Quick Netflix review: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)

Starring: Michael Rennie (THE LOST WORLD [1960], and TV shows: 1 episode of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. [1967] and 2 episodes of BATMAN [1966]), Patricia Neal (FLYING BY [2009], COOKIE’S FORTUNE [1999], and BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S [1961]), and Billy Gray (TV shows I SPY and FATHER KNOWS BEST).

Support: Sam Jaffe (BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS [1971], BEN-HUR [1959], and TV show BEN CASEY) and Hugh Marlowe (ALL ABOUT EVE [1950], TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH [1949], and TV show ANOTHER WORLD)

Director: Robert Wise (STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE [1979], THE SOUND OF MUSIC [1965], and THE HAUNTING [1963]). Screenwriter: Edmund H. North (PATTON [1970] and SINK THE BISMARCK! [1960]). Composer: Bernard Herrmann (PSYCHO [1998 / 1960], TAXI DRIVER [1976], and CITIZEN KANE [1941]). Cinematographer: Leo Tover (JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH [1959] and THE GREAT GATSBY [1926]).

(SUMMARY)

Klaatu (Michael Rennie) is an alien humanoid visitor that mysteriously arrives on Earth with his intimidating guardian robot, Gort. When Klaatu disembarks his space ship, he’s met with hostility from the American soldiers. His injuries are minor, but wastes no time in mentioning that he’s on Earth with a specific purpose: to talk to every world leader. However, the politics are too complicated and it’s not immediately possible. In order to understand the world he’s arrived in, he escapes confinement, and finds shelter in a boarding house and befriends Helen (Patricia Neal) and her young son, Bobby (Billy Gray), who think he’s a government agent.

(REVIEW)

Sometimes, I really hate how my primitive teen and child mind was so averted to black and white films because there a wealth of great films to witness.

Before you ask, yes, I saw the remake well before I saw the original. I don’t remember whether or not I liked it. I just knew I liked Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly, but I can’t say anything about the movie itself. I know everyone says it sucked, but I haven’t revisited the film since 2008.

But enough about the remake no one cares about. Let’s talk about the original! It’s so super… fantastically… not bad. I can see why this is a sci-fi classic and I agree. It’s a good movie and it’s worth checking out. There’s great atmosphere, a thick sense of ominous mystery. Because Klaatu never reveals his intentions for being on Earth until the end of the film, so you never what’s going on in his mind the entire time. He’s written so well and Rennie’s performance is so pitch perfect, that you never truly believe that he means harm, but his agenda is never far from our minds. And plus that ambiguous ending? Probably one of the most effective that I’ve seen in a very long time.

Some things don’t work for me. Obviously, it’s the 50’s, so Klaatu’s space suit looks cheap as hell, but that’s a just a product of the time, so I can’t complain too badly. I do complain about some of the writing, which wasn’t thought through very well. Like, Klaatu’s very arrival. I don’t know, maybe this was just the mindset at the time, but if you’re an alien suddenly arriving at another planet without either an invitation or some kind of heads up, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that humans would have reacted as they did: by shooting him out of fear. What the hell did he think was going to happen?!

***SPOILERS***

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And why does he think that this world was that politically united? Here’s what I mean, he’s here to talk to all the world about their atomic bombs and progress in space ships of their own. Klaatu’s people’s math is that we humans will take our bombs to space and bomb other planets. We’re a hostile race, after all. The point I’m trying to make is that he thinks it’s that easy to talk to the entire planet at once. Once realizing that it’s not that easy, why not just talk to the world leaders individually? He’s been traveling for light years. It’s a safe bet that he’s got some time on his hands to tell Earth to shape up and grow up.

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***END SPOILERS***

All in all, as much as I prattle on about my issues with the story, they’re pretty minuscule by comparison to how well executed the rest of the film is. I may not be on the band wagon that claims it to be one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. It doesn’t have the excitement of Star Wars or the unbelievable sets of METROPOLIS (1927), but it’s got great commentary, especially for the time period (Cold War), fantastic acting and character relationships, it’s a definite joy if you’re a sci-fi junkie like myself.

My honest rating for THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951): a strong 4/5

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When did Gort carry a hot blond anywhere? Patricia Neal is brunette! :/
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