible to do. So they had string pullies yank her up - the restoration shows us the strings as she gallantly lets out one of those blood-curdling screams Fifties women seemed to do in Fifties Sci-Fi movies - which is both funny and cute!

Michael Rennie, superbly majesterial as Klaatu the interstellar messenger, was new to American screens. After being manhandled by the army and jailed by Washington types who take his requests to meet all leaders of the world as being impossible to achieve, Gort blasts a wall and helps him escape. He meets an understanding widow and her family in a boarding house he takes refuge in. Helen (Neal) and her son Bobby (played by Billy Gray - interviewed on Disc 2) say that Klaatu must meet the smartest man in the world, Doctor Barnhardt (veteran actor Sam Jaffe, an obvious ringer for Einstein). The Doctor says the world still won't listen; Klaatu tells them there will be a sign of his race's power; he stops everything at twelve noon one day. Great stuff!

For a movie that could have so easily descended into the clunky and even preachy, all the dialogue was superbly handled. The script was clearly one of the reasons why the film got made. And the great "message" given by Klaatu at the end of the movie about the Human Race growing up or the world will destroy itself could be quoted word-for-word now and not be out of place (dialoue from it titles this review). Throughout the film Rennie calls himself Mister Carpenter and the inference to Jesus was subtle but deliberate by the screenplay writer.

After the movie, there are a few superfluous Movietone News Events of 1951 on Disc 1 that seem irrelevant to the movie really (but part of the movie experience of the time).

However, the real goodies start on Disc 2 with an 80-minute featurette on the Making Of the film. Although short on actual on-set footage, there are stills and fascinating features on each of the actors. Patricia Neal openly admits that she couldn't stop giggling in a lot of scenes at the poe-faced seriousness of it all - but the endlessly patient Rennie took it. There are interviews with the producers about the politically difficult times in which it was made. The downside is that Fox clearly don't have interviews with Rennie or Jaffe or Martin - and footage of the actual shoot is practically non-existent, so many of the interviews are peppered only with a photo of what/whom is being discussed - when you long for more.

Cinema cards, the iconic posters, the cinema stands at the premier are all talked of - even ownership of the prop that was the flying saucer is touched upon. There's the nervous preview-screening where the audience giggled at the opening army shots of trucks rushing to the scene - much to the terror of the film makers who thought they might have a turkey on their hands. There's a bit on the restoration process, a trailer, stills gallery - all very good.

And then there's Bernard Herrmann's score - ripped off by every Sci-Fi movie ever since - a huge part of the scare factor. Astonishingly ahead of its time - and so on the money.

All in all, this is a superb issue of a ground-breaking movie. Sure it'll be boring to some of our CGI saturated kids, but watching it all the way through now - some 55 years after the event - it's astonishing how relevant it was then - and still is.

So puny Earthlings, in the words of your friendly alien, "Klaatu Barada Nikto". Indeed!

PS: The above review was posted in May 2007; it's April 2008 now and many of you will have noticed that numbers 18 and 19 in the series haven't turned up at all - and given the transition to HD/Blue Ray - they're unlikely too. I bought "Some Like It Hot", 17, the last number issued - so it looks like the entire series and its excellent packaging has been unceremoniously dumped. Having said that, if you're still prepared to fork out, I've noticed many of the titles are now available at greatly reduced prices - and all bar "The Lifeboat" (terrible print) are worthy of your attention. I've amassed 15 of the 17 and will try to post reviews of them in the near future. The black and white print on "The Hustler" in particular is spectacular... Also the ltd edition 'tin' that came with original Cinema Reserve issues of "Day" has unfortunately been replaced with a card wrap with the same artwork as above.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" is arguably the most religious science fiction film ever made. It is hard to miss the religious symbolism of Klaatu (Michael Rennie), the strange visitor from another planet, who explores the neighborhood under the name of "Carpenter," especially when he is killed and resurrected by his robot companion Gort (Lock Morton). The parallels between Klaatu and Christ continue as the alien brings a message for all of the people of earth that the people of earth are not all that interested in hearing. It seems that now that Earth is developing atomic power, the other inhabited planets of the galaxy are concerned that the new kids on the block are not mature enough to avoid destroying everything.
I remember Michael Rennie from "Lost in Space," where he played "The Keeper," and he brings the same sort of strong, dignity to the role of Klaatu. The alien might be here to lecture the Earth people, but he sounds so reasonable in his condemnation. Besides, how can you disagree with his reasoning? Patricia Neal as Helen Benson is the calmest and most rationale female lead every seen in a science fiction film, black & white from the Fifties or any other type. Helen accepts the reality of the rather remarkable situation she and her son Bobby (Billy Gray) find themselves involved in without really batting an eye. Nor does her voice tremble when she utters the greatest alien phrase in cinematic history. Sam Jaffe is equally unperturbed as Professor Jacob Barnhardt, the smartest man on Earth, who comes back from lunch and finds somebody (Klaatu) has been editing the formula on his blackboard. In contrast to these paragons of humanity is Hugh Marlowe as Tom Stevens, who has been stepping out with the widow Benson but throws all that away to be the man who captures the fugitive alien. The man is just such a schmuck.
The film is based on the Harry Bates short story "Farewell to the Master," which was first published in the October 1940 issue of "Astounding Stories." Actually, screenwriter Edmund H. North only keeps the first part of the story, when the spaceship lands on earth, Klaatu and the robot emerge, and the humanoid is shot (check out the original story if you can track it down). Of course, in the 1950s, Hollywood was always taking great liberties with classic science fiction short stories. The other great example of this would be "The Thing From Another World," based on John W. Campbell's short story "Who Goes There?"
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" provides one of the most unambiguous alien messages to be found in a science fiction film (cf. "2001: A Space Odyssey"). As an extra bonus, you have Aunt Bee sharing her thoughts on aliens. This remains a classic science fiction film, a rare opportunity for the intellectualism of the genre to be given free reign on the big screen. Not my favorite Fifites sci-fi film, but certainly should be on everybody's top 10 list for the decade. However, watching the movie again this time I was struck by the fact that Robert Wise took the same sort of approach when he directed "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." The weaker moments in both of those films have a lot in common.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 3 June 2009
Superb blu ray transfer making a crystal clear rendition of this iconic film. Forget the remake, this is far superior, the soundtrack by Bernard Hermann serves the narrative brilliantly. In response to a previous review saying that this film was made in widescreen but is only shown in 4x3,.... well that is nonsense. This movie was shot in "Academy Ratio" which is 1:33:1 and as close to 4x3 as you can get, the blu ray and DVD release show the screen image in a complete form as it was shot, the only way to make this wide screen would be to crop off the image at the top and bottom and what would be the point of that?
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2009
Well I had the Dvd version and thought the extras were good on that, but the blu-ray version adds even more. So j-u-s-t what is it about remakes and modern day cinema that can't capture the spirit, atmosphere and essence of good old fashioned story-telling in a movie like this: - nearly 60 years old??? OK, it may look a little old fashioned in terms of special effects coupled with a severe lack of computer game fast edits, but the film is nevertheless great. Actually a mini tour-de-force in b/w cinematic photography, script, direction and good solid acting. The only thing I'd change is the digital removal of the blatant wires used when Gort had to pick up the motherly heroine of the piece. Funny, but nowadays, looking at this, it's just a shame of course that although we've come a long way in terms of great special effects, we've obviously gone sooooooo far backwards in truly connecting with an audience's emotions... So dear reader, if nothing else, lets have old films like these truly reminding us that the heart and soul of a good memorable narrative isn't in the vapid eye candy, but rather in it's skill and ability to convey a bloody good script! In otherwords, I say buy it! Give a poke in the eye to the remake, and just savour the High defination black and white photography that managed to more colourfully put it's thoughtful message across... Or if nothing else, just savour the great Blu-ray extras excluded from the Dvd edition if you're still not entirely convinced?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2009
This is one of the best SciFi films ever made - a true classic. The message is as meaningful now as then. Somehow Hollywood managed to step out of its American protectionism at the time and see the worlds cold war conflicts as superior beings would see them - totally mad, bad and dangerous. The eerie musical score is a major factor in creating the other world illusion and the excitement. The silent Robot is genuinely scary and I like the idea that it can't be reasoned with. We need a robot just like it to eliminate all the killers in the world. Of course adults will notice some bizarre things - why does the new reader always have a hat on - even in the studio! The Robot seems a bit clunky at first and he seems to have underwear(!) but you get over that once he gets into action. The times between the action scenes might be too long for modern teenagers used to non-stop action. Just a bit more action would have made it perfect.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2007
Mark Barry doesn't leave much else to say, other than I agree. The quality is excellent and I was pleased to get the extra bits about making the film. It easily deserves more than one reviewer giving it 5 stars. It's all so nastalgic and there were certainly some moments in the commentary that I really wanted to hear. I'm not sure about the biting assessment of Hugh Marlowe's performance though - except that I definitely agree its a subject for discussion. I remember hating him (i.e. his character, Tom Stevens) and feeling the contrast he brought to the rest of the performance - but wasn't he supposed to do that?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2009
this film will always be one of the best top ten sci -fi films of all time.I was so bitterly dissappointed with the remake starring Keanu Reeves
he was good but the film fell way short of following the original.the original has every thing. Tension, suspense and believability.
have watched it so many times that I could act the part of the robot no probs.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2008
It's strange to think that this film was made by the director of 'The Sound Of Music'. The fact that this film is so different and yet so good shows what a first class director Robert Wise really was. After all, he also made one of the very best horror films (or perhaps 'ghost story' films) as well: 1963's 'The Haunting'.

Plenty has been written about this film already. Reviews on sites such as Amazon (.com and .co.uk ) are often painstakingly loving, thorough and precise.

But what's not often mentioned is that it's the allegorical nature of this film that makes it trancend the science fiction genre. It not only has religious themes (a saviour who is killed and resurrected) but is also a potent document on the place of mankind in hugely turbulent times. It even has the umitigated audacity to propose a solution to the apalling behaviour of the human race.

To compare it to other Sci-Fi films is revealing. It's nowhere near as preposterous as the most famous examples of the genre despite it's 1950's production values. 'Star Wars' for example is a lightweight film for children. Alien and its sequels merely monster films set in space. Just how many science fiction films fully realise their potential anyway? This film genuinely does so. It's been said that the huge popularity of the american 'alien invasion' films of the time had more to do with the national paranoiac fear of communism. This view is dealt with directly in the film and in one simple scene we see how prejudice and reason can become so easily warped.

It's not high-brow in the rather overwrought way that '2001: A Space Odyssey' certainly is. It's simply a damn fine piece of film-making which is both gripping and entertaining. Watch the scene where 'Mr Carpenter' enters the boarding house or the moment when the elevator breaks down to see how skillfully Wise both engages and enlightens the audience. Powerful stuff indeed.

The big pull of this particular DVD set is that it also contains a really great documentary which explores not only the 'making of' but the whole idea of the film. This 80-minute documentary was actually made for the Laserdisc release of the film many years ago and contains fascinating testimonies from participants who have since died. Particular mention must go to producer Julian Blaustein's contributions. In the face of some considerable opposition regarding the statements the film was surely to make he stuck to his principles and along with Wise managed to pull off one hell of a project. A proper film that stands right up there with all the truly great North American movies.

Outside the United States there's this strange idea that films are in some way works of art that utilise great writing, great performances, insightful direction and a good amount of passion. But within the territories of the US it's long been understood that films are about only one thing - making money. Thankfully, over time, even in the 'land of the free' maverick film-makers with guts and belief sometimes create something more. And this film is a fine example.
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