Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Stop me if you've heard this one before...  A supernatural being takes the form of a human Carpenter, and lives among the people.  He has come to Earth to deliver a message.  A message about putting  one's faith in a higher power.  A higher power that can lead to humanity's salvation if it is heeded, or it's damnation if it is not. However his message is met with disbelief, suspicion, and fear, and the people turn against him and kill him.  But miraculously, after his body is brought to his tomb, the man is resurrected.  He delivers one final message to his gathered followers before ascending into the heavens.

Sound familiar?  Wait, did I mention the fact that the man is a space alien named Klatuu, the tomb is a flying saucer, and the higher power is an unstoppable killer robot named Gort?  No, this isn't the secret theology of the Scientologists.  It's the plot of the 1951 sci-fi film, "The Day The Earth Stood Still!"

"By your command."

Yeah, The Day The Earth Stood Still is basically the story of Jesus, but told in the form of a1950s alien invasion flick.  Which is pretty odd. The film itself plays it straight, though. It's actually one of the least campy and outrageous sci-fi movies from that era.  In fact, it's kind of classy.

The film begins with people all over the world united in listening to a radio broadcast as a UFO arrives on Earth.  The alien spacecraft arrives in Washington D.C., and it's pilot has a message from space, but he'll only deliver it to all of the world's leaders at once, which becomes a problem, due to the conflicts of international politics.  What's weird is that it never occurs to anyone that he could just broadcast his message, despite the fact that the film begins with a montage of all the people of the world listening to the radio at the same time.  Eventually, he manages to deliver his message to an ad hoc assemblage of scientists and calls it a day. 

Klaatu Emerges From His Flying Saucer.

The message?  Humans need to give up their violent ways, and submit to the authority of emotionless killer robots who will vaporize anyone who shows any sign of physical aggression.  If we don't, aliens will probably vaporize the entire planet. 

"Trust me.  I'm an alien."

Personally, I'd rather decide how to live my life on my own, and not submit to a robot... but thanks for the suggestion Klaatu.   I guess religious people might see this as a parable about submitting to the authority of God, but I'm an atheist, so to me it just sounds foolish.

The film is not without any classic 1950s sci-fi goodness, however.  The killer robot Gort is one of the all-time great robot designs, right up there with Robby the Robot.  And the film does have a flying saucer, space suits, laser beams, and battles with the army.  But overall it's a little on the sedate side.  The bulk of the film has the alien Klaatu posing as a human named "Mr. Carpenter" and hanging out with the residents of the boarding house he has moved into, especially a young boy named Little Billy (Actually, I don't remember his name, I just assume all young boys in these movies are named Little Billly.  Is that weird?). 

"The people of my planet had heard that Lincoln was tall... but we had no idea!"

Despite it's lack of many outré sci-fi thrills, and it's message, which I actually strongly disagree with, overall I still found enough fun stuff in this film to enjoy it,  Plus, this film coined the phrase "Klaatu Barada Nikto," which has continued to live on in popular culture to this day (it even has it's own wikipedia entry).

Gort!  Klaatu Barada Nikto!

"Move over Gort, you're blocking the TV!"

A UFO Over Washington DC


Little Billy Gets Suspicious

Gort Murders Two American Servicemen

The Resurrection Machine

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