The Day the Earth Stood Still

A flying saucer lands in Washington D.C., capturing the attention of the world. When Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and his robot Gort (Lock Martin) emerge from the vehicle, Klaatu is shot by a nervous soldier and taken to Walter Reed Hospital for recovery. He soon receives a visit from the President's envoy, Mr. Harley (Frank Conroy), who apologizes for the misunderstanding. Klaatu's only request is to meet with all of the world's leaders to deliver a message, but given the political climate, this is an impossible request.

Frustrated at being locked up, Klaatu escapes the hospital and takes a room in a local boarding house, where he befriends Helen Bensen (Patricia Neal) and her son Bobby (Billy Gray). Bobby serves as Klaatu's tour guide to the world and arranges a meeting with Professor Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), who hatches a plan to allow Klaatu to deliver his message to the world.

Based on the short story Farewell to the Master by Henry Bates, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a remarkable film on many levels—especially given the political environment of the 1950s with the Cold War and McCarthyism in full swing. Klaatu's message is to end nuclear proliferation or face consequences far beyond our imagination.

I love the look of black-and-white films, and with their debut on Blu-ray, I love them even more. Much like Casablanca, The Day the Earth Stood Still looks marvelous in HD, with razor-sharp detail that falters only in the occasional soft shot. The detail in the clothing and the monuments in Washington D.C. is astounding—although the heightened clarity reveals the wires used in the special effects. Despite its minor flaws, this is a fabulous AVC encode of a science-fiction classic.

The audio soundtracks include a remastered DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as well as the original mono track. I found the modern remix a bit disjointed, with some new sound effects overpowering the score from Bernard Hermann and the subtle background noises found on the original mono track. The new remix definitely provides an expanded soundstage and more robust dynamics, but it sacrifices the nuances of the original recording.

The abundant bonus features include a commentary with director Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer, a separate commentary by film and music historians John Morgan, Steven Smith, William Stromberg, and Nick Redman, and an isolated score track (DTS-HD MA). Additional supplements include numerous documentaries and featurettes (some in HD), a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, and a seven-minute prelude to the 2008 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

This 1951 classic relies on a compelling story over today's wiz-bang special effects, but that's okay by me. Michael Rennie's portrayal of Klaatu is phenomenal, and the message he delivers carries a lot of merit in today's world. Highly recommended.

Release Date: December 2, 2008

Movie: 9/10
Picture: 9/10
Sound: 7/10

Review System

Panasonic DMP-BD55

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 Amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics