Saturday, July 12, 2008

Movie of the Week: The Day The Earth Stood Still!

So, after covering the Frankenstein Saga and the Planet of the Apes Saga, I figured it's time for a break from series, and do some Movie of the Week features for movies that didn't have sequels!

First up, "The Day the Earth Stood Still," which I have written about before, but it has been a while! Plot summary, naturally, from Wikipedia!

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A flying saucer lands in Washington, DC. Klaatu (Michael Rennie) emerges and declares he has come in peace. However, when he opens a small device with a snap, he is shot and wounded by a nervous soldier, who mistakes it for a weapon. In response, a large robot called Gort steps out of the spaceship and melts all weapons present without harming the soldiers,[1] until Klaatu orders him to cease. Klaatu explains the "weapon" was a gift to the President and could have been used to study life on other planets.



He is taken to Walter Reed Hospital and quickly recovers. While there, Klaatu meets the President's secretary, Mr. Harley, but is unable to convince him to organize a gathering of world leaders. Klaatu suggests the United Nations, but is told it does not represent all countries, and later, that world leaders cannot even agree on a meeting place for such a momentous occasion. When Klaatu suggests he live amongst ordinary people, to understand them better, Harley rebuffs him and implies that he is a prisoner. Klaatu escapes into the night.

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He goes to a boarding house, as "Mr. Carpenter", the name on a laundry label of the suit he has taken. Among the residents are Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), a government employee, and her son Bobby (Billy Gray). Helen is a widow; her husband was killed in World War II. The next morning, Klaatu listens to the radio commentator and the breakfast table banter of the boarders wondering whether the spaceship is from outer space or perhaps the work of the Soviets. When Helen's boyfriend, Tom Stephens (Hugh Marlowe), plans a day-trip getaway for the two of them, Klaatu offers to take care of Bobby.

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Bobby takes Klaatu a tour of the city, including a visit to the grave of his father in Arlington National Cemetery, where Klaatu learns with dismay that most of those buried there were killed in wars. The two next visit the Lincoln Memorial and the heavily-guarded spaceship where Gort stands motionlessly on guard. Klaatu, impressed by the inscription of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, is hopeful that there may be people wise enough to understand his message. When he asks Bobby to name the greatest person in the world today, Bobby mentions a leading American scientist, Professor Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), who lives nearby.

Bobby takes Klaatu to Barnhardt's home. The professor is absent, but Klaatu goes into his study and helps solve an advanced mathematical n-body problem written on a blackboard, before leaving his address with the housekeeper. Later, government agents escort Klaatu to see Barnhardt, who has seen the correction of his work as a calling card which could not be faked.

Klaatu warns the professor that the people of the other planets are concerned for their own safety because human beings have developed atomic power. Barnhardt offers Klaatu the opportunity to speak at an upcoming meeting of world scientists he is organizing; Klaatu accepts. Barnhardt is stunned when Klaatu declares that if his message is rejected by the leaders of the nations, "Planet Earth will be eliminated." The professor pleads that Klaatu first provide a minor demonstration of his power as a warning.

Klaatu returns to his spaceship that night to implement the professor's suggestion. Bobby trails him and is amazed to see his new friend enter the ship. When Tom Stephens and Helen Benson return from their evening out, Bobby tells them that Mr. Carpenter is the spaceman. They do not believe him at first, but when Bobby goes upstairs to bed, they notice that his shoes are soaking wet. Their suspicions grow when Tom finds an expensive diamond in Carpenter's room.

The following day, Tom takes the diamond to a jeweler, who claims that he has never seen the like before. Meeting Helen at work, Klaatu insists on speaking to her. While riding in an elevator, it stops. A series of montage scenes show that Klaatu has suppressed electric power all over the world (with exceptions for critical systems, such as hospitals, planes in flight etc.). This has brought the entire world to a standstill. During the blackout, Klaatu confirms Helen's suspicions and enlists her aid. She urgently searches for Tom to stop him from telling the authorities, but he tells her that he intends to turn Klaatu in and become rich and famous. Helen rushes home to warn Klaatu. Together, they take a taxi cab to hide at Barnhardt's home until the meeting with the scientists. On the way, Klaatu tells Helen that if anything should happen to him, she must go to Gort and say, "Klaatu barada nikto." As they approach Barnhardt's, they are spotted; when Klaatu runs from the cab, he is shot dead.

Battling her fear, Helen does as Klaatu instructed, then faints in terror as the robot comes toward her. Gort gently carries her into the spaceship. It then retrieves Klaatu's corpse and brings him back to the spaceship where, using equipment on board, Klaatu is miraculously (but only temporarily) brought back to life.

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Klaatu steps out of the spaceship and speaks to the assembled scientists. He tells them Earth's penchant for violence and first steps into space have drawn the attention of other spacefaring worlds. These worlds have created a race of robot enforcers like Gort, and given them absolute power to deal with any outbreak of violence. He warns that the people of Earth can either abandon warfare and peacefully join other spacefaring nations – or be destroyed. "The decision rests with you." He then enters the spaceship and departs.

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Robert Wise talks about the making of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" in this YouTube video


OK, me again. Long-time readers of this blog are probably all too aware of how much I enjoy this movie, despite the rather stiff acting by most of the cast. The robot Gort is so iconic that Ringo Starr used him (or rather a still from the movie featuring Gort, with Ringo's head replaing Michael Rennie's) on one of his albums (Goodnight Vienna, I think?).

Jon

7 comments:

  1. great film.. There was a squeal writen by Ray Bradbury which featured Klaatu's Daughter. That bit sounded a little ify but you can find the script online and it isn't amazinly bad.. not amazinly good but not bad..

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  2. I may have to check that out some day!!

    I've heard rumors that Hollywood's remaking this movie... I hope that doesn't happen!

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  3. Anonymous10:31 PM

    Unfortunately, it is true. I saw a preview recently, when I saw Hancock, I think. Keanu Reeves replaces Michael Rennie. Beware, beware.

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  4. To quote Bill the Cat... "Oop Ack!"

    Guess I'm not really missing that much not getting to the movies these days, am I?

    So how was Hancock, anyway?

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  5. keanu Reeves only had two good films.. The Bill and Ted films.. After that i didn't think much of his acting or anything else about him. if they are going to remake it, atlest get a good cast.. I bet they are gonna load it down with 'action' that wasn't there.. Always been a Michael Keaton fan.. he can do alot of different roles.. he might be able to do the job..

    i haven't see Hancock but i don't want to.. alot of the stuff i am hearing and interviews of how they tried to do an oringally idea of a real-life hero.. alot of that has happened in real comics anyway (Drunk see Iron Man, Killed someone, Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-men, i think even SuperMan) anyway.. i just don't have any intrest in the film myself..

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  6. Anonymous4:11 PM

    Hancock was a good movie to the halfway point but I think their dog ate the rest of the original script and they took several missteps in the second half. Plotholes the size of a stadium!
    It also occured to me that I may have seen the preview for the remake of TDTESS before Wall-E instead of Hancock. Wall-E is another complete trimph by Pixar that gives you so much to look for in every little detail that the DVD will be a must have for me.
    I see as many movies as I can. Yesterday, Hellboy II. Tomorrow, ..Center of the Earth, but I have to go to Davenport to catch the 3D.

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  7. Sounds like Hancock's got the same problem a lot of Wil Smith's movies have... well, not Wild, Wild West -- that was bad from the get-go!

    I haven't gone to any movies since either Superman Returns or Wild Hogs, although I've seen FF2 on DVD, and I have Spidey 3 on DVD, but haven't had a chance to watch it yet (having young kids tends to make movie-going difficult).

    Jon

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