In 1938, 20-year-old filmmaker Richard H. Lyford directed and starred in As the Earth Turns, a science-fiction silent movie about a mad scientist who purposely induces climate change as a way to end world violence.
But the 45-minute film became "lost," only to resurface 80 years later, in 2018, when Lyford's grandniece, Kim Lyford Bishop, discovered it. (After creating the film, Lyford went on to work at Disney and earn an Oscar for the 1950 documentary "The Titan: Story of Michelangelo.")
Bishop then asked music composer Ed Hartman, who was her daughter's percussions teacher, to score it.
Although "As the Earth Turns" was finally released in 2019 and took part in 123 film festivals, it will finally premiere on television on Halloween night, this Sunday on Turner Classic Movies at 9pm PST (watch trailer below).
From The Seattle Times:
Intrigued by the project, Hartman dived in: creating an orchestral score, incorporating newly found scenes, becoming producer of the film, directing a short documentary to accompany it ("It Gets In Your Blood," about Lyford's life and work). Appropriately, "As the Earth Turns" made its theatrical debut right here at home, at the Egyptian Theatre as part of the Seattle International Film Festival in 2019. Since then, it's appeared at 123 film festivals, leading up to the Turner Classic Movies showing.
"We're always interested in new discoveries and in showcasing lost films," said Charlie Tabesh, TCM senior vice president of programming, in an email. "Not only is it a fascinating film with a wonderful score by Ed, but the director, Richard Lyford, went on to work on special effects at Disney. Ultimately it's a small piece of film history that I think TCM viewers will appreciate."
"As the Earth Turns" is the work of an exuberant, ambitious young man: Lyford wrote, directed and shot the film, and managed to corral a stable of actors and crew to capture his vision. You can see his fascination with the craft of filmmaking: Lyford experiments with miniatures and models (then used in Hollywood films, and a remarkable accomplishment for a barely-out-of-his-teens hobbyist), explosions, earthquakes and special makeup effects, all on a budget of next to nothing.
Here is the trailer, which was released by Harman in 2018: