But aside from that, this silent film is a gripping watch. While it hues closely to the likes of the Crash Corrigan and Commander Cody serials, it still proves exciting. For one, the themes are as timely as ever, with a focus on man’s inhumanity towards one another and the desecration of the planet. With a few modern updates and tweaks, this story could be told exactly the same today and still strike a chord with the audience.
“…Lyford is not content to keep his camera still.”
Far more importantly is Lyford’s visual flair. The sets are opulent and filled with futuristic (for the time) gizmos, levers, blinking light, and the like. They might look a little dated by today’s standards, but the sheer variety and enormity of them more than make up for that. Lyford’s cinematography is also notable. Taking cues from the likes of Sergei Eisenstein, Lyford is not content to keep his camera still. His movements are in your face, calling attention to the artifice of filmmaking while still engrossing the viewer in the story at hand. Some camera swoops are a bit jerky at times, but overall, it’s quite sophisticated and shows a director with a keen understanding of the power of cinema at such a young age… both for the medium and the filmmaker.
As The Earth Turns is maybe a little too long, and liberally borrows the window dressing of the pop culture titans of its day. But those are small potatoes compared to everything the movie offers to a willing audience. The story is well thought out and exciting, the cinematography is jaw-droppingly perfect, and its themes are just as relevant now as they were in 1938. It is a must-see, beyond even its interesting place in movie history.
"…this story could be told exactly the same today and still strike a chord..."