PicturePresented in it's original 1.33:1 ratio and implementing the MPEG-4 codec this BluRay version has to the best that The Day The Earth Stood Still has ever looked. Previous versions, including my collectors steel-book edition is not bad considering that this film is almost 60 years old however now we have a certain winner for the title of best video.
There has been no DNR applied and each frame has a veneer of light grain which is never distracting, the print has been cleaned up considerably with most, but not all speckles and blemishes removed, and the brightness fluctuations more or less completely eradicated. The grey tones are a rendered beautifully, with precision, and bodes well for earlier movies to be transferred with loving care to this medium. Whites never seem to peak and those blacks are deep and foreboding, look as Klaatu walks down the street to his temporary lodgings whilst on Earth, the detail in the shadows is a wonder to behold and definitely adds depth to the whole proceedings.
Detail is more than apparent, especially in hair, skin, particularly facial appearance, and clothing texture. You can see the frays on Klaatu's gown whilst in hospital and it is during these scenes that his gaunt face stands out with fantastic bone definition. Similarly the weave on the Jacket of the secretary of state has excellent consistency with no hint of any moire patterns. As Klaatu looks out of the window there's good depth as he scans the open courtyard of the hospital and the individual people walking there are better defined than I have previously seen. This also goes for the park in Washington when his ship initially lands; the people darting about can still be identified from the high altitude.
In the main the encoding is wonderful, no noise nor blocking but there is some ringing effects on the shoulders and hats of say the television presenters and crowds who stand in front of the wide open Washington park backdrops. There are times where this enhancement is more noticeable although it is usually never too intrusive though.
A sure fire hit and considering the age of this film it's a remarkable transfer indeed.
SoundThe purists will enjoy the original mono track matrixed to the front channels and this track doesn't really let down, the all important dialogue is detailed and sharp enough to ensure every syllable is never once lost. However I preferred the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, and this review concentrates on this.
In the main it's not that much different from the mono track, yes it does have some more depth, some more weight and there is some subtle use of the surround field. But being realistic there is only so much that can be done with a track of this age and they have treated the original with care, not once being tempted to go overboard and steer or pan sounds just for the hell of it. What steerage is in there works well, Gort's beam reducing the armourments to molten slag crisp and clean and panned from the centre to the left channel, the army tanks racing to the park emanating from the fronts then screeching in your rears as they turn onto the main highway. Some birds and crowd effects in the park add some ambiance but that's about it, in the main this is predominantly centre based. TDTESS is a dialogue driven movie; science fiction these days is proud to have the latest special effects, the latest audio codecs firing on all cylinders but TDTESS is not about that it's important to hear what Klaatu and our fellow earthmen have to say and this mix doesn't disappoint. Every spoken work comes across naturally from the centre, never once lost in any of the score.
That score though is deep and resonant, especially when Herrmann kicks in with the theremin. It opens the sound stage somewhat and adds to the low frequencies which are seldom heard in this presentation.
Like the video this is an enjoyable transfer, true to the source material and perfectly suited to the nature of content TDTESS is trying to get across.
- Commentary with Nicholas Myers and Robert Wise.
A good enough, flowing question and answer session from these two men who share a common Star Trek link. Myers steers this one, asking what he and in all honesty most of us would like to ask Wise about this movie. Wise more than happy to offer the information required on the production, its values and the direction.
- Commentary with Music Historians John Morgan, Steven Smith William Stromberg & Nick Redman.
This of course discusses Bernard Herrmann's impeccable score. It's a little over long perhaps and I feel would have been better suited to say an hour or so EPK. Still this is a good enough listen with all participants acknowledging Herrmann's score as not only a classic but the composer himself and how influential he has been in cinema's history.
- Isolated Score.
Allows you to listen to the score of the film and nothing else. The film plays and Herrmann's score kicks in as and when it should. There are some quiet moments that's for sure but it's a great extra to have if you just want to kick back and listen to that deep, haunting score.
- The World of the Theremin.
The Mysterious Melodious Theremin. - 0:05:50 - MPEG-4/1080i
Peter Pringle giving a brief history of the Theremin initially invented in 1918, how it is constructed and how it is played. How The Day the Earth Stood Still brought this instrument to the fore in the movie world and from then on it went onto be used in other features. There are some out-takes where the players played the wrong notes from Herrmann's score and Bernard taking them to task.
The Day the Earth Stood Still Main Title Live Performance by Peter Pringle. - 0:02:17 - MPEG-4/1080i
The same Peter Pringle playing the opening theme from The Day the Earth Stood Still on the instrument which he is obviously fond of.
Interactive Theremin: Create Your Own Score.
A Java snippet which allows your to compose a brief sound clip and 'play' your own theremin. You choose notes and apply them to musical sheet. Once constructed you can preview your composition and then overlay this onto a section of the film, where Gort appears after the initial shooting of Klaatu. Be warned on my HTPC system some of the notes you choose previewed from my left surround at a rather high volume. The sounds from the centre were at a respectable enough though so I cannot say if this Java snippet was designed that way or not, I think the latter. An interesting enough piece I suppose, especially if you can read and compose music which I, unfortunately, cannot.
- Gort Command Interactive Game.
Another Java snippet. A game in which you see what Gort sees through his (its?) visor. Find offending enemy targets, aim and fire. Simple enough in reality difficult to play as are all these things because the system just isn't responsive enough.
- The Making of The Day The Earth Stood Still. - 0:23:53 - MPEG-4/1080i
This is a newer making of documentary than that on my steel-book, it's shorter and as such there's less information in there; this is a little of a let down. The original documentary covers everything you would love to know. This does it's best to do so but simply doesn't have the same extensive detail.
- Decoding Klaatu Barada Nikto: Science Fiction as Metaphor. - 0:16:44 - MPEG-4/1080i
How The Day the Earth Stood Still was a true product of its time, reflecting the global tensions at the time, specifically those involving the US, the USSR and the south east Asian continent and the previous sense of isolation had to be put to one side with countries trying to resolve their differences though our own global police force; the UN. The translation of the classic line is also divulged!
- A Brief History of Flying Saucers. - 0:34:02 - MPEG-4/1080i
Flying Saucer sightings and possibilities from perhaps as early as 1897 are briefly discussed. UFO researchers are wheeled out to have their say, radio interviews with people who say they have seen objects they have been unable to identify and some murky video footage is presented. Roswell is obviously mentioned however there seems to be some confusion as to the exact date in July when this occurred.
- The Astounding Harry Bates. - 0:11:03 - MPEG-4/1080i
Mr Bates initially derided science fiction thinking that the plot lines were a little thin, how he took Astounding Stories into orbit becoming the premier Science Fiction magazine in circulation. How the adaptation differs from the original story published in Astounding Magazine
- Edmund North: The Man Who Made the Earth Stand Still. - 0:14:43 - MPEG-4/1080i
A brief biography of the writer of TDTESS, ultimately a pacifist who attended a military school, and served in World War II. He and Julian Bernstein were in the same army troop together. It mentions his involvement in the peace movement, his political leanings. For someone with such political philodophies he worked on a number of army ventures including Patton.
- Race to Oblivion A Documentary Short by Edmund North. - 0:26:52 - MPEG-2/480i
A documentary made in 1982 by North for Physicians for Social Responsibility. Burt Lancaster narrates and interviews a Japanese woman who as a child experienced the Hiroshima explosion. Scarred, she recounts her experience. A conference is shown where these physicians indicate what would happen should a full blown nuclear war erupt.
- Farewell to the Master: A Reading by Jamieson K Price of the Original Harry Bates Short Story. 1:36:56
Black with just Price's voice retelling the story. It's split into three chapters which you can navigate through so you don't have to listen to it all at once. It's good to have this on the disc as it pads out the world which is TDTESS. The original story is good enough, read well, and although there are huge differences between this and the screenplay you can see the origins of TDTESS in this reading. Certainly recommended listening.
- Fox Movietone News 1951. - 0:06:21 - MPEG2/480i
News from the time showing some of the propaganda and news scares of the early 1950s.
- Teaser Trailer. - 0:01:04 - MPEG-2/480i
As the name suggests.
- Theatrical Trailer. - 0:02:09 - MPEG-2/480i
As the name suggests.
- 2008 Trailer. - 0:01:47 - MPEG-4/1080i
As the name suggests for the new film.
A number of galleries, including an interactive Press Book, Advertising, Behind the scenes, Portraits, Production, Spaceship Blueprints, Shooting Script.
This is a wonderful feast for the eyes and the interactive Press Book is perhaps the best use of technology, newspaper reports can be zoomed into and read easily.
An excellent set of extras and much more than resides on my existing R2 Steel-Book DVD, however it has to be said that the down-sizing of the making of documentary by some 60 minutes is a little short sighted. Apart from that I have no hesitation in recommending that all of these be trawled through, each has something to offer and there's hardly any repetition.
VerdictThe Day the Earth Stood Still is an all time classic, a shining star in a universe of science fiction which was all too often populated by the fear of the unknown. Yes that fear is shown here but it's shown up for what how it was enhanced and manipulated. It's not the be all and end all of this movie, just the catalyst it needs to try and get a larger message across.
The set is what I have almost always wanted, the video is clean and detailed, the audio somewhat narrow but then what can you expect really? This has a galaxy more extras then my steel-book edition however I cannot as yet donate that as it has that 80 minute all important documentary which I would miss having. Fox have done a good job on the extras but not to include this has to be seen as a missed opportunity.
Acting is good enough, direction impeccable, Herrmann's score speaks for itself; not only because of this feature but because how often it has been imitated since that time. TDTESS is one of my all time favourite movies, it has been since I first saw it in the early 1970s and it will continue to be so. I do feel that this has to be in anyone's and everyone's collection, it can be watched time and again without it ever becoming stale. As such this disc obviously comes highly recommended.
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- Commentary with Nicholas Myers and Robert Wise.