Revisited #5: The Day the Earth Stood Still

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

An extraterrestrial flying saucer is tracked flying around the Earth until it lands on the President’s Park Ellipse in Washington, D.C.. Klaatu (Michael Rennie) emerges, announcing that he has come from outer space on a goodwill mission. When he takes out and opens a small device, Klaatu is shot and wounded by a nervous soldier. In response, Gort, a large humanoid robot, emerges from the ship and begins disintegrating the weapons present with a ray coming from a visor-like structure on its head. Gort continues until Klaatu orders him to stop. Klaatu explains that the now destroyed object was a viewing device, a gift for the President.

Klaatu is taken to an army hospital, where he is found to be physically human, but stuns the doctors with the quickness of his healing. Meanwhile the military attempts to enter Klaatu’s ship, finding it impregnable. Gort stands by, mute and unmoving.

Klaatu reveals to the President’s secretary, Harley (Frank Conroy), that he bears a message so momentous and urgent that it must be revealed to all the world’s leaders simultaneously. Harley tells him that it would be impossible to get all of the world leaders to agree to meet. Klaatu wants to get to know the ordinary people. Harley forbids it and leaves Klaatu locked up under guard.

Klaatu escapes and lodges at a boarding house, assuming the alias “Mr. Carpenter,” the name he finds on the cleaners tag on the suit he “borrowed.” Among the residents are Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), a World War II widow, and her son Bobby (Billy Gray). At breakfast the next morning, during alarming radio reports, Klaatu takes in his fellow boarders’ suspicions and speculations about the alien visit.

While Helen and her boyfriend Tom Stephens (Hugh Marlowe) go on a day trip, Klaatu babysits Bobby. The boy takes Klaatu on a tour of the city, including a visit to his father’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery, where Klaatu is dismayed to learn that most of those buried there were killed in wars. The two visit the heavily guarded spaceship and the Lincoln Memorial. Klaatu, impressed by the Gettysburg Address inscription, queries Bobby for the greatest person living in the world. Bobby suggests a leading American scientist, Professor Jacob Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), who lives in Washington, D.C. Bobby takes Klaatu to Barnhardt’s home, but the professor is absent. Klaatu enters and adds a key mathematical equation to an advanced problem on the professor’s blackboard, and then leaves his contact information with the suspicious housekeeper who attempts to rub out the equation with an eraser although is told not to by Klaatu.

Later, government agents escort Klaatu to see Barnhardt. Klaatu introduces himself and warns the professor that the people of the other planets have become concerned for their own safety after human beings developed atomic power. Klaatu declares that if his message goes unheeded, “Planet Earth will be eliminated.” Barnhardt agrees to arrange a meeting of scientists at Klaatu’s ship and suggests that Klaatu give a demonstration of his power. Klaatu returns to his spaceship the next evening to implement the idea, unaware that Bobby has followed him.

Bobby tells the unbelieving Helen and Tom what has transpired, but not until Tom finds a diamond on the floor of Klaatu’s room do they begin to accept his story. When Tom takes the diamond for appraisal, the jeweler informs him it is unlike any other on Earth.

Klaatu finds Helen at her workplace. She leads him to an unoccupied elevator which mysteriously stops at noon, trapping them together. Klaatu admits he is responsible, tells Helen his true identity, and asks for her help. A montage sequence shows that Klaatu has neutralized all electric power everywhere around the planet except in situations that would compromise human safety, such as hospitals and airplanes.

After the thirty-minute blackout ends, the manhunt for Klaatu intensifies and Tom informs authorities of his suspicions. Helen is very upset by Tom’s betrayal of Klaatu and breaks off their relationship. Helen and Klaatu take a taxi to Barnhardt’s home; en route, Klaatu instructs Helen that, should anything happen to him, she must tell Gort “Klaatu barada nikto”. When they are spotted, Klaatu is shot by military personnel. Helen heads to the spaceship. Gort awakens and kills two guards before Helen can relay Klaatu’s message. Gort gently deposits her in the spaceship, then goes to fetch Klaatu’s corpse. Gort then revives Klaatu while the amazed Helen watches. Klaatu explains that his revival is only temporary; even with their advanced technology, they cannot truly overcome death, that power being reserved for the “Almighty Spirit.”

Klaatu steps out of the spaceship and addresses the assembled scientists, explaining that humanity’s penchant for violence and first steps into space have caused concern among other inhabitants of the universe who have created and empowered a race of robot enforcers including Gort to deter such aggression. He warns that if the people of Earth threaten to extend their violence into space, the robots will destroy Earth, adding, “The decision rests with you.” He enters the spaceship and departs.

REVIEW:

My favorite classic sci-fi film of all time, outside of the holy trilogy, is The Day the Earth Stood Still. Some dumbkopf had the brilliant idea to remake this sparkling gem and accomplished nothing but tarnishing its legacy, prove why remakes should never be made, and making one of my top 5 worst films of all time, and I’ve seen some really bad ones!  As far as I’m concerned, the remake doesn’t exist, but how about the original?

What is this about?

A humanoid envoy (Michael Rennie) from another world lands in Washington, D.C., with a warning to Earth’s people to cease their violent behavior. But panic erupts when a nervous soldier shoots the messenger, and his robot companion tries to destroy the capital. A sci-fi hallmark that offers wry commentary on the political climate of the 1950s, this Golden Globe-winning classic is less concerned with special effects than with its potent message.

What did I like?

Message. Violent ways will be the end of us all, and we need to all get along. That is the basic message of this great film, in my summation. Klaatu gives a great speech at the end that says the same thing ,but I’m not nearly as eloquent or articulate. Much like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this film is a commentary on the attitudes of the era. Sad thing is, both films were released the same year and here it is 61 years later and these attitudes and actions haven’t changed very much. It really is sad when you think about it.

Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. It is often mentioned how actors from this era seemed to be ageless. Well, look at Klaatuu. It is stated rather early in the flick that he is 75, but looks to be in his late 30s, this is because his planet’s science and medicine has advanced so far beyond ours. Michael Rennie, who plays Klaatu, was nearly 50 when this was made and released, yet looked to be in his 30s, whether that was coincidental or not, it is a nice little factoid.

Music. You know that eerie sound you hear in some horror movies and golden age sci films, such as this? That is called a theremin. I believe that it was created as a burglar alarm in Russia. This mysterious instrument is featured heavily in the score, especially the theme. Bernard Hermann’s masterful score really sets the mood for this film.

What didn’t I like?

Hugh. It seems that Hugh Marlowe is always playing the suspicious boyfriend in every film I’ve seen him in. Sure, it may work for him, but I don’t particularly care for it, especially in this film. Yeah, he may have thought he was protecting his prospective fiancée’, but as we see later in the film, he is more out for #1, a feat that is something we see all too often.

Gort. I love Gort. How can you not like a giant robot enforcer with the power to destroy an entire planet? The thing I don’t like about him, though, is that he seems to lumber around like a bad version of Frankenstein. I am taking into consideration this era and all that, but there are Godzilla puppets that moved better than Gort, in my opinion.

Stranger. After escaping from the hospital,Klaatu appears in the doorway of a boarding house. Seeing as how this is the 50s and a boarding house, that wasn’t an issue, but the fact that he doesn’t know much about Earth culture and acts as if he has never seen any of it ever before should have tipped someone off that he might very well have been the alien that everyone was after. A small complaint, though.

Military. When Klaatu arrives, the military is there to meet him, complete with tanks, guns and everything. As he is coming out of his ship, he produces what can be assumed to be a weapon, but turns out to be a present for the president. Without warning, some trigger-happy soldier shoots it out of his hand injuring him in the process. As it is said later in the film, the slightest act of aggression will send Gort into action. Basically, it comes down to this…that stupid soldier could very well have caused the end of the world. He’s just lucky Klaatu was able to stop Gort. This is a common problem with military in alien movies. They act way too soon!

The Day the Earth Stood Still is an immortal sci-fi classic, proven so by the fact that its central them still resonates today. Yes, you can say its a bit  dated, but come on people, this was made in the early 50s. The technology wasn’t there back then, so get over it! This is a film that I highly recommend you see ASAP. It is most definitely in my top films of all time, and I’m sure you will feel the same!

5 out of 5 stars

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10 Responses to “Revisited #5: The Day the Earth Stood Still”

  1. […] the deal with the shoot first attitude of the military? Did they not learn anything from watching The Day the Earth Stood Still, Mars Attacks, amongst numberous other alien flicks where they shot first and regretted it […]

  2. […] nations of the world and their inability to work together. The same kind of message can be found in The Day the Earth Stood Still. However, this film is more direct about it, as opposed to alluding to it. Don’t get me […]

  3. […] this flick has the feel of films such as Plan 9 from Outer Space, The Brain from Planet Arous, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, while still maintaining its own identity and charm. Filmed in 2001 and set in 1961, the filmmakers […]

  4. […] causing the near destruction of Earth, even though the alien came on a peacekeeping mission, as in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Until the last few scenes of this film, the military is nowhere to be found. I guess European […]

  5. […] film I’ve “bashed” them in, they are the ersatz bad guys. Last night I watched The Day the Earth Stood Still again and, again I have to say this, the military shot Klatuu as he was getting out of his ship […]

  6. […] you have all heard it before, especially if you’ve watched classic alien sci-fi stuff such as The Day the Earth Stood Still or listened to the theme from the original Star Trek series. Man, I love how they incorporated such […]

  7. […] have today, making this perhaps the most relevant picture from this era I’ve watched since The Day the Earth Stood Still, if not […]

  8. […] that she was able to do the romantic stuff because the only other thing I’ve seen her in is The Day the Earth Stood Still. The main character in there is devoid of emotions and the man she starts out in a relationship with […]

  9. […] in actuality, he’s only out for himself. The best example of this would be his character in The Day the Earth Stool Still. Keeping that in mind, it is a nice change of pace to see him as a “good guy” for […]

  10. […] quote Michael Rennie in The Day the Earth Stood Still, “Klaatu barada […]

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