The Day The Earth Stood Still

Year: 1951

Production: 20th Century Fox

Director: Robert Wise

Starring: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe

Screenwriter: Edmund H. North

Based on Farewell to the Master (1940) by Harry Bates

92 minutes; B/W

Produced at the beginning of the sf boom of the 1950s, this is generally regarded as a classic, though its ethics might be regarded as intemperate; it is, however, directed with pace and impressive economy. An emissary from outer space arrives by flying saucer in Washington, accompanied by an 8ft (2.4m) robot. The military gets very excited. The soft-spoken, human-seeming alien, Klaatu, has come to warn Earth that his people will not tolerate an extension of human violence into space, but before he can deliver the message he is wounded by a soldier, escapes, and takes a room in a boarding house, where he learns about ordinary people. Later he arranges a demonstration of his powers - the stopping of all electrical equipment, all over the world. Then, his warning still undelivered, he is again shot, this time fatally. But like Christ - the parallel seems deliberate - he rises again and gives his messages: unless human violence is curbed the true masters, who are in fact the robots, will "reduce this Earth of yours to a burnt-out cinder". Submission to the rule of implacable, disinterested robots is an authoritarian proposal for a supposedly liberal film.

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