The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Article #173 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 9-5-2001
Posting date: 1-19-2002

An emissary from outer space and his robot visit Earth in order to deliver a message. The hostile reception he receives and lack of cooperation from the government causes him to go undercover to deliver his message.

This is one of those movies that I’ve seen so many times that I’m a little bored with it anymore. But if I’ve overwatched, I can only remind myself that was because of the pleasure I received from my earlier viewings of it. I still consider it a great film, with fine direction by Robert Wise, and good performances by Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Sam Jaffe and the rest. It’s filled with memorable scenes and stunning images; the saucer landing in Washington D.C., the ramp sliding out of the saucer, the first appearances of both Klastu and Gort, Gort’s destruction of the army’s weapons, Klaatu’s first appearance at the boarding house, the visit to the study of Dr. Bernhardt during which Klaatu corrects his calculations, Helen’s delivery of the message “Klaatu barada nikto” to Gort, and the final speech. I can understand the concern some people have with the fascistic undertones in the speech, and in truth, some of Klaatu’s actions do indeed increase the sense of dread rather than allay it, but ultimately I find the other elements of the movie more compelling. The movie levels some nice critiques on the small-mindedness of government, the sensationalism of the media, and the way fear can rule the lives of those who let it control them—critiques that are both timely and timeless. There’s definitely a lot of food for thought in this movie.


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