A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 279 – The Day the Earth Froze

The Day the Earth Froze – December 4th, 2010

Some time back we first saw this movie as an MST3K episode, and it seemed a little odd and poorly dubbed and there was the question of what a Sampo was, but we didn’t think much of it beyond that. Until! We realized that it was actually an adaptation of The Kalevala, the Finnish national epic poem. You know, the poem J.R.R. Tolkien was an expert on and claims to have been inspired by when writing The Silmarillion? And ever since then I’ve enjoyed the MST3K episode, but really paid a lot more attention to the movie itself.

Sadly, the US version is severely truncated. It’s quite short and it’s missing a number of scenes, bringing the running time down to just under 70 minutes. The credits were mucked with and the original cast and crew names replaced with fake ones. It’s very frustrating, but this is the version we could get our hands on in a language we know. We got it as part of a set with two movies on one disc. The other is The Magic Voyage of Sinbad (also done by MST3K) and the two movies don’t have their own running times listed. Instead the back of the box states “Approx. 145 Minuts of Sheer Wonderment”. And really? That is no lie. These are great movies.

Of course, this was made in the late 1950s and was a co-production out of Finland and the Soviet Union, so I guess it’s to be expected that when it showed up in the US in 1962 it would be missing some scenes and the credits would be decidedly Americanized. And the time period it’s from definitely shows in the film quality. There’s a certain feel to the Russian fantasies I’ve seen from the 1950s/1960s, and thanks to MST3K I’ve seen a few. It’s something that might be an acquired taste, but if so, I’ve acquired it. Really, when you look at the movie it’s got fairly high production values. There are elaborate costumes and sets and the special effects are fairly decent. I am fully willing to agree with the box’s claim of sheer wonderment here. Yes, it’s dated and horribly cut down from its original format, but it’s decently made, all things considered, and I do truly enjoy the story.

If you aren’t familiar with the Kalevala, I highly recommend taking a look and reading about it. My personal favorite version is The Canine Kalevala by Mauri and Tarja Kunnas, but I’ve got a soft spot for their style. Being an epic poem, it’s really quite long. This movie (and the book I mentioned above) are very much shortened versions telling only select portions of the story, but when there aren’t a bunch of guys talking over the dialogue it does make sense, I swear.

In the happy land of Kalevala lives a young woman named Annikki. Her brother, a smith named Ilmarinen, has the power to make a magical item called a Sampo. The Sampo can produce salt, flour, gold and many other wonders, but it can only be forged once Annikki falls in love. Unfortunately for the people of Kalevala, as soon as Annikki falls in love with a man named Lemminkainen, the wicked witch of Pohjola, Louhi, kidnaps her in order to force Ilmarinen to make the Sampo for the people of Pohjola. Ilmarinen does so and he and Lemminkainen and Annikki escape, but Lemminkainen returns to Pohjola to destroy the Sampo, since Louhi will only use it for evil. Louhi vows revenge and steals the sun and then there’s a big battle with music that puts the bad guys to sleep.

See? That’s a coherent plot, and there’s a lot that goes on within it. The witch has various winds held prisoner in sacks in a cave and keeps them until she needs them in battle. Ilmarinen makes all sorts of things that aren’t supposed to be forged, like boats and horses. There are tasks to be completed and quests to go on. The people of Kalevala band together to defeat Louhi by means other than force and in the middle of it all there’s Annikki and Lemminkainen’s wedding. I really wish we had an uncut version of this so we could see more of the plot and the lands of Kalevala and Pohjola.

Given that I would never go into this movie expecting slick special effects and all, I don’t really have many complaints. No, the performances of some of the cast aren’t that great but I’m willing to give them a pass as they could be obscured by poor film quality and heavy-handed dubbing. Visual expression is important and all, but without knowing the verbal expression from the original, I refuse to condemn the performances. They’re perfectly decent for a fantasy adventure movie from the 1950s. Everything, for me, is perfectly decent. It’s fun. And maybe I’m biased because I’d already seen this on MST3K and enjoyed it there and knew what to expect, but I don’t care. I like this movie. It’s got a charm to it that I love and it’s telling a story I find really fascinating. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s mine.

December 4, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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