Monday, 7 November 2011

The Day The Earth Stood Still - Review

The Day The Earth Stood Still - 1951
Director - Robert Wise

1) The Day The Earth Stood Still - Poster

Plot Summary / Review:
Robert Wise's classic sci-fi drama tell's the story of alien Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and his menacing robot Gort and their visit to post World War 2 Earth. Wise's intelligent, culturally significant film would subsequently become the blueprint for all sc-fi drama's that followed. Everything from it's opening titles to it's flying saucer designs and it's subtle score have been endlessly parodied and referenced.

2) Classic Sc-fi titles

Landing on the outskirts of Washington, Klaatu emerges from his spacecraft and is immediately surrounded by a nervous US army. Followed by his 8ft robot protector Gort, Klaatu is shot by a frightened soldier before he can deliver his message. Responding to the act of violence, Gort comes to Klaatu's defence, vaporizing tanks and soldiers weapons.  Modern audiences' will smile mockingly at the outdated effects, however this view was surprisingly shared with critics at the time of release. For example, Bosley Crowther's examines Klaatu's robotic companion, stating "His giant mechanical assistant, which someone named Lock Martin animates, is also oddly unmenacing, for all his grossness and his death-ray eye. We've seen better monsters in theatre audiences on Forty-second Street." (Crowther. 1951). Crowther's review suggests the frightening aspect of the film does not come from the visual aspects of the film.

3) Klaatu and Gort

The wounded Klaatu  is taken to hospital after shutting down Gort. Miraculously recovering from his injury, he is interrogated by Government officials. Frustratingly still not able to deliver his message to the representatives of all nations, he escapes from the hospital. Hiding in a boarding house with some natives, Klaatu seeks an alternative approach to deliver his message. Eventually gathering a group of scientists and respected figures of society he completes his mission. It's here that this "superbly crafted, landmark film which invested a much-derided - and frequently ludicrous - genre with a welcome degree of dignity and respectability" (Errigo. 2006) delivers it's biggest scare. Warning the world that nuclear war would not be tolerated, Klaatu explains that Gort is a race of robot enforcers; invented to keep the peace but holds the power to destroy if peace is threatened.

Wise opted for a strong script and storyline over big budget monster thrills to deliver a truly terrifying film. 1951 Post World War 2 America was in the midst of the Cold War. Nuclear fallout was a very real threat following the invention of the atom bomb. Anyone watching the film at this time must have found it's underlying message a sombre thought. This combined with "Bernard Herrmann's effectively alien-sounding score reinforces the atmosphere of strangeness and potential menace." (Timeout. 2006). With multiple viewings "The Day the Earth Stood Still" subtlety reveals religious undertones, comparing Klaatu and his god like powers to Christ. At the command of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), Edmund North's screenplay was famously adapted. After being revived by Gort from another gunshot wound, Klaatu explains that his resurrection is only temporary. Ultimately the power over life and death "is reserved to the Almighty Spirit".

4) Religious undertones - Klaatu's resurrection



Bibliography

Crowther, Bosley. New York Times Review 19th September 1951
http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9A07EED61031E23BBC4152DFBF66838A649EDE&partner=Rotten%20Tomatoes Accessed 07/11/11

Errigo, Angie. Empire Magazine Review 4th March 2006
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1005371-day_the_earth_stood_still/reviews/?type=top_critics Accessed 07/11/11

Timeout review. 26th January 2006 
http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/65054/the_day_the_earth_stood_still.html Accessed 07/11/11

Illustrations

1) Day the Earth Stood Still - Poster
http://www.traileraddict.com/content/20th-century-fox/dayearth1951.jpg Accessed 07/11/11

2) Classic Sc-fi titles 
http://www.annyas.com/screenshots/images/1951/day-the-earth-stood-still-title-still.jpg Accessed 07/11/11

3) Klatuu and Gort
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Y5TwdoOLPTI/STl0uhmXsUI/AAAAAAAAEio/AXVGI6k9zy4/s400/TDTESS120508D.bmp Accessed 07/11/11

4) Religous undertone - Klaatu's Resurrection 
http://copiousnotes.bloginky.com/files/2009/06/090617day.png Accessed 07/11/11

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