‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ is a movie that Arthur C. Clarke thought was better than ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ – a movie that he penned! That’s certainly saying something, right?
Directed by Robert Wise, known for directing ‘West Side Story’ and ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ was hugely successful and considered one of the best films of 1951. The film was written by Edmund H. North (who won an Academy Award for co-writing ‘Patton’ with Francis Ford Coppola) and it’s today’s Throwback Thursday, a column where ScienceFiction.com looks at sci-fi classics of the past.
Before Angelina Jolie flaunted those prominent cheekbones in ‘Maleficent’, actor Michael Rennie was the high cheekbone master when he took on the role of Klaatu, a humanoid that pays a visit to Earth. With the knowledge that Washington, D.C. was the ideal place to land, a flying saucer carrying Klaatu and his traveling partner, a brawny robot named Gort (Lock Martin), docks in President’s Park. Klaatu disembarks the saucer, seemingly in peace, but is shot by an anxious officer.
At Walter Reed Hospital, Klaatu meets with Mr. Harley (Frank Conroy) where he insists he meet with every leader of every country on Earth to issue a warning. Ha, it’s the Cold War, buddy! Like that would ever happen!
Amidst worldwide speculation and suspicion as to the purpose of his visit, Klaatu escapes the hospital and takes up residence at a boarding house. Befriending a widow named Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) and her son, Bobby (Billy Gray), Klaatu is on a mission to find the greatest mind in the world to help him spread his warning to the masses.
Connecting with this great mind, Professor Jacob Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), Klaatu informs us that distant planets have grown concerned for their own safety because of the advances Earth has made in atomic power and our violent ways. If Klaatu’s warnings are disregarded, Earth could be doomed. As a manhunt for Klaatu ensues, will this warning ever be heard?
Obviously in this day and age, the themes in ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ ring true. Clearly humanity still relies on violence and its threat as a means of action. As privately funded companies woo our government with advances in space travel, our culture of brutality could prove to be a threat even if we explore with the most peaceful of intentions. ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ is a film that proves that, no matter what era, we need to take a good look at ourselves and have a deeper understanding of the impact our choices.
Have you seen the original ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’? What do you think?