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    The Day The Earth Stood Still. The Laserdisc Review.

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    DGTWoodward
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    The Day The Earth Stood Still. The Laserdisc Review.

    Post  DGTWoodward on Fri Dec 17, 2010 8:29 pm

    LASERDISC REVIEW: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)



    Format: Laserdisc
    Studio: 20th Century Fox/Encore Entertainment.
    Year of Release: ?
    TV Standard: PAL B/W
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 (4:3)
    Sound: Digital Mono
    Running Time: 89mins
    Discs/Sides: 1 Disc, 2 Sides, CLV/CAV

    Replay Equipment:

    PIONEER CLD-D925 Laserdisc Player, connected via the S-Video feed.
    Samsung 46” 1080p LCD HDTV (calibrated using a Video Essentials Laserdisc calibration tool)
    PIONEER SR-609K A/V Receiver
    Ixos Gold Tos-Link audio cable, Belkin All AV-GOLD S-Video Lead.
    Eltax Speakers/sub

    Movie Genre: Cold War/Nuclear Threat SF Thriller.

    The Movie.

    There are normally two types of alien movie that do the rounds. The first is where the alien bursts out of your body in some horrid fashion and then tries to eat your friends. The second type is where the alien is in fact your friend and is trying to help you in some way.

    Klaatu (Michael Rennie), his starship recently landed in Washington D.C, emerges with a message of peace and an instrument with which to view life on other worlds, and due to fear and paranoia, is almost immediately shot. The circle of troops that surround Klaatu's ship watch him fall and so they do not notice. GORT (Lock Martin) a giant robot that stands 8 feet tall, is made of some kind of fluidic metal that, like the ship, seems to have no obvious seams or joints, has emerged from the open vessel. He has a visor on his head, which opens slowly to reveal an intense point of light at its centre. The point of light suddenly grows stronger and abeam of incredible energy lances outward to the tanks, cannons, machine guns and side arms, melting them all to useless slag. Suddenly, an amplified voice is heard speaking in a strange language. It barks out a series of commands and the huge robot stops.

    Klaatu, is taken to a military hospital to have his gunshot wound attended to. Whilst there he is visited by Presidential Secretary Mr. Harley (Frank Conroy). Despite Klaatu's best intention of speaking with all the world's leaders at the same time to deliver his vital message, Harley soon demonstrates the futility of trying to action such a meeting, and after suggesting that he should get out and about, to meet the actual people of Earth for himself, Harley very politely informs him that he is in effect a prisoner. Mr. Harley expresses his regret and leaves, and a rueful smile plays across Klaatu's face a he hears the door lock behind him.

    A sort while later, Klaatu is indeed out and about in Washington. He has easily escaped using means unknown, and has 'borrowed' a suitcase of left-luggage from a Major Carpenter. He soon settles into a Guest House where he meets widow Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) and her son Bobby (Billy Grey). They form a polite friendship. Shortly after this, Helen's boyfriend Tom Stevens (Hugh Marlow) arrives to take her out on a date. She is reluctant because she has no babysitter, but 'Mr. Carpenter' offers to accompany the boy to see the sights of the city, if that would be agreeable. She agrees and Klaatu and Bobby spend the day in Washington.

    After a visit to the Arlington National Cemetery, where Bobby's father is buried, they look at Lincoln's Memorial and the words of his Gettysburg Address. Klaatu recognises the power and wisdom in them and realises that he will need a different approach to getting his message out, so he asks Bobby who is the cleverest man on the planet. The boy answers that the cleverest man he knows is Professor Jacob Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), the man his mother is a 'real secretary' to. Klaatu convinces the boy to take him to the Professor's home. They enter his study and Klaatu sees that the Professor is working on a very complex mathematical sequence. For his plan to work, Klaatu must grab Barnhardt's attention in a way that no one else could, so he adds a few extra mathematical expressions to his blackboard and leaves his address.

    Later that day a security man asks 'Mr. Carpenter' to accompany him to Prof. Barnhardt's study, where Klaatu reveals his true identity to him. Expressing his disappointment and failure with political leaders, he asks to speak to a gathering of the greatest scientific minds in the world, to be assembled at his ship, with the intention of delivering his message to them instead. The Professor agrees, but says that they would hesitate to come without some kind of non-lethal demonstration of sincerity. Klaatu agrees and leaves to arrange this with GORT.

    Later all electrical power is neutralised totally. Nothing electrical at all will work. The day the Earth does seem to stand still...except, remarkably, for life support machinery in hospitals, aircraft still in the air and other vital things. The demonstration is totally controlled and selective. It is during this demonstration that he reveals his identity to Helen. She is scared by his power, but still drawn to him.

    Meanwhile, Tom has started getting a bit suspicious of 'Mr Carpenter' who seems to have a tendency to pay for things with real-but-other-worldly diamonds. He informs on Klaatu to the authorities, and the chase is on. Klaatu eventually realises that things may not go exactly as he hoped and instructs Helen to say the immortal words, “GORT...KLAATU, BARADA, NIKTO!”


    This film has been one of my all time favourite movies from my childhood. It was really the first 'serious' piece of science fiction that I remember seeing. It was also the first real 'message' movie that I recall watching too.

    Though it is an adaptation of “Farewell To The Master” by Harry Bates, only the most basic elements have been put into the film script., the biggest difference is the twist ending of the actual story. That said, it is still a damned well made film. They are the kind of SF films that studios must love in that they have a tiny little bit of SF at the beginning, an tiny bit of SF in the middle and a little bit of SF right at the end. That aside, it plays just like a regular drama.

    The film is well acted by all the cast, even Billy Gray (I believe, the only surviving main cast member!) who plays his part very naturally and not cutsie-pie or schmaltzie, like a lot of child actors would do. But it is the vulnerability of Helen and the dignity of Klaatu that shine through in this film. Patricia Neal once said that she initially had had a hard time controlling her laughter on-set and so had seriously underestimated the importance and longevity of the film, rather assuming that it would just be another forgotten 50s “B” flying-saucers movie. You could never tell from her performance. Michael Rennie plays the alien ambassador with the kind of regal elegance that is usually reserved for bigger roles and pictures. His honest dignity and almost godlike stature (a 'Carpenter' who'd come to save the Earth?) and powers could easily have become a scenery chewing exercise, with the ham sliced really thick. But no, Rennie nails the part just right, and his Klaatu has, in his own way, a degree of vulnerability about him too.

    The score, by Bernard Hermann, is a cracking piece of atmospheric wonder. He used two theramins and an unusual mix of other instruments and it really helps lift the film to a higher level.

    There are things that do still make me smile about the film. The scene where the 3 doctors are discussing Klaatu's operation to remove a bullet, they comment on how well and quickly he has healed...and all three immediately light cigarettes and start smoking like chimneys in the hospital. I also smile at the communist paranoia on display within the context of the story, seeing as how Sam Jaffe (Prof. Barnhardt) was blacklisted as a communist and did not work for a long time...oh the cheeky irony! Sadly, whilst Lock Martin was an impressive 7ft 1inch human being, physically he was just not like today's professional wrestlers who are 7feet and built like the side of a house. The wires supporting Patricia Neal's weight can clearly be seen as he carries her into the ship. Likewise, GORT is clearly carrying a dressed mannequin a short while after.

    An excellent film that is still relevant today.

    Marks 90%

    The Disc.

    The Picture.

    This bare-bones PAL edition of this film so has no extras. The 4:3 picture is beautifully sharp and detailed. I think that B/W photography looks fantastic on a movie but on this film it really adds a seriousness to the story. This LD was released a good while before any significant amount of cleaning up was done for the DVD release, and it does show in certain areas. There is some print damage and the occasional speckles of dirt on screen (just to be clear...it's not laser rot) but with that, it looks pretty darn good, a very good transfer of whatever prints they had available to work with, without the expense of striking a brand new master. Blacks are deep, but still show valuable detail in the dark areas, demonstrated in the night scenes where Klaatu reprograms GORT with a torch. Likewise the brightest whites (GORT's energy beam) are pure and strong but don't flare past their borders nor increase in relative size. A great mix is achieved between the two when Helen is in the ship with GORT and Klaatu and there are some very high contrast shots. They are all beautifully framed and filmed. A truly atmospheric and rather spooky scene actually. A very smart transfer.

    Marks 89%

    The Sound.

    Perfectly serviceable digital mono is the presented audio on this disc. Whilst it does demonstrate a few audible crackles and pops very occasionally, it is a perfectly good track that shows that a good film will easily hit classic status and not necessarily need a 7.1 mix to be thrilling and tense.

    Marks 85%
    OVERALL MARK 88%


    Last edited by DGTWoodward on Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:19 pm; edited 3 times in total (Reason for editing : It's now easier to read!)


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    nissling
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    Re: The Day The Earth Stood Still. The Laserdisc Review.

    Post  nissling on Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:14 pm

    I'm not saying that there's something wrong about your review, but why do some people use scale that goes from one to a hundered? I don't see the diffrence between 71% and 72%, so why not just use a scale that goes from one to ten?
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    DGTWoodward
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    Re: The Day The Earth Stood Still. The Laserdisc Review.

    Post  DGTWoodward on Wed Dec 22, 2010 9:00 pm

    nissling wrote:I'm not saying that there's something wrong about your review, but why do some people use scale that goes from one to a hundered? I don't see the diffrence between 71% and 72%, so why not just use a scale that goes from one to ten?

    Fair question.

    It is just a personal preference really. With me, I always tend to think that something at its very best to be "100%" But 10/10 is an equal mark so in that respect there is no difference.

    My final and overall mark however, is an average of the three sub-totals...ie 90+89+85/3=88

    I just feel, to my mind, that a score ranging out of 100 gives a chance for slighter more precise marking. The possibility of expressing more cleanly that you can mark a film anywhere between 7 and 8, still give an exact figure and not use decimal points.

    Saying that I give something 73% is better to my mind than givibg it 7 & 3/10 out of 10

    That's just me.


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    Re: The Day The Earth Stood Still. The Laserdisc Review.

    Post  March on Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:22 pm

    Another great review.


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