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DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
The residents of the United States, and the global community at large are thrown into panic and confusion when a flying saucer lands in the middle of Washington D.C. Emerging from this otherworldly vessel with an important message to all world leaders is alien Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and his robotic offsider Gort (Lock Martin) who are accidentally fired on by a nervous US military. Injured and sent to hospital, Klaatu escapes into the general population where he befriends Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) and her young son Bobby (Billy Gray). Facing capture and death, Klaatu looks to return home but not before delivering a final ultimatum to the residents of Earth: that their incessant warring and use of nuclear technology may bring about their demise if they continue down their destructive path and provoke Gort into dishing out his own brand of intergalactic justice.

Review by Craig Miller:
An intelligent adaptation of the Harry Bates short story Farwell to the Master and one of the first truly great science fiction films of the genre's golden age in the 1950s, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a film that's perfectly wondrous as a piece of entertainment and a courageous liberal statement that has something of real importance to say about humanity. It's a film light years ahead of its time that, strangely enough, couldn't have been realised at a more perfect time.

This epic story told on a relatively small scale by Oscar-winning director Robert Wise (The Sound of Music, West Side Story) looks, on the surface, to be no more that a genre B picture, but in reality it's all A-grade dripping with mood and atmosphere, thematically tackling ideals of technology and Cold War fear and relaying important anti-military themes, all sold under a banner of highly emotional realism. Oh, and the big shiny robot that melts tanks and guns with its cycloptic eye is way cool too!

If its strong anti-war message and calls for peace and tolerance were not enough, this breakthrough sci/fi flick is also responsible for much of what we associate with the genre today. Bernard Hermann's use of the Russian musical instrument the theramin is synonymous with outer space eeriness (now a genre cliché), as are many of the philosophies and ideologies about humanity's quest for answers from beyond and our unfortunate traits that hold us back as a civilization ("Can't we all just get along").

It's dated by the things that date all films (clothing, social niceties, visual effects) and it's a little talkie at times, but for a film made over 50 years ago and featuring some fine acting and some even finer overall filmmaking...who cares.

As with the timeless feature presentation, this special edition two-disc set is also an Earth stopper. Although resembling the single-disc release of 2003, both including the impressive Q & A commentary with director Robert Wise as well as the restoration and Movie Tone featurettes and trailer, this S.E. has some mighty inclusions, not the least of which is a welcome 5.1 Digital soundtrack and quickie interview piece with fans and filmmakers about the impact that this film had on them.

The big inclusion though is the documentary on the making of the film which runs almost as long as the film itself and contains comprehensive interviews with Wise, producer Julian Blaustein, cast members Patricia Neal and Billy Gray as well as fans, experts and colourful memorabilia collectors chatting about everything from development to preview screenings and anything else you'd care to know about the film.

Whether it's fondly remembered as the definitive "classic" sci/fi flick or as a meaningful "sci/fi for adults" about world politics, the atomic age and the social paranoia of a post war 1950s, most who have made contact with this wonderful film will know it for one phrase in particular, "Klaatu Barada Nikto" (a phrase which has sprung up everywhere in popular entertainment from Return of the Jedi to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness). I've wondered what the real meaning of those immortal sci/fi words are and just now I like to think that maybe they were ahead of there time too and mean "Rush out and get this special edition DVD", because that would make a whole lotta sense.

Published November 10, 2005

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DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE: DVD (PG)
(US, 1951)

CAST: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe, Bill Gray, Frances Bavier, Lock Martin,

DIRECTOR: Robert Wise

SCRIPT: Edmund H. North

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes

PRESENTATION: Full Frame, Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Audio commentary with Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer[BREAK]Disc Two: A Warning and an Ultimatum featurette, Making the Earth Stand Still documentary, restoration comparison, Movietone News reel, galleries and trailers.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: October 16, 2005







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