The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)/Herrmann
December 29, 2014
During his years with 20th Century Fox probably wrote his most unique store “The Day The Earth Stood Still” creating a sound that will forever be associated with Science Fiction movies. Reading the liner notes I discovered that not only did Herrmann use two theremins but used for the very first time in a score the electric violin which was played by Felix Slatkin (his son Leonard is a world renowned conductor). Add to the mixture the lack of strings and woodwinds and you’ve got the sound which just reinforces the incredible creativity of Bernard Herrmann.
The film itself starred Michael Rennie (The Third Man) and Patricia Neal (Hud), was directed by Robert Wise, and told the story of Klaatu and Gort who came from another planet to warn us of the danger of using nuclear bombs and the consequences that will happen to us if we continue. It was well received and is popular to this day.
There have been several releases of this score but none that includes all of the studio rehearsals, outtakes, and extra theremin tracks. If this is one of your favorite films you’ll definitely want all of this extra material in addition to the 38 minutes of soundtrack. The sound quality is fine but I’ve not compared it to other recordings. If anything I assume that the quality might even be better.
The opening track which is the prelude and outer space/radar I’ve included as an audio clip and is likely the track that you remember the most from the film. It oozes the feeling of eeriness and worldliness enhanced of course from the theremin which has become associated with science fiction even though Miklos Rozsa used it most effectively in his films “The Lost Weekend” and “Spellbound” a few years before. This melody is also repeated throughout some of the tracks such as “Escape” along with an urgent repetition of chords that have come to be associated with Herrmann. The “Finale” is also a repeat of the main theme with the organ being prominent in the arrangement. Other tracks of interest include a fine somber military dirge in “Arlington.” This is a good example of music for the brass section that is complimented by the organ in place of strings which many composers would have used. “Gort” is the introduction of the theme for the robot and is as you would expect one that is plodding lower register lumbering music. The music makes it quite evident the death and destruction that Gort can havoc upon the world. Track 9, a compilation of 6 different cues offers an early on stereo technique of a sound going from only one channel or moving across from left to right.
This soundtrack is limited edition of 1200 units so it is better to act sooner than later. It is highly recommended to Bernard Herrmann fans along with lovers of the film itself. In addition it offers fine liner notes to round out an attractive package.