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Day the Earth Stood Still: Special Edition, The (Blu-ray Review)

13 Dec, 2008 By: John Latchem

$19.98 two-DVD set, $34.98 Blu-ray
Stars Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Billy Gray.

The main reason this special edition exists is as a marketing tool to promote the new version starring Keanu Reeves. As such, the disc includes a 7-minute promo for the remake.

Most film fans will be better served sticking with the original. The 1951 film was a landmark of science-fiction, offering a serious story as allegory to examine contemporary issues. The Day the Earth Stood Still also offered production values that, while primitive today, where a far cry ahead of of the cheesy visuals of 1940s sci-fi.

The film’s political and religious overtones also are obvious. The alien Klaatu, taking the name Carpenter in allusion to Jesus Christ, presents a message of peace that is largely ignored by bickering nations too caught up in the Cold War. 

This of course leads to a somewhat hypocritical message, as Klaatu, backed by the powerful robot Gort, threatens an act of war to destroy the planet if Earth does not embrace the ways of peace. Heavy handed today, but a powerful message in the years following World War II.

The Blu-ray version looks good, if not great. The transfer is not as clean as other black-and-white films on Blu-ray (such as Casablanca), so the picture appears softer in focus as it probably should. This is by no means a distraction of the format, as it won’t discourage anyone looking to add the film to their collection from picking up the Blu-ray version. It just isn’t the main reason to upgrade from the previous DVD version.

The primary motivation is for film fans looking for a new retrospective about the film. Gone is a 70-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, in favor of a series of updated featurettes that cover the same ground.

The Blu-ray also includes two interactive activities that are worth a look. One is a game that lets viewers see through the eyes of Gort and shoot at various threats. One drawback to the game is the targeting system is too slow to scan across the screen in time.

The other activity lets viewers create their own segment of electronic musical score using a simulated theremin, and play it with a segment of the film. This is a neat use of the format to teach aspects of filmmaking, and should prove a worthwhile distraction for those fans who are into that sort of thing.

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