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.
"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.
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."
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?
This review is about the CINEMA RESERVE 2 disc dvd release. This is the best version of this brilliant film, its in Full Screen and the sound is in 5.1, and the picture plus sound is very nice, it comes with loads of special features, plus a nice booklet, this is ten times better than the average blu-ray release.
The Day the Earth Stood Still is the best ever sci-fi film ever made, plus its way a head of its time. What I love about this film is, it has a massage for mankind, keep care of your fragile planet or we will take action. I know this sounds stupid but in away this is what this planet needs, a wake up call. This is a brilliant film, you could say a masterpiece.
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?
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.
As an alien spaceship lands on Earth, for if the people of the earth do not change their preponderance for war and conflict then their Galactic neighbours will intercede on the Planets’ affairs. This is the message Klaatu (Michael Rennie) brings to the peoples of the earth. However, he is thwarted in his efforts and soon realises that other methodologies may be needed to convince the powers that be. To add maybe a touch of melodrama to the piece, and a little bit help for Klaatu comes in the form of Patricia Neal as women disposed to love and her son Billy Gray as a clean-cut American youngster with an enquiring mind and no father figure. The character of Klaatu aka Michael Rennie plays the visiting alien with a genteel meticulous fashion while coming over as being charmingly suave and cosmopolitan to those he meets.
This is a film that had good special effects, for a movie made in 1951; and come over as being very believable. While some say, Gort was a man in a rubber suit, his impact along with “other worldly OST” ads to the projected power of the robot. The narrative is a relatively simple one, but the message is powerful. When this film was made, World War II had finished some six years earlier. This is where the Cold War looked as if it was going to heat up. There was the ever-prevalent paranoia of the West/Americans against the communists/red menace.
This is an iconic piece of 1950s science fiction, which is a necessary film to see for those fans of the genre.
on 30 May 2009
This film is the original version, which although made in 1951, still has a great storyline (with a moral about us destroying our planet), immense suspense, whilst also offering an easy-watch-story leading up to a final, exciting crescendo.
The story most of you know, either from this version or the more modern 2008 Keanu Reeves re-make, so I have no need to give you those details. Just to say, this original still has what it takes to hold an audience.
In many ways I prefer this older version to the updated one. Good old-fashioned suspense and entertainment. Michael Rennie is great as 'the alien' Klaatu, and Patricia Neal as the woman who helps stop his 'robot' in his tracks, and you think she is not going to make it!
I would recommend you get this version for good entertainment, reliant on the atmosphere rather than special effects.
1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still was pretty much the first major studio sci-fi film of what would become the 50s boom, and certainly one of the best, tapping into the flying saucer scares and nuclear proliferation of the day from a rational and human perspective. It hits the ground running with the discovery of a spacecraft orbiting the Earth sending shockwaves across the planet, cannily employing respected newsreaders of the day to add a touch of verisimilitude while Bernard Herrmann's remarkable and distinctive Theramin-led score creates a sense of unearthly unease. With World War Three still regarded as a when rather than an if in 1951, it's inevitable that the spacecraft's inhabitant barely has time to assure the assembled military that he comes in peace before being shot, setting out the film's agenda: how can you save the word from itself when everyone is too scared to let you try?
Of course, there's still the problem of how you react to Klaatu's double-standard, and whether you regard his ultimatum as invalidating the film's message. It's certainly not the overtly pacifist film it's often portrayed as, more an ironic one: that by taking petty territorial squabbles beyond our planet's natural boundaries in the nuclear age we face the prospect of an alien race that carries an even bigger stick swatting us like flies. But, like Winston Churchill, the alien visitor believes that jaw-jaw is better than war-war and wants to address the world's leaders to offer them a possible solution - the only problem is they all want to exploit his arrival for their on ends, so he has to escape the government's hospitality and try to make some subtle headway among the ordinary people. And it's here that the film finds a surprisingly warm human focus, Michael Rennie's wistful but genuinely enquiring alien's relationship with Patricia Neal's widow and, more particularly, her son establishing that the human race is worth saving despite the bickering and pettiness of its leaders. Of course, he'll need to find a non-destructive way of demonstrating his power to do it...
The film is certainly a product of its time. Producer Julian Blaustein was inspired by the outrage that Russia's `peace offensive' was met with, and it finds its perfect match in its tale of a visitor who travels 250 million miles to deliver a message no-one wants to hear unless they're the only ones who get to hear it. That kind of political paranoia was prevalent even in the casting process: he had to fight to cast the left-wing Sam Jaffe as the sympathetic scientist modelled on the similarly under suspicion Albert Einstein, and the blacklist would ensure it was the actor's American screen role for seven years before ironically making his `comeback' opposite John Wayne in The Barbarian and the Geisha. Yet while it works as a historical time capsule, the film holds up remarkably well because, unlike many a message movie, it's actually entertaining and offers characters you can care about thanks to Edmund H. North's strong screenplay and Robert Wise's superb but not over-emphatic direction. There's even some probably unintentional humour when a pair of doctors talk about alien medicine being more advanced than terrestrial medicine while lighting up cigarettes!
Like most perennials, this has had a few releases over the years, from a single-disc European DVD with just an audio commentary, newsreel extract and trailer to a couple of special editions, the best of which was the European Cinema reserve two-disc edition that included an excellent 80-minute making of documentary (also included on the US DVD) and a featurette unique to that edition, neither of which were carried over to Fox's otherwise very impressive Blu-ray release. Along with an excellent transfer that reproduces the striking, at times almost noirish black and white cinematography surprisingly faithfully with only a few shots that look slightly DNRed, that does include a very decent array of extras that builds on the previous editions: two audio commentaries (one by Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer, another built around the film's score, which also receives an isolated track of its own), a batch of new featurettes about the making of the film, the Theramin that features so memorably in Herrmann's score, sci-fi and the flying saucer craze of the 50s and profiles of the author of the original story, Harry Bates, and screenwriter Edmund H. North. The latter two are complimented by a 95-minute reading of Bates' story Farewell to the Master and a short no-nukes documentary made by North, Race to Oblivion featuring Burt Lancaster. As if that weren't enough there's also a `live' performance of the main title theme, a staggeringly red-baiting Movietone newsreel extract, stills galleries and two original trailers (the US Region-A locked Blu-ray also features a trailer and promo featurette for the well-intentioned but unmemorable 2008 remake but that's been dropped from the international release). It's highly recommended, but it's worth holding onto to the earlier DVD edition for that 80-minute documentary that really should have been included as well.