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The Day the Earth Stood Still: Special Edition [Blu-ray] | DVD Review

The Day the Earth Stood Still came at a time when North America’s psyche was shaken by the threat of communist infiltration, Nuclear War and the beginnings of an Arms race, and the film does a beautiful job of expressing the fears of an entire nation with its cautionary message.

Coinciding with the theatrical remake release in early December of 08′, this reissue is based on Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still – a genre defining moment in Sci-Fi film history.

But first… for the uninitiated, it would be important to address the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy as the two are often confused.

Star Wars = Fantasy
Star Trek = Science Fiction

To qualify as Science Fiction the film must always have advanced technology (either real or fake) as its setting (e.g. The Enterprise) or as a driving force in the plot, and must always involve Earth or a reference to Earth.

Fantasy is the only genre allowed to use elements of magic and is therefore defined as such as soon as a magical element is introduced. (Note: Jedi powers are a form of magic.)

As well, Fantasy films tend to be about emotional issues (e.g. : Responsibility, Destiny, Love, Patricidal tendancies, etc…) while Sci-Fi films can be rooted to a political statement towards an issue of importance at the time that it was made.

Star Trek was essentially the United Nations in space, Aliens was about genetic weaponization and Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a parable about the how easily we could all be turned into communists.

The Day the Earth Stood Still came at a time when North America’s psyche was shaken by the threat of communist infiltration, Nuclear War and the beginnings of an Arms race, and the film does a beautiful job of expressing the fears of an entire nation with its cautionary message.

But perhaps more importantly the film also expresses the unified hope of the people at the time. That if only someone, anyone, could come along and get everyone together to settle their differences before we blow ourselves up. A messenger of peace.

It’s a simplistic idea, but an understandable one, the crux always being the question “How would we get them to listen?”

The answer in the film is brilliant and one that could only be offered in Science Fiction; to display an incredible amount of power in a peaceful manner while delivering a threat that would leave the world leaders no choice but to work together.

Even then though, the film, perhaps cynically, perhaps realistically, shows just how futile even such a dramatic action would be, as well as how that messenger would be treated.

Thought provoking and effective, TDTESS, is a shining light in a much loved though often critically chided genre films. The emphasis is put on theme, story and character, not effects and ‘splosions, and perhaps that’s why its survived its time and still stands head and shoulders with the best of its kind.

Not to mention the badass-ness that is Gort and the signature Sci-fi line: “Klaatu Barada Nikto”.

Exclusive First Look At The New Movie The Day The Earth Stood Still Starring Keanu Reeves And Jennifer Connelly: An unneccessary remake of a great film. I understand why they did it but….. sigh.

Commentary by Robert Wise & Nicolas Meyer: The commentary is conducted as an interview with TDTESS director Robert Wise and Nicolas Meyer who earned his Sci-fi cred as the director of Wrath of Khan, while they both watch the film. The format works and delivers a lively, informative and incisive commentary. The choices for casting, setting and story as well as the usual production anecdotes are covered, but Meyer and Wise go even further bringing technique, practise and relatable stories to the discussion. At one point Meyer gets so worked up while telling a story about Bernard Herrmann that you can hear him hit the microphone. Great commentary.

Commentary by film & music historians John Morgan, Steven Smith, William Stromberg & Nick Redman: Definitely the lesser of the two commentaries. A little dry, and somewhat obvious at times, though perhaps it would be more intriguing for a viewer with a deep seeded interest in film score.

Gort Command: A simple little point and shoot game where you play as Gort in the first person and shoot at pop-up soldiers and police men. Amusing for about 5 mins, then it kind of gets annoying, then it ends. Meh.

World of the Theremin: The Theremin is one of (if not the) most bizarre musical instruments ever created, and its relationship with the early days of science fiction seems so intuitive and innate that even a single note from a Theremin is enough to illicit visions of paper-plate flying saucers being dangled on fishing line in-front of a camera. While it was a great idea for Fox to include a few special features regarding the Theremin on this release, it certainly deserved better treatment than it got. What we get is a short information video (sorry but I cannot qualify it as a doc) hosted by someone named Peter Pringle how fills us in on the history of the Theremin and how it works.

Then we have the same Peter Pringle playing the picture`s premier piece (sorry, I couldn`t resist) live on the Theremin. This might have been cool had it been done with an accompanying orchestra playing the other music along with him.

Then there is the interactive Theremin game that promises you the ability to create your own score. It quite simply doesn`t work. Which was a huge disappointment.

Klaatu Barada Nikto -Decoding Science Fiction: An interesting piece that goes into detail relating the film to the socio-political situation at the time that it was made. And as a treat viewers will finally know the direct translation of the famous phrase.

The making of The Day the Earth Stood Still: A standard form “making of” covering how the main creative team found their way onto the project and casting decisions as well as how the conic score came to be. Standard, but enjoyable.

A Brief History of Flying Saucers: Nothing new here for anyone who has ever used the internet to investigate a passing interest in UFO`s. Roswell, Blue Book and government denials are all covered here and the people interviewed seem sincere enough, however the there is definitely a cynical slant to the doc which is odd given who the fan base for this disc are.

The Astounding Harry Bates: A series of interviews about Harry Bates, story editor and author for Astounding Stories, a sci-fi mag from the 40`s. It was his story `Farewell to the Master` that was the inspiration for The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Farewell to The Master: The original short story read by Jamieson K. Price. This was a great idea to have included on this disc and the reading is well done, however it would have been helped greatly if they had included a slide show with perhaps some still from the film of original art work, to play along with the audio.

Edmund North – The man who made the earth stand still: Continuing along the theme of honouring the writers, this doc about North, who along The Day the Earth stood Still, also wrote a number of war themed films including Patton which won him an Oscar, is one of the better docs on this release.

Race to Oblivion: A cautionary documentary by Edmund North hosted by Burt Lancaster about the horrors and dangers of a nuclear war, made in 1982 during a time when it felt like a not just a possibility but a probability. This is a surprising addition to the special features, but proved to be one of the better ones.

Movie Tone News 1951: Old news footage clips from this area are just fascinating. It was a strange time; the war, the Reds and the bomb. This newsreel is a great addition to the disk and should definitely be watched before the film as a primer.

Galleries: Lots of stuff here but the only things that were really interesting are the Advertising Gallery and the Production Gallery. The Interactive Pressbook seems like it was a neat idea when it was pitched, but ultimately it’s just annoying and unwieldy.

The film looks astonishingly great on Blu-ray and the audio comes across really clean. The special features, while abundant, feel a bit lacking. It might have been better serves to leave a couple of things on the cutting room floor to avoid some of the clutter, or perhaps had a few more alien related things that were fun and not cinical. It doesn’t take away from the film, but does leave the true fan with a bit of longing as to how great this disc could have been.

Movie rating – 5

Disc Rating – 4

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