“The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951)

Note that I saw the original Day the Earth Stood Still (not the recent remake), shown by Take-Up Productions at the Heights Theater. After a space ship lands on the White House lawn, a man claiming to be from space emerges and says he needs to speak to the world leaders.

Klaatu: I am fearful when I see people substituting fear for reason.

When Klaatu is told his request is impossible–how can all the nations agree on anything?–and imprisoned, he escapes to find a way to get his message of peace to the Earth. He stays in a boarding house where he meets a single mother and her son. When Klaatu is threatened, his protector robot, Gort, in turn threatens the Earth. The mother and her son must find a way to prevent this.

This is a great movie, a classic, and one I’m sorry I hadn’t seen till now. The look is impressive, and the tension and threat of the story are palpable. Bernard Hermann, better known for his work with Hitchcock, used theremins to foster uneasiness in the viewer. Additionally, this is a referent for so many science-fiction works that came after it. Gort looks very much like a prototypical Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, and I now understand the reference in Evil Dead to “Klaatu Barada Nikto”.

I think this will be a good movie to watch with my 3 and 6yo kids when they’re a little older, as a discussion starter for things like national violence and racism.

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