THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL

RUN TIME: 1 hr 32 min. (B&W)
RELEASE DATE: 1951
GENRE: Science Fiction
RATED: N/R
STARRING: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe
REVIEW by: Terry Whitsitt

RATING:    

A flying saucer has been tracked all over the world, circling the earth at speed  in excess of 4,000 mph. When the ship lands in Washington D.C., a crowd of soldiers and on lookers gathers. As the ship's doorway opens and the occupant of the craft, Klaatu (Michael Rennie) walks out of the ship carrying a gift for the president, he is shot and wounded. After Klaatu is taken to the hospital, it is learned that the purpose of his visit is to bring a message to the inhabitants of earth. The message "concerns the very existence of every last creature on earth," Klaatu explains to a secretary of the President of the United States. Klaatu also tells him that the message is too important to give to the leader of any one nation. He asks to meet with the leaders of all nations of the Earth. When the world leaders decline to meet, Klaatu disappears from the hospital and plans to observe the people of this strange planet on his own. After taking a room at a local boarding house, Klaatu befriends a young boy, Bobby (Billy Gray) who takes him on a tour of the city. From Bobby, Klaatu learns of a professor, who he convinces to call together a meeting of scientists of the world to deliver his message to. He explains to the professor that Gort, (Gort) the robot who came with him, and has been standing guard outside the ship since it landed, is one of many robots who are like an interplanetary police force. They patrol the planets and are programmed to immediately eliminate the instigator of any aggression. To prove the power Gort possesses, Klaatu gives a demonstration to the world, by neutralizing the electricity all over the world for thirty minutes at 12:00 noon. Hence the title of the film. Later when Klaatu is being pursued in a cab with Bobby's mother, the Army tries to capture him and Klaatu is shot. Bobby's mother is given a message by Klaatu, that she must relay to Gort before he destroys the world.

This film is a cult classic today and was the first film of the flying saucer genre that had a believable plot, and was considered by most, at the time, to be the best science fiction film yet made. If they can build a ship that can travel two hundred and fifty million miles, why does it land in a corn field and the occupants talk to a farmer? Well, in this film they didn't, which truly set it apart from other flying saucer films of its day. The message delivered by Klaatu is still relevant today, and the acting in this movie was superb. The supporting cast, who also did a fine job, has many familiar faces from 50's and 60's television, including Billy Gray, (Father Knows Best), Frances Bavier (The Andy Griffith Show), and Sam Jaffe (Ben Casey). The ending is moving and leaves one thinking about our world and our responsibilities to those we share this planet with.

 

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