By Rene A. Henry
I just watched a movie that was 80 years in the making. “As the Earth Turns” was thoroughly enjoyable and I highly recommend this film. I especially recommend it for devotees of silent movies, sci-fi fans, movie historians, and those who loved Mel Brooks’ “Silent Movie” in 1976 and “The Artist” that won five Oscars in 2012 including best picture.
Thanks to Kim Lyford Bishop this once silent film has become a reality with outstanding music. The story about her family and how she brought this film to screen is as interesting as the movie itself. Her great uncle, Richard H. Lyford, was an award-winning movie maker in Seattle in the 1930s. When she acquired the rights to all of his film archives, she found this movie, in particular, that was thought to be lost. She then had the old 16mm film digitized but then took no other action.
A couple of years later she decided to take drum lessons and went to Edmund Hartman who taught had taught her son. When she learned how Hartman had added music to a number of old films and contemporary videos, the two collaborated to add music and finished her great uncle’s movie. Hartman not only wrote and scored but performed the music which is outstanding. Bishop and Hartman also are Seattle natives.
“As the Earth Turns” is a story is about a slightly mad scientist who was obsessed with seeking world peace and to end a war in Europe. Named Pax, the scientist built a machine to cause severe climate change including flooding the Sahara Desert and creating earthquakes in every nation around the globe. He sent advance warnings to the president of the U.S. to take leadership action and warn the other world leaders that there were would be severe climate change until there was global peace. When Pax’s wireless messages were dismissed by the White House as a hoax he responded with a snowstorm in July in Washington, DC. The viewer will have to see the movie to see how it continues and ends.
Bishop said her uncle was well-read and adapted his movie theme from a 1915 book “The Man Who Rocked the World” by Arthur Train and Robert Williams Wood. The book warned of nuclear war and the U.S. involvement in the first World War. The authors even predicted the second World War.
As a filmmaker, Lyford did everything: producing, filming, editing and directing, and even playing the character of Pax in the movie. He also designed and built a futuristic airplane and created all of the title sequences. He did all of his work in his basement and had a complete workshop where he built the models and miniature sets and also created small explosions. In the 1930’s he had no computer to help with special effects so he created many using double and triple exposures. His accomplishments as an independent film make producing nine films in that era was remarkable.
This film was Lyford’s last effort. Since there was no film industry in Seattle he moved to Southern California and went to work for Disney. Among the many films, he worked on were “Pinocchio,” “Fantasia,” and “Dumbo.” The story about Lyford and his family is as interesting as his films.
The rights for the movie and all of Lyford’s archives from the 1930s to the 1950s were transferred to Bishop’s company 8th Sense Productions, LLC, by his son Christopher. They met at the memorial service for her father who was killed in a vintage car race. Christopher, who lived in Kansas, was aware of her interest in his father’s work. Since then Christopher Lyford and Ed Hartman have been collaborating on telling Richard’s story and Bishop has transferred her production company and all rights to the films to Hartman.
“As the Earth Turns” is now in distribution. Be sure to put it on a “must see” list when it comes to your city. It has been featured in 121 film festivals and received 135 awards and nominations including 34 for best score for the music.