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THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, 1951
Movie Review

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THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL 1951, MARY POPPINS,  MOVIE POSTERTHE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL 1951
Movie Reviews

Directed Robert Wise
Starring: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe, Billy Gray, Frances Bavier, Lock Martin
Review by Vinny Borocci


SYNOPSIS:

An alien lands and tells the people of Earth that they must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets.

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REVIEW:

During the 1950’s, Director Robert Wise had numerous conflicts and confrontations because of his left-wing political views. In an attempt to reflect, in an oblique manner, societal conditions toward the “cold war,” Wise provided the public with The Day the Earth Stood Still. Diverging from the current trend of the early Science-Fiction films, which attempted to reveal society in conflict resulting in fear, Wise introduces a message relating to the need for peace through powerful images depicting and revealing societal stereotypes and ironies. The ultimate effect of these techniques leads to a fear even more frightening to the viewer.

From the beginning of this film, we can witness the change in direction from previous sci-fi films. We hear commentary from a radio communicating that a “large unidentified object is circling the atmosphere,” followed by, “this is not another flying saucer.” During the “cold war” society was suspicious and very cynical of most things, particularly processes which they were afraid to confront. In many ways, the film represents the growing uncertainty of one man to another resulting in pandemonium. We can see reference to this statement in the opening sequence of the film when panic is spread from this foreign, threatening force invading the Earth. At the same time, we see camera shots between the military and mass media, possibly working together and indicating that technology plays a huge role in connecting the two.

In general, society would like to believe that technology serves and resolves our needs; however, the film depicts technology destroying the fabric of society. This is evidenced when the two spaceship characters, Gort and Klaatu, terminate electricity which essentially immobilizes society and renders it dysfunctional. The robot, Gort, follows Klaatu’s instructions and has the capability to destroy the Earth. When Klaatu is talking with the young boy, Bobby, he mentions the fact that Gort has atomic power, while Bobby remarks, “I thought they only made that for bombs.” We are presented with an image that Gort represents the atomic bomb and that he and Klaatu have come to Earth to threaten society about keeping peace. Can we see any irony in that? Additionally, Klaatu goes on, explaining that if society chooses to go against their commands, the Earth will be destroyed.

As the film targets individuals with references toward peace and hope, there are religious overtones, signifying the future of humanity. Klaatu tells everyone his name is John Carpenter and represents a type of spiritual love as opposed to the selfishness of Tom. In the final analysis, Klaatu is sacrificed and eventually resurrected. As Tom tries to manipulate Klaatu for the diamonds, we can see his true motivation and morality contrasted with Klaatu’s altruistic love. Another religious symbol occurs when the electricity is terminated, it provides a sense of spiritual energy, which serves to link and bond society. The robot itself is presented as a godlike figure and symbolizes technology and its impact on the routine of every person. It has the ability to rule and dominate not only individual circumstances but also the entire society. While Klaatu continuously preaches that reason leads us to believe that we cannot tolerate war or violence, we have no room for reason as we are filled with panic. At the end of the film, Klaatu orders society to keep peace and avoid wars or violence. While he speaks, we can observe the blank faces of people who are overwhelmed and threatened with an authoritarian nightmare of technology, which plans to rule the world and destroy the existing civilization. What can we say is more frightening than this image?

For a film that strongly reflected its time period, through its daring thematic elements and its unique visual presentations, the film became known as a dominant force truly ahead of its time. As a result, the film stands as a very important piece in the history of cinema. For a more accurate description of the time, while witnessing a strong overall message clearly and strikingly expressed, please see this original film instead of the remake. This original film far too often is overlooked.

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THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL


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