Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Year: 1951
Director: Robert Wise
Screenplay: Edmund H. North, based on the short story "Farewell to the Master" by Harry Bates
Starring: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Billy Gray, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe, Frances Bavier
Running Time: 92 minutes
Genre: Science-fiction

Summary: An alien spacecraft lands in the middle of Washington D.C. It's occupants are the humanoid Klaatu (Rennie) and large robot Gort (Lock Martin). Upon producing a strange looking device, Klaatu is shot and wounded by a nervous soldier. It turns out that the device was not a weapon but an interstellar communicator, intended as a gift for the President.
In hospital Klaatu tries to impress upon his official visitors that he has an urgent message to deliver to all the people of the Earth. However, they refuse to listen to him. Klaatu escapes, hoping to familiarise himself with Earth's people and customs. He moves into a small boarding house where he befriends widow Helen Benson (Neal) and her young son Bobby (Gray).
While Gort and the spacecraft stand immobile, resistant to any attempts at destruction or study, Klaatu finds himself the subject of a nationwide manhunt and desperate to find a way to make the people of the Earth listen to his urgent warning before the human race suffers complete annhiliation.

Opinions: This film is one of the classic science-fiction films and is one of the most influential of it's type ever made. Released during the Cold War period, this film is notable for it's fierce denunciation of militarism and paranoia. In this film the alien is not hostile, but benevolent, however he is treated with nothing but aggression from humanity.
The acting is impressive by all concerned, with Rennie in particular striking as the noble Klaatu.
A powerful and serious-minded film this has stood the test of time much better than many of other films of the period, and in many ways is still as pertinent now as it was when it was released. Many of the images and lines of the film have passed into cinema folklore.
The film has quite strong religious symbolism, which at times is hammered home a little too strongly.
This is essential viewing not just for science-fiction fans but for anyone seriously interested in cinema.
The film was remade in 2008.

"Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!"
-Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) in The Day the Earth Stood Still

Lock Martin, Patricia Neal and Michael Rennie in The Day the Earth Stood Still

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