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Making the Earth Stand Still is a clever title for a documentary about
this movie, and I can see why they would want to give this documentary
that name despite the fact that it is not at all about making the Earth
Stand Still. A more accurate title would have been Making "The Day the
Earth Stood Still," or, even more accurately, Remembering The Day the
Earth Stood Still. If you are looking to see what kinds of techniques
went into creating the effects seen in the 1951 science fiction
classic, as I was, I would advise against spending two solid hours
watching this documentary, because probably less than five minutes of
screen time are spent on the subject. Even more oddly, the back of the
DVD case lists as a special feature a "70-Minute 'Making the Earth
Stand Still' Documentary," which is off the mark by a good 50 minutes.
I've never seen that happen before.
The odd thing here is that I loved the movie and I respect this documentary for what it is, but it's really nothing more than the director and major surviving cast and crew talking about their experiences in making the movie, as well as great details about the events leading to production, where the title came from, reactions to the public reception, etc. These are all interesting things and I respect the massive achievements that can be seen in the film, but I really wanted to see how they made the earth stand still, what cinematic tricks were used, etc. I guess I just think that The Day the Earth Stood Still deserves a better documentary to accompany it on the Studio Classics DVD, which brings me to my next point.
My biggest problem with this documentary is that it is unbelievably badly made, and at some points even depressing. Billy Gray, the man who played the young boy in the movie, provides an interview in which he talks about his experience on The Day the Earth Stood Still almost as if nothing important happened in his life since then, which may or may not be true, but his interview is pretty depressing. It seemed to me that he remembered making the movie with a profound sadness, manifested in his wish that he still had some of the diamonds used in the movie.
Julian Blaustein, who seems to be suffering from the physical effects of a stroke or an aneurysm (since I've seen similar features in my grandmother, who suffered a stroke not long ago), is lit so incompetently that not only does he appears completely washed out because of the harsh light, but his eyes even look like they're two different colors. Such bungling ineptitude associated with such a wonderful film is disturbing indeed. What lunatic did that lighting setup? And what lunatic shot it? That massive overexposure with the lights could have been easily fixed by adjusting the exposure on the camera. Even the editor could have cleaned it up quite a bit. This movie and the people involved with it certainly deserve better.
On an informational level the documentary is great, but as I've mentioned, it is a technical disaster; it doesn't even end, it just eventually stops abruptly. There are a great variety of things covered that were highly entertaining, but for a documentary titled Making the Earth Stand Still, some time had to be spent on the actual physical making of the movie, which was almost completely ignored. I don't think I would complain about it quite this much if not for the title and, even worse, the fact that at the end of the documentary we are treated to 20 minutes of people talking about their collections of The Day the Earth Stood Still memorabilia.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with memorabilia. I was completely fascinated with the coverage of what happened to the prop used as the time machine in the 1962 version of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, which featured a similar documentary on the DVD, but that documentary didn't waste as much time as this one does. It doesn't present the information that the title suggests, and it spends too much time on something that deserves much less, if any. "The Collectors" portion of this documentary should have been a separate video on the DVD, in which case it could have been as long as they wanted to make it.
I appreciate the documentary as far as giving a good look inside the heads of the filmmakers and much of the cast, as well as valuable insights into what was going on in the world at the time the movie was released. There are some wonderful stories about the prop used as the spaceship as well as the iron man, which was a statue in some scenes and a hulking costume worn by a man more than 7 ½ feet tall in other scenes, and there are some wonderful stories about that. It is a good series of stories told about the making of the movie, but it is not at all a documentary on how the earth was made to stand still.
Anyone who likes and/or appreciates the great Sci-fi classic The Day The
Earth Stood Still will enjoy this 70 minute documentary. It mostly consists
of interviews with Robert Wise (Director), Julian Blaustein (Producer) along
with the actors Patricia Neal and Billy Gray.
As producer, Julian Blaustein was able to contribute a great deal to the documentary. His explanations and opinions will be of interest to all who remember and appreciate TDTESS. He also goes into depth about many of the challenges faced in the making of the film.
Many of the topics discussed give much insight to the origin of the story and the evolution of the film, its music and cast. The Day The Earth Stood Still has truly become a film classic, and is considered by many to be the most intelligent sci-fi film ever made. So if you love TDTESS don't miss Making the Earth Stand Still.
When It comes to "making of" extras, I find myself of several minds.
One is a matter of hunger. I watch a movie with the intent of getting it all, of circumnavigating whatever I see, plumbing what it has, what it implies and what it can carry for me. My mind is reaching and weaving right after seeing a film and if on DVD, I reach for those extras.
But they almost always disappoint. My domain is always bigger than that of the packaged metanarrative. It must be because that the very point.
But sometime there I a bigger gap than otherwise and I end up hating the experience. This is rare for me. I pride myself on getting something out of any film, no matter its intent, in spite of its poor craft. But when One film kills another, it I a matter for action.
So I recommend that you avoid this. The movie in question: "Earth, Still" isn't hefty to begin with. What this set of interviews will tell you I that the makers were aware of cold war notions (who wasn't?) and that they strove for reality. All else kills the experience.
So even though my rating code only allows as low as "not worth watching" this one ranks below: it will negate an already frail film experience.
Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
This documentary which is just 9 and a half minutes shy of an hour and
a half is available on side B of MGM's DVD of "the Day the Earth Stood
Still", it discusses pretty much everything you'd want to know about
the film. It kinda takes away from the subtlety of the film itself and
spells out what the movie was all about. And watching it made me not
like the film as much because of it. So in that aspect this documentary
pretty much failed. Never underestimate the power of ambivalence. But I
digress, the documentary also goes into adapting the short story, the
fights over casting, the props, and more.
My Grade: B-
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