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The Day The Earth Slowed Down

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Bernard Herrman's score to the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of the clasic theremin recordings. When we learned that a modern remake was in the works, our hearts leapt at the thought of a new twist on the old classic and the possibility of another magical score.

Did it happen? Thereminist Charles Lester saw the film last night and shared his thoughts with us in the forums. Given the significance of the original film, I felt this deserved a bit more attention. -Jason


by Charles Richard Lester

It's going on 3 a.m. Friday morning. I just got back from the first general-release showing, in glorious IMAX digital audio and video, of the new "The Day the Earth Stood Still," which started at 12:05 a.m.

I went with my theremin buddy Dave Weiner. I wanted to get there no later than 11 p.m., fearing mad throngs of moviegoers queuing up in vastly long lines to get in, even with pre-paid tickets. Boy, was I ever wrong about that.

When we got there, just a little after 11, there were maybe 15-20 people in line. When the theater doors opened at 11:30, there were 30 or so. By the time all the endless commercials* and crap wrapped up and the film actually started, the theater -- seating, hm, 400 maybe -- was about half full.

I can only attribute this to the possibility that most people just didn't know about this first show. Many people, myself included, likely assumed that the first showing would not be until Friday night. I only found out about this when I went on line to purchase tickets.


I am not going to talk about a lot of specifics about the film since I realize most of y'all haven't seen it yet. I don't want to spoil anything. But here are a few first-blush generalizations that are swirling around in my head and consciousness after this first viewing. I am sure I will see it again, and that some of my first impressions will change and evolve. But for now, here are some of those first impressions.


Firstly, and most importantly to us Theremin folks, yes, there IS theremin in the sound track! There is not as much of it as in the original, and not as obvious but more mixed in, and not the Hoffmanesque trembling and quavering. Rather, mostly it consists of long, sweeping, soaring glissandos and, in a few places, floor-shaking bass tones. It was, I feel, used effectively but there could have been more of it, of course! Especially since in the final credits, what to wondering eyes should appear but:

Theramin . . . Pamelia Kursten



20th Century Fox Studios, with its long association with the theremin due to is use in the first version of this film, with 56 years of publicity, discussions, elaborations, documentaries, dissertations, articles and featurettes on the instrument, actually SPELLED IT WRONG in the credit roll!

Overall the score is taut, moody and appropriate. My hat's off to Tyler Bates who wrote the rich score consisting of both full orchestral instrumentation and electronic textures.


Then a couple of non-specific comments about the story line.

It does, in a general way, follow the same story as the original but with much modernization of certain technological aspects of the alien encounters, and the landing of the main "space craft" takes place in Manhattan rather than Washington, D.C.

What's missing is the unsettling, pervasive, "everyone looking over their shoulder" Cold War paranoia and the looming spect