The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) Blu-ray review

A hollywood sci-fi original proves to stand the test of time in a welcome hi-def release...

As mentioned in the review of the updated version of this movie – I love this film. It came out when the cold war had just started to bite hard, and it provided a thoughtful commentary for the times.

This is the original 1951 version of the film, and at the time The Day The Earth Stood Still was a movie with a serious reflective message and that hasn’t changed since the nearly five decades since its release. That message is put across concisely and rapidly, without nonsense and with just enough overacting and dramatic flair to make it believable in a sci-fi sort of way. The message presented is simple, Nukes are bad, lose them or lose your lives – we’re watching you.

In this movie, the humans are not just a threat, they are the bad guys. In contrast Klaatu is both the compassionate understanding visitor and eventually a preacher of peace. Of course, the movie plot is very simple in its construction, but quite openly and without apology it presents an obvious resurrection analogy. However, in the main role of Klaatu, Michael Rennie is convincing, inspired and aloof when he needs to be. At no time does his character come across as unreasonable, or impolite. Patricia Neal his co-star plays a single mother, who becomes embroiled in Klaatu’s mission and provides the perfect link to the scientific minds that will help him pass along his message.

The other outstanding feature of the movie is the very high quality of special effects. Today they could be done on a computer, but when it was created they were groundbreaking. They used new and inventive techniques that set the benchmark for movies to come. In fact, one of the features in the extras section covers it in some depth.

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Transfer The black and white transfer of the original movie is excellent and almost entirely flawless. It loses nothing for being in black and white. It’s a shame that it’s in standard cinema and not widescreen format, but it was apparently shot in this format anyway. At points, the transfer is so good that you can clearly see the wires in one scene where the robot GORT carries the female lead onboard the ship. Even if they could convert this to colour, I would prefer it in black and white.

The sound is easily as good as the print, mainly due to a very nice but modest surround sound mix. They have done well in converting this across, and a lot of attention has been paid to the placement of the surround effects that have been used. There hasn’t been anything added that wasn’t there before, but you get a more up to date sound experience. It’s obviously been cleaned up as well, because it is crisp and clear with no discernable hiss.

Extras I’ve reviewed a lot of DVDs and Blu-ray movies in the past few weeks, but so far there are few that have come close to the list of extras on this disk. It proves that even old movies can have interesting and up to date features. In one way it acts like an encyclopaedia to the history of the movie. Although many of them are found on the original DVD version of this print, there are a few things that have been added to make life interesting. The extras included range from the “The Mysterious, Melodious Theremin: Main Title Live Performance”, to “The Making of The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “Decoding ‘Klaatu Barada Nikto’”. As well as these, you get a set of extremely good features that stand out from some of the humdrum stuff that you find on newer movie creations – and that only adds to the experience.

ConclusionThe story contained within this 1951 version of the movie means more now than it ever did. Its warning was stark and still holds true today. As a classic is rates with the best science fiction of its time, and you can even forgive the overacting.

Film:

4 stars
Transfer:
5 stars
Extras:
4 stars
The Day The Earth Stood Still Blu-ray is out now.

Rating:

3 out of 5