THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL  [Limited Edition SteelBook] [Blu-ray] [UK Release] From Out of Space . . . A Warning and An Ultimatum!
A hallmark of the science fiction genre as well as a wry commentary on the political climate of the 1950s, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ is a sci-fi film less concerned with special effects than with a social parable. A spacecraft lands in Washington, D.C., carrying a humanoid messenger from another world [Michael Rennie] imparting a warning to the people of Earth to cease their violent behaviour. But panic ensues as the messenger lands and is shot by a nervous soldier. His large robot companion destroys the Capitol as the messenger escapes the confines of the hospital. He moves in with a family as a boarder and blends into society to observe the full range of the human experience. Director Robert Wise [West Side Story] not only provides one of the most recognisable icons of the science fiction world in his depiction of the massive robot loyal to his master, but he avoids the obvious camp elements of the story to create a quiet and observant story highlighting both the good and the bad in human nature.
FILM FACT: Well-known broadcast journalists of their time, H.V. Kaltenborn, Elmer Davis, Drew Pearson, and Gabriel Heatter, appeared and/or were heard as themselves in cameo roles. Patricia Neal, who played Helen Benson, was only 12 years older than Billy Gray, who played her son. Spencer Tracy and Claude Rains were originally considered for the part of Klaatu. Edmund H. North, who wrote The Day the Earth Stood Still, also created the alien language used in the film, including the iconic phrase "Klaatu barada nikto". The official spelling for the phrase comes directly from the script and provides insight as to its proper pronunciation, which you will find if you go to the “Wikipedia” web site.
Cast: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe, Billy Gray, Frances Bavier, Lock Martin [Gort], Patrick Aherne (uncredited), Walter Bacon (uncredited), Rama Bai (uncredited), Marshall Bradford (uncredited), John Burton (uncredited), Michael Capanna (uncredited), Richard Carlson (uncredited), Spencer Chan (uncredited), Beulah Christian (uncredited), John Close (uncredited), Louise Colombet (uncredited), James Conaty (uncredited), Eric Corrie (uncredited), Lawrence Dobkin (uncredited), Jim Doyle (uncredited), Roy Engel (uncredited), Charles Evans (uncredited), Michael Ferris (uncredited), Grady Galloway (uncredited), Bill Gentry (uncredited), James Gonzalez (uncredited), Glenn Hardy (uncredited), Sam Harris (uncredited), Al Haskell (uncredited), Gil Herman (uncredited), John Hiestand (uncredited), Harry Lauter (uncredited), Freeman Lusk (uncredited), George Lynn (uncredited), Herbert Lytton (uncredited), Bert Madrid (uncredited), Mike Mahoney (uncredited), David McMahon (uncredited), Harold Miller (uncredited), Ralph Montgomery (uncredited), Bruce Morgan (uncredited), Joseph C. Narcisse (uncredited), Bill Neff (uncredited), Howard Negley (uncredited), Anton Northpole (uncredited), Robert Osterloh (uncredited), Gayle Pace (uncredited), Ted Pearson (uncredited), House Peters Jr. (uncredited), 'Snub' Pollard (uncredited), Mike Ragan (uncredited), John M. Reed (uncredited), Fay Roope (uncredited), Pola Russ (uncredited), James Seay (uncredited), Charles Sherlock (uncredited), Peter Similuk (uncredited), Bob Simpson (uncredited), Bhogwan Singh (uncredited), Reginald Lal Singh (uncredited), Marc Snow (uncredited), Kim Spalding (uncredited), Murray Steckler (uncredited), Glen Walters (uncredited), Gil Warren (uncredited), Stuart Whitman (uncredited), Rush Williams (uncredited), Wilson Wood (uncredited), Carleton Young (uncredited), Elmer Davis (Commentator uncredited), Gabriel Heatter (Commentator uncredited), H.V. Kaltenborn (Commentator uncredited), Hassan Khayyam (Indian Radio Announcer uncredited), Millard Mitchell (Voice of General uncredited), Drew Pearson (Commentator uncredited), Charles Tannen (Voice of Radio Announcer uncredited) and Bill Welsh (Radio News Caster uncredited)
Director: Robert Wise
Producer: Julian Blaustein
Screenplay: Edmund H. North and Harry Bates (based on a story)
Composer: Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography: Leo Tover
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.34:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French: 5.1 DTS-HD, Italian: 5.1 DTS-HD and Castellano: 5.1 DTS-HD
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Italian, Castellano, Danish, Suomi, Norwegian, Swedish and Dutch
Running Time: 92 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’  was one of the first films out of the gate in the long cycle of 1950s American science fiction films, and perhaps along with ‘Forbidden Planet’  and ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ , it remains the one against which all of the others are measured.
A flying saucer lands in Washington, D.C., and out of it emerges Klaatu [Michael Rennie], a humanoid extra-terrestrial. He declares that he's come to earth in peace and with good will, but when he reaches into his silvery spacesuit for something, a nervous soldier shoots him in the shoulder, wounding him. In response out of the spaceship steps Gort [Lock Martin], a large, metallic anthropomorphic robot that zaps all the guns, tanks and other military hardware with a powerful laser beam shooting out of its "eye," melting everything into pools of molten metal.
Klaatu is taken to Walter Reed Hospital, where the President's secretary, Mr. Harley [Frank Conroy], apologises for the misunderstanding. Klaatu informs Harley that he wants to meet with the entire world's leaders simultaneously, to deliver an urgent message from the stars concerning the future of the planet Earth. This being the height of the Cold War and among other things, Harley insists such a meeting is impossible, that the leaders of the world "wouldn't sit at the same table together." Frustrated, Klaatu escapes into the night, hoping to better understand the situation by living among ordinary human beings.
Assuming the alias "Mr. Carpenter," Klaatu rents a room at a boarding house, where its residents, including Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show, Francis Bavier, are following the story of the alien's flight with intense fear and suspicion. Francis Bavier's character is convinced it's all a Soviet plot. Only Helen Benson [Patricia Neal], a war widow, and her son Bobby [Billy Gray] think perhaps the alien is benign and that his mission might be peaceful.
Klaatu/Mr. Carpenter takes a liking to Bobby, and together they visit the home of scientific genius Professor Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe, is a total delight here), obviously Albert Einstein in all but name. Klaatu later reveals himself to Professor Barnhardt, and together they come up with a plan to bring all the great minds of the world together so that Klaatu can at last deliver his message.
Unlike the majority of '50s sci-fi films, The Day the Earth Stood Still was a Class-A, Big Studio production. It cost about $960,000 to produce, slightly less than average for an "A" release in 1951, but an "A" nonetheless and clearly made for an adult audience. It's handsomely produced and at times very imaginative, though it does have several major flaws.
Produced at the height of Cold War hysteria and McCarthyism, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ suggests maybe we ought to solve our planet's "petty squabbles" and halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Though that seems entirely reasonable, even obvious today, back then in some circles the very suggestion was tantamount to high treason. Reviews for ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ generally were very positive, but the film was not popular with the "My Country – Right or Wrong" crowd.
The film remains timely and indeed more so in the wake of 9/11 and in the way Klaatu and Gort's appearance evokes fear and paranoia among the populace, and how it's exploited and exacerbated by sensational media coverage. This may be the first Hollywood movie to extensively incorporate real newsmen into a wholly fictional story. In one interesting scene, a CNN-type on-scene reporter plays up the fear factor, but when Klaatu-as-Mr. Carpenter is coincidentally interviewed and speaks intelligently, the reporter rudely cuts him off.
Surprisingly, Klaatu's superficially sensible pacifist message plays much less so in recent years. His technologically superior society claims the same rights as the United States under the Bush Doctrine, the right to pre-emptive strike a perceived threat to its security. Certainly in 1951 – and for that matter, in 2008 - the threat to intelligent life elsewhere in the universe by mankind is non-existent: we simply don't yet have the technology to even reach other star systems, let alone spread like a virus our violent nature.
And yet here's Klaatu ordering us to shape up - or he'll ship us out, reducing our earth "to a burnt-out cinder." Forget "regime change" and his solution is a police state of all-powerful robots like Gort, Blackwater-like Robocops with "absolute power over us." I've not seen the Keanu Reeves film, but it seems like exploring the idea of Earth finding itself in the same position as countries like Iraq and Afghanistan now have with the United States would be a valid and potentially interesting approach to the material.
The film is excellent on many levels. Fox originally wanted Claude Rains to play Klaatu, but Michael Rennie, then unknown in America, was a far superior choice. Lanky, articulate and almost ageless, projecting unusual intelligence and thoughtfulness, Michael Rennie was and is immediately acceptable as a visitor from another planet. His flat accent, somewhat more Mid-Atlantic than British, avoids tying him to a specific geographical place. Indeed, he was virtually the template for such characters, and continued playing intelligent aliens on-and-off for the rest of his life. To cite one such example of Michael Rennie's influence?
The production is handsome, with exceptionally good second unit work filmed in Washington, D.C., that director and former editor Robert Wise successfully integrates with footage shot on the 20th Century-Fox back lot and elsewhere. Wise slightly overplays the script's paralleling of Klaatu to Christ and his "dying for our sins," resurrection, etc., but for the most part his direction serves the film well. Correction: As stated in the documentary and as genre historian Bill Keep Watching the Skies! Warren points out, "Not Wise, Edmond H. North. Wise had no idea the film had Christ parallels until he was told about this in the early 1980s. He was stunned." Thanks, Bill! The special effects are simple but just about flawless, and Bernard Herrmann's score, one of the very best ever written for a science fiction film, was monumentally influential.
Blu-ray Video Quality – ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still' black-and-white imagery has never looked better, presented here in 1080p high definition and in its original 1.34:1 aspect ratio. The film isn't razor sharp in every shot, but it still looks fantastic nonetheless, with an appreciable sense of depth, particularly during the film's opening, long-distance shots of Washington. Detail is particularly high; close-ups of articles of clothing, for example, reveal intricate textures. Blacks are deep and dark, looking particularly good at every turn. The print exhibits some spots in a few places, but the image never greatly suffers as a result. The high quality of the transfer even reveals some obvious wires at a most inopportune time that might be seen as a distraction to one of the film's most crucial sequences. Still, the film has never looked better, cleaner, more defined than and certainly never as good on large screens at home as it does here. This is no doubt the definitive home video presentation of ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still.’
Blu-ray Audio Quality – 20th Century Fox presents ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ with the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, in addition to the original monaural sound presentation. The stunning track makes for a vast improvement of the original mono offering, sounding fuller and more precise, noticed immediately during the film's opening credit sequence that is accompanied by the haunting notes of the Theremin. The score plays loudly and pleasantly across the front throughout the entire film. As the craft lands in Washington, the reverberations of its power can be felt permeating the entire listening area. The soundtrack produces some excellent lows within the confines of its original mix. Nothing ever sounds trumped up or phony. There is little in the way of appreciable rear channel activity, but the track does feature a few doses of low frequency effects in accompaniment of several crucial sequences. Dialogue reproduction is fabulous throughout. Much like the video presentation, listeners and long-time fans of the film will appreciate the high quality of this soundtrack.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Director Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer [Director of Star trek II: Wrath of Khan]: We start with two audio commentaries. Both were recorded together for this running, occasionally screen-specific track. For the most part, Nicholas Meyer acts as interviewer, especially during the film’s first half. Wise discusses some specifics of Earth such as casting, story issues, and other topics, but he often talks about his general filmmaking thoughts. He tells us how he likes to work, and while this often touches upon Earth, Robert Wise frequently digresses into other films.
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Film & Music Historians John Morgan, Steve Smith, William Stromberg and Nick Redman: For the second commentary, we hear from film and music historians Josh Morgan, Steven Smith, William Stromberg, and Nick Redman. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They tell us a little about cast and crew such as Robert Wise and actor Michael Rennie, but the track usually focuses on composer Bernard Herrmann and his work. That heavy emphasis surprises me, but it succeeds. The concentration on Herrmann allows the participants to dig into his score and career pretty well, so we get a more detailed conversation than usual. Things peter out a little during the film’s third act, as the participants often do little more than grumble about the current state of movie music. Nonetheless, the discussion usually informs and entertains.
Special Feature: Isolated Score track 5.1 DTS: This allows us to listen to Bernard Herrmann’s music in a 5.1 Dolby Digital rendition. It adds a nice bonus for the many film score fans out there.
Special Feature: The World of the Theremin [5:40] During the five-minute and 40-second piece, we hear from musician Peter Pringle. He gives us a quick history of the instrument as well as a demonstration of how it works. This turns into a cool glimpse of how the quirky instrument works. After this we get a Live Performance by Peter Pringle. It seems redundant after the prior documentary, so don’t expect much from it.
Special Feature: Gort Command! Interactive Game: This requires you to move the arrows on your remote to attempt to shoot Gort’s enemies. It got a bit old hat in about three minutes and I quit; it offered no enjoyment at all, only total frustration.
Special Feature: The Making of The Day The Earth Stood Still [23:51] This provides notes from Smith, Robert Wise (via archival interviews), film historian Steven Jay Rubin, producer Julian Blaustein (via archival interviews), Julian Blaustein’s widow Florence, The Films of Robert Wise author Richard Keenan, Wise’s daughter Pamela Conrad Rosenberg, Robert Wise’s widow Millicent, filmmaker Lewis Gilbert, aerospace historian Curtis Peebles, Auburn University Associate Professor of History Guy V. Beckwith, and actors Patricia Neal and Bobby Gray. “Making” looks at the cinema’s roots and development, how Robert Wise came onto the project and his involvement, cast and performances, sets and locations, visual effects, music and the film’s impact. In “Making”, we get a good nuts and bolts look at the film. It’s too brief to provide a terribly full examination of the flick, but then again, with two commentaries and many other documentaries available here, it doesn’t need to include every element of the production. “Making” offers an engaging overview.
Special Feature: Decoding “Klautu, Barada, Nikto”: Science Fiction as Metaphor [16:13] This features Keenan, Peebles, Beckwith, Julian Blaustein, Florence Blaustein, Rubin, Wise, Gray, filmmaker Arnold Orgolini, London School of Economics International History Professor Arne Westad, producer Edmund North’s daughter Susie, and Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film author Vivian Sobchack. “Decoding” examines the geopolitical climate in the early 1950s and how Earth reflects this along with some other interpretive elements. It does this in a somewhat scattershot manner, but it still provides a generally thought-provoking look at the film’s subtext.
Special Feature: A Brief History of Flying Saucers [33:59] This show includes remarks from Peebles, George Adamski Foundation director Glenn Steckling, UFO Religion author Gregory L. Reece, journalist/author Dr. David Clarke, UFO researcher Dennis Bathaser, Roswell Convention and Civic Center director Dusty Huckabee, International UFO Museum and Research Center executive director Julie Shuster, Witness to Roswell co-author Thomas J. Carey, Saucer Smear Newsletter editor James W. Moseley, retired radar engineer Robert Gardenghi, radar systems analyst Glenn Van Blaricum, and Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped By Aliens author Susan Clancy. “Saucers” looks at the UFO phenomenon of the 1940s/1950s and how it continued into later years.
Special Feature: The Astounding Harry Bates  [11:02] During the 11-minute and two-second programme, we hear from the likes of Vivian Sobchack [Author of “Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film”]; David G. Hartwell [Senior editor of Tor Books]; Bob Gay [Writer and Researcher]; Author Harry Bates [archival audio material]; Charles N. Brown [Publisher/Editor of Locus Magazine]; Lawrence Davidson [Co-author of “Pulp Culture”]; Steven Jay Rubin [Film Historian] and Richard Wolinsky [Radio Interviewer]. The programme gives us some biographical notes about Harry Bates as well as thoughts about “Farewell to the Master” and its cinematic adaptation. Apparently history hasn’t left much documentation of Harry Bates’ life, so don’t expect a ton of concise details here. Nonetheless, we do get enough interesting material to make the piece worthwhile. Directed by John Cork (uncredited) and Lisa Van Eyssen (uncredited). Produced by John Cork (uncredited) and Lisa Van Eyssen (uncredited). Writing Credits: John Cork (uncredited). Cinematography by Robert Rasmussen (uncredited)
Special Feature: Edmund North: The Man Who Made The Earth Stood Still  [15:42] This special feature provides informative comments from Lewis Gilbert, Arnold H. Orgolini, Florence Blaustein, Edmund North’s daughters Bobbie North and Susie North, and film historian John Cork. As expected, the show gives us a quick biography of the film’s screenwriter. It proves very satisfying.
Special Feature: Race To Oblivion: A Documentary Short: Written and Produced by Edmund North  [26:40] This is an archival piece arrives with the 1951 film and runs 26 minutes, 40 seconds and comes hosted by Burt Lancaster. This is a message against nuclear proliferation; and we get comments from Hiroshima survivor Shigeko Sasamori and thoughts about the medical consequences of a nuclear war. “Oblivion” cuts between those two elements to cover its subject. The documentary is clearly a product of its time, as fears of a nuclear battle between the US and USSR was high in the early 1980s. The possibility of nuclear war hasn’t vanished, of course, but it seems less relevant today, as we have other terrors to fear. Directed by Robert B. Churchill.
Special Feature: Farewell To The Master: A Reading by Jamieson K. Price of the original Harry Bates Short Story [96:06] When a mysterious ship instantaneously appears on the grounds of the US Capitol in Washington, freelance picture reporter Cliff Sutherland is there to see it. Two days later, two passengers from the ship emerge: a godlike being in human form and an eight-foot robot made of green metal. Are the alien and his robot here to help or hinder humankind? Find out the surprising answer in the original story that inspired the classic 1951 science fiction film, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still.’ This is a must-hear for any science fiction lover, for, as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says, "the film lost the story's ironic ending." Now listeners can discover first-hand what Hollywood left out in this best-known novella by the legendary 1930s idea man Harry Bates. Long-time science fiction fans rank “Farewell to the Master” and its creator among the greats.
Special Feature: Fox Movietonews  [6:21] It provides a six-minute and 21-second clip from 1951. In addition to a little coverage of the film, we get snippets about other news events like a Japanese peace treaty. It’s a brief but neat look at contemporary history from the time of ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ creation.
Teaser Trailer  [480i] [4:3] [1:04] I have no idea why they included this trailer, as the quality is absolutely atrocious.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [4:3] [2:09] This a totally brilliant trailer and is of top quality and is more like a short documentary.
Special Feature: Galleries: These cover “Interactive Pressbook” [19 screens], “Advertising Gallery” , “Behind-the-Scenes Gallery” , “Portrait Gallery” , “Production Gallery” , “Spaceship Construction Blueprints”  and “Shooting Script” . All offer some interesting elements, but like the “Pressbook” which allows close-ups of some pages and the script the best. Don’t expect big differences between the film and the screenplay, though; the final film follows the script pretty closely.
Finally, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ is a bona-fide classic both in its genre and in the annals of cinema history as a whole. The film epitomises Science Fiction like few others, creating in the viewer a sense of wonder but also conveying a socially aware message that even today remains one of utmost urgency. Robert Wise's film endures, playing both as timely and entertaining as ever. While the remake of this film is currently enjoying a high-dollar run at the box office despite its mostly negative critical reception, one must wonder for the future of what is arguably the most important and influential cinematic genre yet, one that offers viewers both what is often the peak of movie magic, witnessing first-hand the incredible, the unbelievable, the impossible, but also, perhaps, through that awe-inspiring storytelling better understanding the world as it is or once was. No doubt, like many other genres, Science Fiction seems to have taken something of a wayward turn, though films like Danny Boyle's Sunshine are able to recall the classic feel of the genre with the updated visual effects of the modern era. Thankfully, no matter what direction Sci-Fi may take next, modern technology allows for the preservation and presentation of these classics like never before, and 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release of ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ is certainly a benefactor of its high definition release. Audiences may enjoy this picture at the current zenith of home presentation, with a beautifully presented picture quality and several audio options, including the film's original monaural presentation, which make enjoying this classic easier and better than ever before. To top it off, Fox has seen fit to load the disc with supplemental materials that alone are worth the price of admission. That is why I am so happy to add this Special Limited Edition SteelBook, as it is a vast improvement over the previous Blu-ray release of this film. But the only thing that lets it down big time is the design of the steelbook cover, and it is absolutely abysmal design and I could of done a much better job myself. I just wish they had repeated the awesome excellent CinemaReserve Region 2 Limited Edition SteelBook DVD design and also slightly disappointed they could not have included a booklet like the Region 2 Limited Edition SteelBook DVD. Despite this slight negative comment, it is still an amazing purchase and so proud to add this Special Limited Edition SteelBook of ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ to my extensive Blu-ray Limited Edition SteelBook Collection and easily earns my highest praise. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom