The stock market has crashed, the economy is failing, there is political turmoil around the world. As much as this sounds like today’s news headlines, this is the the world of a young man in the Pacific Northwest over 80 years ago.
In 1937, in Seattle, a twenty-year old budding filmmaker using his own equipment, had already created 58 plays and 9 never released, award-winning films. This director would go on to work for Disney Studios, and direct and edit a 1950 Academy Award Documentary. Richard H. Lyford’s films have developed a following among film historians since his early “amateur” films are some of the first “indie” films ever created outside of Hollywood. Lyford experimented with special effects, and models, and was becoming an excellent director. His final and most challenging film of this era was “As the Earth Turns”, with a screenplay based on “The Man Who Rocked the Earth” by Arthur Train and Robert Williams Wood, 1915. It was filmed in the Pacific Northwest, in and around Seattle. “As the Earth Turns”, is presented for the first time after 80 years of development! To finish his vision, a professionally mixed orchestral soundtrack, by Pacific Northwest film composer, Ed Hartman has been added to the presentation.
“As the Earth Turns” is a 45 minute, sci-fi film that foresaw WWII, future- technology, climate change, and the extreme need for peace, as the world was drifting back into world war again. The film has been in 121 festivals, and won 135 awards/nominations.
The main character, “PAX” (“Peace” in Latin), is played by Lyford, himself, a scientist who desperately wants peace. He uses climate-changing science to keep mankind from war. The lead actors are both male and female. The lead actress, Barbara Berger (AKA Barbara Berjer) portrays a hard-working newspaper reporter. Her strong character, “Julie Weston” leads the hunt for the villain all the way to the end of the film. Berger had a long career on Broadway and television (ironically including “As the World Turns”).
The acting is dramatic, professional and realistic. Lyford used early homemade FX including controlled dynamite explosions and miniature models similar to those used in “Flash Gordon” (1936 Serial). His make-up work was excellent (he loved Lugosi and horror films) and his framing of the picture is mature and developed. Lyford was very capable of directing his acting troupe, as well. A legendary location in Seattle, “Gasworks” was used for PAX’s lair. The film has similar themes to “Things to Come”(1936), “In Like Flint” (1967), and even a little “Austin Powers” (1997). Some of the dialogue seems to come out of the TV series “Star Trek” (1966), and even “Dr. Strangelove”(1964). The film was shot in B&W, but the last scene was shot color for dramatic purpose, foreshadowing “Wizard of Oz” in 1939.
“As the Earth Turns” is an example of a true “indie” film, completely shot outside of Hollywood. It is an amazing educational film for any filmmaker to learn from. This filmmaking had no sophisticated technology available. It has multiple- exposure
sequences (including a very professional title sequence), “day for night” shooting, simple transitions, and intense editing between live-action and miniature model sequences. Richard Lyford did his best with very limited resources. This film is a great lesson for anyone in media creation, today.
“As the Earth Turns” now available on Amazon. Coming to Turner Classic Movies in the fall of 2020. Other distribution TBA.