With the success of the Warner Archive program Sony decided
to jump on the MOD (Manufactured On Demand) bandwagon and has started
release catalog titles from their Columbia
archive under the Columbia
Classics banner. It's a great idea,
and a wonderful way to get
movies that otherwise wouldn't warrant a full DVD release into the
fans. The movies are all barebones
(except for a trailer) and are made to order on burned DVD-R discs, but
come with full cover art. The first of
the series that I've had a chance to get my hands on is 1957's The 27th
Day, a rather obscure SF film that deserves a wider audience. An intelligent and well made film, it stands
apart from many of the other SF films of that era, even if it stumbles
Five people, two women and three men, from all over the
world (including one from Russian and one from China) are greeted by a
mysterious stranger and then wake up on board of a spacecraft. The stranger, who only identifies himself as
"the alien" explains that his world is going to die.
Their sun is about to go nova and wipe out
there race in 35 days. They need to find
a new place to live, but their morals prevent them from harming any
creature so they can't just invade Earth.
Instead, they've come up with a unique plan:
the five people are each given a sealed
container with three vials. Only the
assigned person can open the container, but once they do anyone can use
contents. The three vials are
devastating weapons. Each one will kill
every human in a 1500 mile radius from any coordinates that are given
it. Together the vials can destroy
on Earth, leaving the rest of the plants and animals unharmed. The alien explains that the capsules will be
rendered inert in 27 days, or if the owner of the container dies, and
people he's selected are free to do whatever they wish with the vials.
The five people then find themselves back on Earth, with no
time having passed. One of the five
kills herself, making the safest choice for the human race, and another
her container into the sea. The others
go about their business as if nothing happened.
That plan doesn't work for long. The alien
interrupts all TV and radio
broadcasts all over the world and informs humanity that he has spoken
people, and gives their names and cities of residence, and that he's
some very important information. Panic
ensues along with a massive manhunt for the five people.
One of the group, a German professor visiting
the US, is hit by a car accidently and ends up in the hospital, and
who happen to be in the US go into hiding together.
The Russian is quickly apprehended. He's
tortured and drugged to find out what he
knows. The hysteria among the populace
is only exceeded by that in the various governments who now realize
balance of power in the world may have been dramatically altered.
This movie gets a lot right.
It was a low budget affair, as was the case for most SF movies
era, and they wisely concentrated on plot and characterization over
effects and impressive sets. The
spaceship interior is basic but still has the 50's SF feel to it, and
the action takes place inside rooms. The
action also seems rooted in reality, with the governments of all
trying to get their hands on what they hope to be major weapons. It's a more cerebral SF film that works very
well, until the very end.
Russians have their citizen open his box, while drugged, and let the
the world know that they have a weapon.
The demand that the US
pull all of its troops out of Europe
rest of the world, and confine them to the continental US.
starts the pull out, but the Russians are planning to kill everyone in North America seconds before the deadline so
will be no chance of retaliation. At the
end of the movie, in pure deus ex machine fashion, the German scientist
discovers a series of mathematical formulas written on the outside of
capsules. Having a total of five in his
possession, he's able to decipher their meaning (in under an hour no
reprogram the vials so that they'll kill "every person throughout the
known to have been a confirmed enemy of human freedom." What
exactly does that mean? So all of the
bad guys die, and all the good guys live, as if by magic.
What a horrible cop out! How is
that better than what the Russians
were planning? It was a very cheap and
simplistic resolution to an otherwise excellent film.
This DVD-R comes in a standard keepcase with a full color
cover insert. The disc itself is white
with the movie title printed on it, but no other art.
The mono soundtrack
is surprisingly solid. It's very clean
for a film this old, and while there was some evidence of background
it's only apparent at high volumes. At
regular listening ranges you won't even notice it.
The dynamic range is a little limited, but
that's to be expected from a 1957 movie.
The dialog is clear and the background music sound fine. A nice sounding disc.
I was pleasantly surprised by the anamorphic 1.85:1 B&W
video quality. The film hasn't been
restored, but it still looks excellent.
The blacks are deep and murky, the white aren't crushed and
and the level of detail is very, very good.
The lines are sharp and tight and there's just a faint touch of
in a couple of scenes. There are a few
(and I mean a very few) spots on the film that was used for the
the image is fine otherwise.
Just the theatrical trailer.
This is a very auspicious beginning to the Columbia Classics
program. The film is a forgotten gem,
even with it's less than appetizing conclusion.
In addition, the image and sound quality are both very good for
year old film that hasn't been restored.
This gets a strong Recommended