As The Earth Turns was written, shot, and edited by 20-year-old Richard Lyford… back in 1938. Lyford is probably best known for his work at Disney, such as being the assistant director on Dumbo and his Academy Award-winning documentaries. But, he was also an experimental filmmaker, churning out several avant-garde films that were never released. Many of them were believed to be lost until they were recently discovered in the long-time Seattle resident’s old home.
This is where this 46-minute silent heady, sci-fi-thriller enters the scene. As The Earth Turns follows journalist Julie Weston (Barbara Berger), who is chomping at the bit to be put on a “real story.” The editor humors her and sends her to an army base to pick up any news transmissions from ships that update to that location. He knows that only one or two ships do that, so it should prove a dull job.
“…Pax has watched humans destroy the Earth and each other and now demands they make peace…”
But, as Julie awaits news at the base, a mysterious message is received. The message is about how the mysterious sender, known only as Pax (Richard Lyford), has watched humans destroy the Earth and each other and now demands they make peace, or else. To prove that he, she, or it has the power to make good on those threats, Pax increases the day’s length by five minutes. Now, Julie and the armed forces need to discover the identity of the maniac holding the world hostage.
Lyford died in 1985, so knowing precisely how he wanted the final form of As The Earth Turns to look. While the released version is a bit long, there is plenty to enjoy. First, there are one or two too many long scenes of the characters’ searching for Pax’s hidden location. It throws off the momentum the first 15-minutes carefully builds and that the final ten pays off well.
"…this story could be told exactly the same today and still strike a chord..."