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The Day the Earth Stood Still

1951 science fiction film about an alien visitor who comes to Earth with a message.

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Day the Earth stood still – “Klaatu barada nikto”

  • Feb 6, 2001
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 causes and sincere individuals. At the time the world was quaking under the umbrella of nuclear threat from our opposing nations, bomb shelters were popping up all over the place, well, all under the place, and although we feared for our lives it was from nations and peoples other than ours, we opened our doors to strangers. Now, quite the opposite is true – we fear our neighbors, we don’t answer our doors, we would prefer the nuclear attack as opposed to sitting in our living rooms and become a drive-by shooting victim. But that is now ….. this was then!

Sunning in a park in Washington, D.C., picnickers are suddenly threatened by the awesome sight of a huge flying saucer hovering over the city. Running in panic from the spectacle, the ship lands and our interplanetary hero disembarks and utters …..”I come in peace”….. we shoot him of course. Out of the spaceship glides the mighty Gort, robot to beat all robots! His one eye slides open and shoots out a ray dissolving all those pesky tanks and guns being pointed at Klaatu, the fallen hero, who miraculously rises to his feet and is approached by our governing forces.

Whisked off to the hospital (probably Walter Reed, isn’t that the popular movie hospital in DC?), Klaatu undergoes a remarkable recovery. A representative from the President visits him, inquiring his intentions. Well, I thought he pretty much stated that from the beginning, but I guess we weren’t listening, but after all this is Washington, who listens? Klaatu demands that leaders from the world over meet with him at one time so we can deliver his message.

Now according to Klaatu (by the way, played by Michael Rennie), his planet has been observing our world for centuries. He should realize that this just isn’t gonna happen, but he insists he will divulge no information unless he has all concerned together at the same time. Aggravated at the reluctance of world powers to meet with him, he skidattles outta that hospital as soon as he can and wanders the streets, observing Americans in their natural habitat.

Coming across a boarding house, he enters and requests a room. This house is run by Patricia Neal and her precocious son, Billy Gray. A friendship between Gray and Klaatu emerges, although Gray is not aware that Klaatu is Klaatu, thinking he is instead just a nice man staying at momma’s house. Gray, in all his young wisdom, takes Klaatu to meet up with one of the leading scientists around, Sam Jaffe. Jaffe is out when they arrive, Klaatu notices a long but unfinished mathematical equation on Jaffe’s chalkboard, and finishes it for him. Of course, Jaffe is hot to meet up with Klaatu after that, you can bet your bippie!

Jaffe is able to do something that the Washington big wigs couldn’t accomplish, he gathers together all the scientific heads of state, world wide, to meet with Klaatu. Of course, Earthlings are dubious of the information Klaatu is giving, saying posh and pfffft and pretending he isn’t speaking truths.

sitting on the sidelines
Several things of merit remain, these 50 years later (geez…..50 years!). Earth powers still cannot gather in a room together and make a decision that will better the world and those in it. The quality and message of the film is as relevant as it was when released, and yet we still ignore the message today!

Some of the dialogue may seem over done and outrageous. Everyone is so intensely sincere and serious. The cinematography was fairly decent for such an old release and holds up well even today, and the continuity stayed pretty true from one idea to another. Some of the ideas were a little far-fetched, but that was a whole different time in the world.

Klaatu’s password, which he gave to Patricia Neal, is one of the most recognized and repeated blurps from moviedom “Klaatu barada nikto”, but we never find out what it means.

Neals performance was predictable for the times and little Billy Gray was just as cute and sincere as could be. Jaffe (was he always old?) makes a perfect wizened old scientist and Michael Rennie actually looks like a space alien, so there!

Directed by Robert Wise, produced by Julian Blaustein, written by Edmund North based on a story by Harry Bates, cinematographer Leo Tover.


Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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January 15, 2011
nice review, Susi, I liked this one but I admit the movie hasn't aged well at all. Thanks for the review!!
January 20, 2011
Oh, and Scotman, it is all about different strokes for different folks--I liked this one for what it is, but honestly, it may not stand up to the test of time. Thanks!
More The Day the Earth Stood Still ... reviews
review by . March 02, 2011
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 …
review by . December 30, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
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, …
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Susi Dawson ()
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The Day the Earth Stood Still
is a
1951 black-and-white science fiction film that tells the story of a humanoid alien visitor who comes to Earth with a warning. The film stars Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Sam Jaffe, and Hugh Marlowe, under the direction of Robert Wise. Screenwriter Edmund H. North based the screenplay on the 1940 Harry Bates' short story "Farewell to the Master." The score was composed by Bernard Herrmann and used two theremin electronic instruments. The film is often considered by movie historians to be one of the classics of the science-fiction genre.Wikipedia page for 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still
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