Classic Cinema Spotlight: The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)


One of my favorite classic sci-fi films happens to be The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) starring Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal. It is based on a short story from 1940 called Farewell to the Master.

The 1950's had an abundance of sci-fi films but this one just stands apart from the others. The gist of the film is that a humanoid alien visits Earth with his robot companion, Gort (Lock Martin), to deliver an important message to humanity. Now what makes this film so special is the way the message was delivered and simply the way this alien finds himself walking among us.

The alien is named Klaatu (Rennie) and he makes no qualms about being an alien or the way he portrays himself. He does this by literally landing on a patch of grass in Washington, D.C. I mean he could have been sneaky about his arrival but rather than playing games he approaches the humans honestly. Unfortunately he gets shot upon arrival by a nervous solider and is placed in a hospital.

He eventually escapes and begins to search of the smartest scientist around in order to help get his message to humanity. But before he does he finds lodging at a boarding house and meets a woman named Helen (Neal) and her son Bobby (Billy Gray). After spending time with Bobby and getting to know Helen he begins to understand the fears of humans and also sees the tendency of violence via the amount of dead accrued from wars.

The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Day the Earth Stood Still

What makes this alien so different from the ones seen in classic sci-fi films is that he was calm, focused, and gentle in demeanor. He wasn't visiting to bring harm but to warn the people of Earth that if they bring their wars and violence to space and beyond that other worlds will not stand for it.

The end is just a massively poetic scene. Rennie is out of this world as Klaatu and so believable as a man from another world. The robot Gort is unique in that the actor that portrays him was 7 ft 7 inches tall!! No CGI or special affects needed there! Of course there are a few typical cheesy sci-fi moments but you have to remember that this was 1951.

I found this film to be so refreshing because you see so little violence and you get to see the world through an outsiders (Klaatu) eyes. You see humanity through a point of view from one that is on the outside looking in.

If you enjoy sci-fi or adventure films then I believe you would love this one. It is currently available on Netflix via streamline.

Have you seen this film before? Or the remake? What do you think about 1950's sci-fi?

I leave you with these final words, "Klaatu barada nikto".

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1 comment :

  1. This is one of my favorite movies! I love that it is more dialogue than action. They made a remake of it a few years back with Keanu Reeves as Klaatu and it just didn't have the appeal of the old one for me. It was mostly special effects and the deeper meaning wasn't the same. Nice to hear someone else appreciates the old version!


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