The Day the Earth Stood Still

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) movie poster

(1951) dir. Robert Wise
viewed: 11/30/07

After watching Invaders from Mars (1953) as part of my post-Halloween-a-thon, I was musing over the fact that I had never watched The Day the Earth Stood Still in its entirety, despite its notability as one of the most appreciated of 1950’s science fiction.  I even have a thrift store t-shirt (getting very old) with a replica of the movie’s poster on it.  So, I queued it up.  Just to note, more 1950’s science fiction may come.

Director Robert Wise’s film is iconic, with both the classic “flying saucer” spaceship and the monolithic Gort the robot.  The film is quite political in its way, anti-war and weaponry, it’s also a somewhat noirish tale of otherness, with its humanoid hero from outer space.

Landing on the grass of the National Mall in Washington, DC, Klaatu the alien and his 8′ robot, Gort, boldly try to address the world and are met with violence and fear, the very violence and fear that they are warning the world against.  As Klaatu is initially captured by the government and held at the hospital in which he is treated, he hides out as a regular human to learn about human beings and to try to find a better platform for his message.

The America of the 1950’s depicted here is one of both the “aw gosh” idealism of the young boy and his widowed mother whom Klaatu befriends, but also the stern military, and the paranoid public whose xenophobia is its own worst enemy.  It’s interesting, coming from 1951 as it does, the beginning of the 1950’s, how much it seems to already have that concept imbedded in its mien.  It’s made me wonder more about other films of the period and other earlier science fiction films going back into the 1940’s and 1950’s.

I can see why it never may have managed to be one of the films that I got so interested in, being that while Gort is pretty cool and all, the film is much more focused on the “human” element, not only in its focus on Klaatu and his striding alongside of the footsteps of the human race, but its focus on humanism in general.  Not necessarily as exciting as some of the more wild films of the genre.  It is for sure an influence on shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.