The Earth Stands Still to Hear a Warning
This movie tries not to be melodramatic about it, but the Earth is “standing still”, on pins and needles, and is all ears for what ALIENS have to say. And they say, “Hey bub, be kind to your neighbor”. Our response is not a very good one. That’s the basis for this movie. It is a timeless peace-movie that was remade in 2008 with all the glitz and special effects of an action extravaganza, but the allegory, the message, and the main point of the darn thing was changed. The only reason to see this 1951 movie is the allegory, the message, and the main point.
The Flying Saucer had its heyday in the 1950s. “Flying Saucer” was originally coined by the US military in the 40s, but this movie puts all the media craziness about saucers and alien invaders right on the screen for everyone to see. It must have been scandalous and laughable. Rich people must have turned up their noses at this movie for miles and miles. Years later, we can appreciate it for capturing the iconography and urban myths of the day.
The news of the flying saucer landing in Washington is reported by the news on the radio. The movie takes a page from War of the Worlds, and the landing is reported by radio. Soon enough, Klaatu walks up to the Secretary General and demands to meet with the World’s leaders, all at once. The Secretary tries to tell him the “reality” of the world. To say that this is a cynical movie is an understatement. It is filled with early Cold War paranoia and politics.
The movie isn’t afraid to make fun of itself, poking fun at aliens and the public’s obsession with Martians. The movie asks: What if Martians looked like us? How would we feel then? Apparently, the movie thinks we would feel exactly the same way as if they were little green men.
Klaatu is played stoically by Michael Rennie. It’s a great performance frankly, for a low-budget movie like this one. He is a very tall guy and he comes off as very imposing in the film. The movie has a kid character to represent the wonder and curiosity everyone is feeling, but is too afraid to say.
After Klaatu is killed, he rises from the dead in the most obvious Bible allusion ever. If Klaatu is Christ, this is the most futile peace mission ever. Like Christ, Klaatu is kind and forgiving, even to the point of self-sacrifice.
My copy of The Day the Earth Stood Still is old and cheap, from the bargain bin before they remade this movie and discovered that remastering everything was profitable. It has a blu-ray edition today. The 2-disc DVD special edition from 2003 is not all that special. It worth the money for the extras and the interviews more than the remastering, which isn’t all that good. It is still the best of the versions I’ve seen though. The laser disc version is said to be superior, but I’ve not seen it.
This movie was directed by Robert Wise, the old wise-man of directors. He was the elder statements before there were elder statement. Every picture of him is grey and old. He directed The Haunting (1963), Citizen Kane (1941), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), amongst others. He is a dependable and classy director.
Klaatu’s solution for peace in our galaxy is simple: create a bunch of sentient giant robots and make them the police. Give them the authority to stamp out all aggression and nobody will be aggressive. Yay, you have peace. You also have fear up the wazoo. You live in fear of your own robot police, pal. Is that living? It is debatable. Since there’s no war or death, I guess the guy has a right to talk.
All in all, this is a good movie. It is a little bit longer than most old movies, so I wonder if it was released as a double-feature like many were back in the day. It is interesting thematically, and doesn’t beat around the bush with what it has to say. It nearly knocks you over the head with the peace and the warnings, almost as a precursor to all the 60s free-love movies. I wonder if this is Jane Fonda’s favorite film. In any case, I myself don’t mind watching this movie every so often, if only to see a seven-foot guy in a silver costume freak people out.