A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Day the Earth Froze

December 4, 2010

The Day the Earth Froze

Amanda and I own a number of movies that we were first introduced to through Mystery Science Theater 3000. We’ve already reviewed the completely lost and forgotten but actually quite good space western Moon Zero Two. We also own the Italian super thief adventure film Danger: Diabolik, and several of the Russo/Finnish co-productions that were featured on MST3K. Unlike some of the fodder for Joel, Mike and the bots these are not actually bad movies, just odd. They are fantastic tales of myth and wonder with impressive special effects for the time and a rich color presentation. We have The Sword and the Dragon, and The Magic Voyage of Sinbad, and we’re looking forward to reviewing Father Frost (aka Jack Frost) as part of our x-mas marathon of reviews later this month. And there’s this movie.

The Day the Earth Froze was my introduction to the Finnish oral folklore that was compiled by Elias Lonnrot into the Kalevala. It’s a tale of ancient magics that has a lot of moments that are very identifiably folk-tale elements. For example, there’s the scene where Lemminkainen’s mother tries to discover the fate of her son. She consults a birch tree, then she asks the road, then she asks the sun itself. This sort of thing is very much in keeping with the way I have always heard fairy tales and folk tales told – in keeping with the rule of threes and with anthropomorphized forces of nature. I don’t actually know much about the Kalevala aside from the fact that it was a strong inspiration to J.R. R. Tolkien, who said when he wrote the Lord of the Rings series that he wanted to create an English folk history of a kind after he had translated a version of the Kalevala from Finnish.

The plot here involves a struggle between two groups to acquire the legendary “mill of everything” – the Sampo. On the one side we have the rustic and hard working people of Kalevala, represented by the mighty legendary smith Ilmarinen and his lovely sister Annikki. Legend tells that when Annikki is wed this will be the time when it is foretold that Ilmarinen may forge the Sampo. Along comes the charismatic Lemminkainen – a woodsman from deep in the forest who falls in love with Annikki. Sadly, Ilmarinen cannot forge the Sampo at this time because the only fire he can use to do this legendary task has been stolen by the evil witch Louhi, who soon after kidnaps Annikki to force Ilmarinen to forge the Sampo for her.

Ilmarinen and Lemminkainen travel to the land of Pohjola to confront Louhi – but before they can have Annikki back they must undertake some impossible tasks. Lemminkainen must plow a field which is covered by venomous snakes. (Ilmarinen forges a metal horse to accomplish this task.) Then their boat is smashed and so Ilmarinen forges a metal one (this is a theme for him.) Finally they must forge the legendary Sampo and leave it in the hands of Louhi if they want Annikki back.

After the three of them leave Pohjola Lemminkainen sneaks back and breaks the Sampo, angering Louhi. As a result the witch in retaliation steals the sun from the sky during Lemminkainen’s wedding to Annikki, plunging the land of Kalevala into darkness. So the movie is more than three quarters over before it gets to the actual day the Earth froze. After this the people of Kalevala invade Pohjola in an assault using harps and music which I think must have partially been the inspiration for the Yellow Submarine movie. Music overcomes all evil and love reigns supreme.

That’s a lot of high-fantasy stuff to cram into a movie which is, in the American dubbed version we own, just over an hour long. I very much wish we had the Russian version of the film, which is almost a half hour longer according to IMDB. As it is, there’s a whole lot of magic and myth in this movie. So much that it’s almost overwhelming. I do love a great fantasy film, however, and this is certainly that if nothing else. The acting is pretty wooden throughout, the only really great performance being that of Anna Orochko as the witch Louhi. She glares and grimaces and looms over all of her minions, as well as having most of the best parts of the movie.

I wonder how different my experience of this movie would be if I hadn’t first seen it, many many times, on MST3K. It’s a fascinating fantasy film with a strong story and a lot of magic and adventure. In my head, however, I can’t help hearing Joel and the bots making fun of it. A couple of times as we watched it tonight Amanda and I found ourselves quoting the MST3K riffs, because they’re simply part of the movie in our minds. It’s like trying to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show for itself without the audience participation and floor show. They’re simply inextricable after a few dozen viewings. I can recognize that it’s a great film, but I don’t think I will ever know it the way it would be for somebody who saw it by itself.

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

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