My friend Kevin recommended I watch The Day the Earth Stood Still for my classic movie challenge. Though I typically don’t think much of sci fi movies, I gave this one a try and it won me over. Directed by Michael Wise, The Day the Earth Stood Still begins with a cheap-looking spaceship landing on earth in Washington DC. Despite the archaic look of the film, I got pulled in completely. Wise mesmerized me with this very cheap, plain spaceship with its clichéd passengers.
A crowd gathers around the ship and soon Klaatu, the archetypical spaceman emerges. Klaatu’s soon shot and his robot Gort defends his master using laser vision against the army. Klaatu’s taken to the army hospital and observed. Klaatu is played as a very serious, really supercilious figure who’s been given the task of letting the inferior earthlings know that now that they’ve gotten nuclear weapons their squabbling could hurt other planets and these other, higher beings won’t tolerate any activity that can upset their peace. His request to speak with all the world leaders is deflected. Things just don’t work that way on earth.
Klaatu escapes in a stolen business suit and finds a boarding house that will take him in. He befriends Bobby, a boy who’s impressed with Klaatu’s knowledge of science and around novelty. Bobby’s father’s passed away and his mother isn’t so sure about Klaatu, but she’s busy dating her perspective husband so Bobby’s got lots of free time to wander the city and go back to the spaceship with Klaatu. It is all rather hokey, but Klaatu is so smart and so above us. We know he’s right about our wars and “petty squabbles.”
Klaatu gives up on the world leaders and tries to get a renown scientist to organize a big powwow with all the top scientists in the world.
Unfortunately, Bobby’s father-to-be gets jealous of Klaatu and tells the army about him. Soon Klaatu must flee for his life and try to war the world that if we don’t stop our nuclear arms development, the rest of the universe will bake us to a cinder.
There are plenty of amusing quotes, such as:
Reporter: I suppose you are just as scared as the rest of us.
Klaatu: In a different way, perhaps. I am fearful when I see people substituting fear for reason.
George Barley: Why doesn’t the government do something, that’s what I’d like to know.
Mr. Krull: What can they do, they’re only people just like us.
George Barley: People my foot, they’re democrats.
All in all, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a fun movie and its dated aspects just add to the fun.
- The Day the Earth Stood Still won a Golden Globe award in the category of “Best Film to Promote Global Understanding.” Who knew that was a category?
- When Patricia Neal was making the film, she didn’t think much of it and was surprised to learn that it’s regarded as one of the best sci fi movies to date.