Though released almost sixty years ago in 1951, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is a sci-fi and cinema classic that still holds up incredibly well. The film has had a huge impact upon popular culture and many elements in the film, e.g. the groundbreaking score, are now staples of the sci-fi genre.
The movie opens with worldwide warnings of an object hurling towards Earth. The object turns out to be a spaceship that lands in a field in Washington, D.C. The military, police officers, emergency personnel, and casual spectators surround the ship to see what will happen. A door opens in the spacecraft and a human-like creature walks out. The creature claims to come in peace and begins to take out a device from his suit. A fearful soldier shoots the creature and he falls to the ground wounded. From the spaceship a giant robot, named Gort, emerges and proceeds to destroy all the weapons in the area. He stops at the alien's command. The robot freezes and no one is able to move him from his place. Meanwhile, the alien is taken to a hospital. It is learned that the alien's name is Klaatu and he has come to Earth to deliver a vital message to the leaders of the world. Unfortunately, the world is an imperfect place and many of the world's leaders refuse to come to Washington, D.C. to hear what Klaatu has to say. So, he takes things into his own hands and escapes from the hospital. Very few people know what Klaatu looks like and he is able to blend in with the populace. He takes up residence at a local boarding house and takes the name of Mr. Carpenter. Klaatu attempts to complete his mission, but also befriends Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), a widowed mother, and her son, Bobby (Billy Gray).
Though some modern viewers might find THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL quaint, the film was exceptionally well done. The movie is notable for it's memorable images, e.g. Gort chasing after Helen Benson, and groundbreaking score by Bernard Herrman (the movie was one of the first to use theremins, an instrument that soon became common place in sci-fi musical scores). The movie withstood the test of time to become a classic piece of filmmaking and science fiction, it still holds up incredibly well today. Not only that, but despite not having many of the particulars that audiences seem to clamor for today: tons of special effects, excessive violence, gratuitous sexuality, etc.; the movie can still captivate an audience. In short, it's a film that people of all ages and from all walks of life can watch and enjoy today. "Klaatu barada nikto." And for those of you with a keen eye, look for Frances Bavier (best known as Aunt Bea on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW) as Mrs. Barley, one of the residents of the boarder house that Klaatu moves into.
The DVD includes all kinds of extra features including a commentary by Robert Wise, a 70-minute documentary entitled "Making the Earth Stand Still", a Movietone Newsreel that includes a spot with Gort, restoration comparatives between the original film and restored versions of the movie, still galleries, the shooting script, original theatrical trailer, and trailers for ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. and JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. I particularly enjoyed the "Making the Earth Stand Still" documentary. I learned a great deal about the movie that I had never known or thought about before. For instance, though the parallels are rather apparent, I had never picked up on the Christian allegorical elements of the film. I also found it fascinating that Lock Martin, the giant of a man who portrayed Gort, was rather feeble.
The biggest stumbling block for me, when watching old movies, are rarely outdated special effects. What's much more distracting is pacing. Modern viewers have been conditioned to expect a non-stop stream of stuff happening. That doesn't always mean relentless action sequences, even dramas these days feels fast-paced compared to old movies. Despite not being the most patient viewer, I was pleasantly surprised by TDTESS . It's unique mix of cold war paranoia and … more
Pros: Had a message to spread Cons: We still don't heed it The Bottom Line: Ok to watch when there isn't anything else to do. Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot. Guess I had this confused with War of the Worlds when I started viewing it, but quickly remembered the story once that 900 tall robot sidled out of the space ship. This was released in 1951 is one of those grainy movies full of … more