Monday, April 18, 2011

Capsule Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Perhaps somewhat cheapened by the hundreds of inferior science fiction films that followed in reaction to the cold war threat of the 50s, The Day the Earth Stood Still still remains one of the high points of a genre that - at its best - can mix a serious message with whiz-bang elements to create a lasting piece of entertainment. Robert Wise capably handles the action, pacing things beautifully and incorporating special effects that still look wonderful today. Michael Rennie has the role of a lifetime in Klaatu - originally to be played by Claude Rains - and his stoic persona made for a very different sort of alien than was to populate the science fiction films to come. Equally memorable was the seven foot seven robot Gort, who could only be commanded to stop his attack by the immortal words: "Klaatu barada nikto", and these characters are supported strongly by the human cast, most notably the late Patricia Neal as the earthling that gains Klaatu's trust. Featuring a wonderful, theremin-tinged score by Bernard Herrmann that would be imitated endlessly. Followed by an inferior 2008 remake starring Keanu Reeves.

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