Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

Ya know, I'm sick of crappy horror movies. Without a decent one at my disposal, I popped in last year's Christmas gift.

Michael Rennie was ill The Day the Earth Stood Still, but he told us where we stand. Actually, while he was shot, he had gotten better by the time he made the earth stand still. And by the time he got around to letting us know where we stand, well, let's not get into that ...

A space ship lands in Washington DC. Out comes Klaatu bearing gifts. The military shoots him, then takes him prisoner. He has a message to give to the world, but he must speak to all leaders, not just some. This proves impossible. So, he goes out on the town.

He rents a room at a boarding house and meets a single mom and her son (Patricia Neal and Billy Gray). Stuff happens, they tour DC, he meets a scientist, Neal's douche bag boyfriend tries to turn Klaatu in, Gort goes berserk, then Klaatu makes his grand speech.

Of all the B Sci-Fi movies, this one is my favorite. When I spoke earlier how dark and light can be used as effective elements in a black and white film, here is the evidence. Klaatu/Mr. Carpenter (Jesus reference!) stands in darkness at the boarding house. The others, transfixed by the news story of the saucer landing, suddenly notice him. Slowly he enters the light and inquires about a room. The scene is close to perfection.

Later in the film, Neal and Rennie are driving through DC and the military is at every corner. The actors were filmed in California and were spliced into Washington DC footage. Not only do the scenes match, the route driven (I am told) actually makes sense. The attention to detail and level of craftsmanship is unparalleled in B movies.

Say what you will about the preachy ending, this movie is a gem. Not flawless, but truly excellent. I'll sign off with my favorite line from the movie.
"You'll feel different when you see my picture in the paper."
"I feel different right now."
AMRU 5. You thought I'd say "Klaatu, barada, nikto", didn't you.

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