Advertisement
Movies

Review: Unreleased 1938 silent sci-fi film ‘As the Earth Turns’ boasts analog ingenuity

‘As the Earth Turns’
Richard Lyford in the 1938 movie “As the Earth Turns.”
(8th Sense Productions)

Had Steven Spielberg been a 16-millimeter camera-toting teen in the 1930s, his home movies might have looked like “As the Earth Turns,” a black-and-white, silent 45-minute science-fiction film about a peace-crazed scientist named Pax who attempts to persuade the world to put down its weapons by inducing extreme climate change.

Made by Richard H. Lyford, a 20-year-old Seattle-based budding playwright and filmmaker who would go on to work as a Disney animator and Oscar-winning documentary director, the digitally restored 1938 original has been outfitted with a period-appropriate score by contemporary composer Ed Hartman.

Clearly influenced by the serials of his era, particularly “Flash Gordon,” Lyford also drew upon the 1915 sci-fi novel “The Man Who Rocked the Earth” to relate his pre-World War II story about an intrepid, Lois Lane-type newspaper reporter (Barbara Berger) who eventually tracks down the elusive, misguided Pax (Lyford, looking eerily like Matthew Modine’s “Stranger Things” villain).

Ultimately more a curio than a bona fide buried treasure, the forward-thinking production, with its animated opening credits and resourceful use of models, makeup and double exposures, nevertheless serves as a valuable reminder that imagination and creativity needn’t ever be limited by the going technology.

Advertisement

Lyford, incidentally, died in 1985, the same year as fellow innovator Orson Welles, and a year after Spielberg turned in the latest chapter of his own affectionate tribute to serials, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”

‘As the Earth Turns’
Not rated

Running time: 45 minutes

Playing: Starts Oct. 18, Laemmle Glendale


Newsletter
Only good movies

Get the Indie Focus newsletter, Mark Olsen's weekly guide to the world of cinema.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Advertisement