Julie Weston (Barbara Berjer) is a cub reporter for the New York Evening Star. She complains to fellow reporter, Arthur Verrill (Alan Hoelting) that she isn’t being given any stories to cover. To get her out of the way her editor, George Talbot, sends her to the Navel Radio Station at Arlington, to be on hand in case any big stories come in.
Julie sits there bored until an actual message comes in from someone who calls himself PAX (Richard Lyford). The message says that he is the dictator of human destiny and that he wants the war that is currently going on to stop or he will change the rotation of the Earth. The radioman believes that it is a crank message. When Julie brings it to her editor, he too thinks that it is a hoax and ignores it.
PAX continues to send messages instructing the world leaders to stop fighting and end all wars. Each message is ignored so PAX begins altering the world’s weather by altering the Earth’s rotation. PAX creates earthquakes, snow in July, train derailments and other catastrophes throughout the world.
Julie decides to try to find PAX and get her story. Through an unusual event she ends up his prisoner and Arthur and George set out to rescue her.
“As the Earth Turns” was created in 1938 and was written and directed by Richard Lyford. It is an amateur, independent, silent avant-garde science fiction film and one of many that Lyford created. The film was never released and was believed to have been lost for 80 years until it was discovered in 2013 in the basement of the Lyford home by his daughter. She had the film restored and released it to the public in 2019. The film premiered at the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival.
At the time the film was shot, Lyford was twenty. He created nine films by then; “As the Earth Turns” was the ninth. Eventually he went on to work for Walt Disney. Some believe it is a new film made to look like an old-time silent film. Lyman made the film in the late thirties when sound was well established. He was a student who had a fondness for silent films and the silent film era. Even though the movie wasn’t created in the silent era, it is still 80 years old.
The film is loosely based on the 1915 novel "The Man Who Rocked the Earth" by Robert Wood and Arthur Chesney Train.
Some of the miniatures are not too bad considering they were done by an amateur in the late 30’s. The execution of some of the special effects is a little juvenile, but again, they are being done by a 20-year-old student and they look better than some I’ve seen from some poverty row studios. All in all, it was an interesting and fun little film. The project may have started out as an anti-war film, but it could also be looked at as a commentary on climate change in today’s world. Only this time the destruction of the Earth is being done by everyone instead of one mad scientist.
I know of two versions of the film. One has a silent movie type score by Freemake.com to it and the other has a score composed by Ed Hartman. The version with the Ed Hartman score is available on DVD and some streaming services.
Standard silent movie score
Ed Hartman movie score