July 10, 2015
The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Review #725: The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Michael Rennie (Klaatu), Patricia Neal (Helen Benson), Billy Gray (Bobby Benson), Hugh Marlowe (Tom Stephens), Sam Jaffe (Professor Jacob Barnhardt), Frances Bavier (Mrs. Barley), Lock Martin (Gort), and Frank Conroy (Mr. Harley) Directed by Robert Wise (#515 - Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
If you haven't watched the movie but you are reading this review, there might be spoilers, so tread carefully and...watch the movie! Now then...
Simply put, this is a truthful movie. Even after 64 years, this movie manages to have a message that still resonates today. Especially with the way technology has progressed in the time since. Many people have talked about this movie in length already, but this review is meant to just be about how the movie is. And it is great. The buildup to the movie's message at the end, the performance of Rennie as Klaatu, Gort's presence, Bernard Herrmann's music, and the way that it is shot make for one of the more memorable 1950's alien visitor stories, but more importantly one of the best movies about humanity's reach and how even technology could be our own downfall, no matter what intent it may have, along with paranoia.
It shows the degrees of how humans interact to Klaatu's presence: From the hundreds of observers who flock to see him and his saucer's arrival, to the ones who are scared of him and Gort, to the ones who want to see him destroyed, to the curious scientific minds, to the one little boy who enjoys his presence, and so on. It's not a "people vs the alien" type of a movie, it plays on the paranoia of the people to Klaatu and the era in general this was made, being released just a few years after World War II ended, which is reflected a few times during the film.
Rennie is interesting as Klaatu, making him so interesting to watch because of how he interacts with the humans around him, especially regarding his quest regarding his message. The rest of the cast does a fine job, enabling the degrees of humans and their interactions with him. Let's not forget about Gort, played by Martin (reportedly to be at least 7 feet tall, though some report at least 7'7), who had to film in short intervals due to his troubles with the heavy suit. But even with that fact, his silent movements (along with how the suit was made) help keep the movie from falling off the rails by simply being effective in keeping the tense atmosphere. If the effect had been less well crafted, I wonder if the movie would've had the same effect.
The movie also benefits from the ethereal nature of Herrmann's score, which right from the very beginning sets the tone of the movie and makes the atmosphere of the movie seem to come alive. It's a great movie to watch and look at too, especially the shots of the saucer coming down to Washington, or seeing the military vehicles driving to pursue Klaatu. Klaatu's message at the end of the movie is neither heavy-handed nor dated, it's a message that still rings true today about how we have a choice about our fate, and we'll either join them or be destroyed. I can't imagine the remake being any better than this. Ultimately, would I recommend this movie (instead of the remake)? You bet.
Lastly...Klaatu barada nikto. It's a unique phrase that has become referenced in multiple movies, TV shows, and other various forms of media, along with being a really cool thing to say.
Overall, I give it 10 out of 10 stars.