The Day the Earth Stood Still
Der Tag an dem die Erde stillstand
Julian Blaustein for 20th Century Fox
directed by Robert Wise
starring Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe, Billy Gray, Frances Bavier, Lock Martin, H.V.Kaltenborn, Elmer Davis, Drew Pearson, Gabriel Heatter, Frank Conroy, John Brown, Wheaton Chambers, Marjorie Crossland, Edith Evanson, Dorothy Neumann, Tyler McVey, Freeman Lusk, George Lynn, Harlan Warde, Olan Soule
screenplay by Edmund H.North, based on the story Farewell to the Master by Harry Bates, music by Bernard Herrmann
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An UFO lands in Washington and from it exits an alien in a spacesuit,
Klaatu (Michael Rennie) - who beneath his spacesuit looks very human
indeed - and his mighty, all-powerful robot Gort (Lock Martin). Klaatu's
mission however is peaceful and all he unlitmately wants is to stop war on
earth for good lest earth will be blown up by some outer space council.
And therefore, he wants to speak to all world leaders.
However, soon enough Klaatu is taken into custody by gouovernment
agents who are not all that interested in making peace but all the more
interested in getting their hands on Klaatu's advanced technology. Somehow
though, Klaatu escapes, goes into hiding, and under the name Carpenter, he
takes up residence in Mrs Crockett's (Edith Evanson) boarding house, where
he soon makes friends with his neighbour, sinble mum Helen Benson
(Patricia Neal) and her young son Bobby (Billy Gray). And with the help of
Bobby, Klaatu/Carpenter makes the acquaintance of world renowned scientist
Professor Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), who proves to be more sympatheitic to
Klaatu's cause and agrees to gather all world-renonwned scientists at
Klaatu's UFO within two days, but first Klaatu has to give a demonstration
of his power - and thus Klaatu turns off all the world's electricity -
safe for where it's really needed like hospitals and stuff - off for half
an hour (the half hour the earth stood still) ... and while the
power is off, Klaatu manages to convince Helen - who has since found out
that he really is the alien - of the righteousness of his cause.
Helen's boyfriend Tom (Hugh Marlowe) however is not so easily convinced
about Klaatu's righteousness, and partly out of pure jealousy, he betrays
Klatu to the authorities ... and before long, Klaatu is shot dead, which
makes his robot go berserk - but luckily, Klaatu has given Helen the magic
formula to turn off the robot's destructive drive and instead make him
return his dead master to the UFO and bring him back to life.
Once alive again, Klaatu delivers a compassionate, pacifist speech to
the scientists' panel that has meanwhile gathered in front of the UFO,
then he flies off and ... the end.
By many considered a sci-fi-classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still
is really well-directed, well played, it features well-made special
effects and the pacifist message it delivers is nothing short of
commendable - but underneath it all, one can't help but notice that the
film is pure kitsch - and not the fun, campy sort of kitsch everybody
tends to love: In The Day the Earth Stood Still everybody is either
too good to be true or too bad to be true, the character about the
quick-witted little boy who helps Klaatu is simply annoying, and his
doubting but ultimately understanding mother is an overused cliché if
there ever was one, as is her jealous boyfriend who puts personal fame
over world peace.
It's not that the movie is all bad, it has its moments, and, as I said,
it's very well directed, however I take a bug-eyed-monster-drive-in-movie
over the exploits of Klaatu every day.