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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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A friendly warning from outer space

  • Mar 2, 2011
  • by
The biggest stumbling block for me, when watching old movies, are rarely outdated special effects.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 alien visitation became utterly enthralling once Klaatu left his space ship. Michael Rennie as the alien visitor is phenomenal: charming but also subtly menacing, projecting superiority  without appearing arrogant or too judgmental. He's genuinely curious about humanity and wants to help, but he's not playing our little power games. Without Rennie, the movie might have lacked the strong focus to get you through without becoming bored.

Since I watched the remake, I wasn't expecting something surprising at the ending. But the reason for Klaatu visiting Earth was a welcome twist. This wasn't about a morally superior culture passing judgment on Earth (like in the remake), this was a practical warning concerning the executive branch of the local galactic civilization. Not that I actually think the solution for governing peace was good (every automated system can be corrupted), but it was an interesting approach.

So, if you saw the remake and wonder just why anyone thought this was a good idea, try the original. Once you get past the outdated look, it may surprise you.

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March 05, 2011
I've seen this film like 50+ times. There is no "stock footage" the military were fully engaged in it's making. Neal has I think, one scream scene (or is it just a faint?) I am glad that you pointed out pacing. Movies today are frenetic, MTV generation 1/10th second cut scenes that give the illusion the director is doing something, when usually they aren't. I'd go watch it again. Use of light and shadow in this film is just about perfect; pay attention to the wet street scene (when Billy follows Klaatu), the angles chosen when we're looking at the ship parked on the ground. It's just about the perfect film and if you mentally substitute "war on terrorism" for "cold war", I think you'll find that it is extremely relevant
March 02, 2011
I saw the remake and actually quite liked it (check out my review).  I know, I know, I can feel all the folks who saw the original shunning me now! j/k :P  I thought your comparison of modern and classic films is really interesting and I like your comparison of the original vs the remake.  I really need to check this out.  Thanks so much for sharing, Scotoma!
More The Day the Earth Stood Still ... reviews
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, …
review by . February 06, 2001
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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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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