The Day The Earth Stood Still

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Michael Rennie, PatriciaNeal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe, Billy Gray, Francis Bavier
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Isolated Score, Featurettes, Still Galleries, Movietonews, Trailers

Just in time for the theatrical release of its remake, "The Day The Earth Stood Still" arrives on Blu-Ray disc. It is the 1951 sci-fi movie by director Robert Wise which was a very strong social commentary of its timed, and although it may be a little outdated, its general message is every bit as important today as it was back then.

The world holds its collective breath when reports from the military come that a bogey has been sighted, rounding the Earth at 4000 miles per. After having been observed for some time, the UFO eventually descends and lands in Washington. A beautifully streamlined shiny flying saucer, it sets down and when it opens, a man appears from the inside. Walking down the plank under the watchful eyes of the military the man, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), approaches the human delegation but when he reaches into his pocket to retrieve a strange-looking object, a trigger-happy, nervous private shoots him. The alien is taken to the hospital where after a short period of healing up Klaatu announces that he wishes to speak to all the world's leaders. Given the political situation however, with the Cold War at its peak, that is an impossibility, the Washington officials tell him.

Klaatu decides that he should try to understand human sensibilities and their way of thinking a little better to decide how to proceed. He escapes the hospital and rents a room in a boarding house where he mingles with the other residents while the army scouts the streets in search for the"dangerous" alien. Especially a young boy, Bobby (Billy Gray), is a valuable source of information for him, but at the same time, it is the boy's curiosity that ultimately reveals Klaatu's identity. Will he be able to spread his message before the over-zealous military catches up with him, and more importantly, what is it he has to say to all of mankind?

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has prepared a great-looking 1080p high definition transfer of the movie in its original fullframe aspect ratio. Considering the movie's age I was pleasantly surprised at the quality. The print is generally free of blemishes and defects. There is some instability in contrast there and large areas of black are not always stable, showing changes in opacity, but all of that is to be expected from such a vintage presentation. I was very pleasantly surprised by the level of detail and the overall sharpness of the transfer and was very surprised to see how well the special effects in the movie hold up even in high resolution. I kept looking for matte-lines, only to find none, showing just how well crafted the movie was for its time.

A DTS 5.1 HD Master audio track is included on the disc, but don't expect any miracles. This is an old film with dated sound elements that was never designed to make use of surround channels and as such the sound filed is wide and spatial but not very active. Frequency response has been improved on the track to make sure dialogue and the music do not sound excessively harsh. It all helps to create a very pleasing audio presentation. The original mono language track of the film is also provided on the disc as an alternative.

"The Day The Earth Stood Still" comes with a host of bonus materials, such as the commentary track by director Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer, that was part of the previous DVD release. In addition, a new commentary track is included offering up comments and thoughts by film and music historians John Morgan, Steven Smith, Willliam Stromberg and Nick Redman. The tracks are both engaging and full of valuable insight into the movie making process of the day. In addition Bernard Herrman's wonderful score is included as an isolated track.

But the disc also comes with a number of featurettes, of course. One section of the release examines the Theremin, the musical instrument that is best known for the otherworldly, lamenting sound that was used in 50s sci-fi movies. In addition to learn a little more about the instrument, there is also a live performance of the title track in this section, as well as a small interactive feature that allows you to add your own theremin music to a scene from the film – that however, is really just a gimmick.

Other featurettes take a look at the making of the movie, it's impact, it's historic relevancy, the political situation at the time and more. "Decoding 'Klaatu Barada Nikto': Science Fiction as a metaphor" is only one of these well-produced featurettes that you should definitely check out. In fact, there are so many featurettes on this release that the list seems endless when you browse through it with your remote control, making it hard to chose which to take a look at first.

The release is rounded out by trailers, Fox Movietonews, a pressbook and still gallery.

"The Day The Earth Stood Still" is a landmark film of its day, clearly, and it is great to see that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has heeding the movie's legacy. Crammed with bonus materials covering all and any aspect of the movie, this release is a disc that belongs in every sci-fi fan's collection.