ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Entertainment and Media»
  • Movies & Movie Reviews»
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy Films

The Day the Earth Stood Still – Another View

Updated on January 22, 2017
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Theatrical Release PosterThe Day the Earth Stood Still.  Klaatu delivers his message.Gort fires its heat ray.A helmet wearing Klaatu holding what could be mistaken for a weapon.
Theatrical Release Poster
Theatrical Release Poster | Source
The Day the Earth Stood Still.  Klaatu delivers his message.
The Day the Earth Stood Still. Klaatu delivers his message. | Source
Gort fires its heat ray.
Gort fires its heat ray. | Source
A helmet wearing Klaatu holding what could be mistaken for a weapon.
A helmet wearing Klaatu holding what could be mistaken for a weapon. | Source

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

What gave The Day the Earth Stood Still its honored place in Science Fiction film history is the movie’s mature theme and message. It came before almost all of the other Science Fiction message movies. It was the height of the Cold War, and the height of the Korean Conflict, and the movie’s message was of ending war and universal disarmament. The film won the 1952 Golden Globe for the Best Film Promoting International Understanding.[i] This article contains spoilers.


[i] U.S. Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043456/awards?ref_=tt_awd)

The Traditional View

A flying saucer circles the earth and lands on the White House Ellipse. The suspicion earthlings surround the saucer with troops, tanks, and artillery. The alien, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), steps out of the space ship and announces he comes in peace and goodwill. When Klaatu takes out a present for The President of the United States a nervous soldier shoots Klaatu. The robot, Gort (Lock Martin), emerges from the saucer and vaporizes rifles, a tank, and an artillery pieces. Klaatu orders Gort to cease and Gort stands motionless. The soldiers take Klaatu to Walter Reed Army Hospital, where he treats himself and the attending physician gets to watch in wonder at the advanced medicine Klaatu has on him. The Mr. Harley, the White House Chief of Staff (Frank Conroy), meets Klaatu and Klaatu asks to have a meeting arranged of all the heads of state. When the Chief of Staff comes to his second meeting with Klaatu he tells Klaatu such a meeting isn’t possible. Klaatu asks to go out and see the people of earth. Mr. Harley refuses his request and Klaatu escapes from the hospital. He finds his way to a boarding house where he meets Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), a widowed mother and her son Bobby (Bill Gray) who is about 13. Bobby shows him some Washington DC sites and when Klaatu asks about the greatest man on earth Bobby suggests Professor Jacob Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), who also lives in Washington, DC. When Professor Barnhardt isn’t at home Klaatu leaves a calling card in the form of a solution to a Math problem. When Klaatu and Professor Barnhardt meet Professor Barnhardt and Klaatu agree there will need to be a demonstration to get the attention of the world’s scientists and convince them to meet Klaatu. Professor Barnhardt tells Klaatu it should be a non-violent demonstration. When Klaatu returns to his space ship to set up the demonstration Bobby follows him. When he tells his mother and her boyfriend Tom Stevens (Hugh Marlowe) what he saw they at first think it’s a dream. During the demonstration, a worldwide power outage that shuts off all machinery except those that would cause a catastrophe if they were cut off, Klaatu tells Helen he is the alien. Helen promises to keep Klaatu’s secret but when she asks Tom to keep it a secret he refuses because revealing this information would mean fame and fortune to him. Tom tells the authorities and Klaatu is tracked down and shot dead when he refuses to stop. Helen runs to the space ship and tells Gort, “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!” Gort retrieves Kaatu’s body and takes it to the space ship where Gort activates a machine that temporarily brings Klaatu back to life. Klaatu again emerges from the space ship, this time in the presence of the world’s leading scientists. There he tells them robots like Gort patrol the planets to make sure none of them are planning war. Earth has the opportunity to stop making war and join the planets in peace and productive pursuits. He concludes by telling the audience the other planets will await Earth’s answer. Then Klaatu and Gort enter the flying saucers and take off.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Space Shuttle Columbia atop a Boeing 747 flying over Kelly AFB, TX with 2 T-38 chase planes.    The Space Shuttle used heat tiles that could absorb tremendous amounts of heat and still be cool to the touch. The Pioneer 10 delivered to NASA.  The Pioneer 10 crossed the Asteroid Belt in February 1973.  It did a flyby of Jupiter and then flew into interstellar space.
The Space Shuttle Columbia atop a Boeing 747 flying over Kelly AFB, TX with 2 T-38 chase planes.    The Space Shuttle used heat tiles that could absorb tremendous amounts of heat and still be cool to the touch.
The Space Shuttle Columbia atop a Boeing 747 flying over Kelly AFB, TX with 2 T-38 chase planes. The Space Shuttle used heat tiles that could absorb tremendous amounts of heat and still be cool to the touch. | Source
The Pioneer 10 delivered to NASA.  The Pioneer 10 crossed the Asteroid Belt in February 1973.  It did a flyby of Jupiter and then flew into interstellar space.
The Pioneer 10 delivered to NASA. The Pioneer 10 crossed the Asteroid Belt in February 1973. It did a flyby of Jupiter and then flew into interstellar space. | Source

Another View

The futuristic technology in the movie is interesting from a present perspective. Klaatu’s space ship orbited the Earth at 4,000 miles per hour before it landed. By the end of the 1950s satellites launched from Earth flew at comparable speeds around the Earth. Klaatu traveled 250 million miles to get to Earth, apparently from somewhere in the asteroid belt. In February 1973 the Pioneer 10 spacecraft successfully crossed the asteroid belt and had travelled more than 250 million miles.[i] Taking an acetylene torch to an object and it not become hot was amazing in 1951. These were the properties of the Space Shuttle heat tiles that were developed in the 1970s. We still can’t match Klaatu’s medical technology but medical science is able to accomplish many amazing things that would have been undreamed of in 1951. When the doctors marveled at Klaatu’s life expectance they were smoking cigarettes and one said he was going out for some heavy drinking. Avoiding these practices can slow down the effects of aging and increase life expectance.

Helen Benson let her son go with a man she just met and knows nothing about. That shows a more innocent time in America. Bobby could best be described as an every boy. He was curious but not fearless. Klaatu helped him with his homework on fractions, not advanced Calculus. Bobby contributed to the plot without making him the plot’s central character.

An armed alien space ship lands on the White House Ellipse, a hostile act. Klaatu comes out claiming he comes in peace and goodwill. He stupidly takes out an unknown object and makes a sudden move with it. Only one soldier shoots and fires only one round. Gort comes out and vaporizes things. In the hospital Klaatu shows his arrogance to the White House Chief of Staff. He has no understanding, interest, or patience with the world’s geopolitical situation. World War II ended 6 years earlier. Joseph Stalin was in charge of The Soviet Union and Mao Zedong was in charge of The People’s Republic of China. The conflict the western nations had with these leaders was not “childish jealousies”. When Klaatu’s request to go out among the populace is respectfully refused he slips away. When he makes contact with Professor Barnhardt Klaatu talks about mass murder as a demonstration. To Professor Barnhardt’s credit he talks Klaatu into a non-lethal demonstration. Professor Barnhardt doesn’t tell the authorities. He clandestinely arranges to get scientists from around the world to meet at the flying saucer to hear Klaatu’s message. Klaatu tells Helen who he is and that if his message isn’t heeded the world will be destroyed. She betrays her fiancée by telling Klaatu Bobby also told him about Klaatu going back to the ship. Tom Stevens does the right thing for the wrong reason. He tells the authorities the whereabouts of Klaatu. Tom’s reason is his personal gain. In another stupid move Klaatu tries to run away and soldiers fatally shoot him. Helen isn’t taken into custody. She runs to Gort and with the words “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!” stops Gort’s killing spree at 2. For all she knew she could have given Gort the order to destroy all mankind. Gort takes Klaatu to the spaceship and reanimates him. Then Klaatu delivers his message, which is an ultimatum. Klaatu explains Gort is one in a series of robots who have the irrevocable authority to kill all the inhabitants of a planet if they detect “treachery”. He claims the only freedom the Earth will lose is the “freedom to act irresponsibly”. He says the choice is to “live in peace or perish in violence.” It is very easy for people in authority to believe those who oppose them are acting irresponsibly. It is unclear if Klaatu is a monster with some authority or a brainwashed messenger who doesn’t know any better. The message he delivered, which is do as we say or we’ll kill you all, is similar to that of earthly tyrants throughout the ages.

[i] NASA, Solar System Exploration (http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/profile.cfm?MCode=Pioneer_10&Display=ReadMore)

Original vs Remake

Which version of The Day the Earth Stood Still do you prefer.

See results

Which view do you subscribe to?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Robert Sacchi profile image
      Author

      Robert Sacchi 14 months ago

      Fascinating :-)

    • Austinstar profile image

      Austinstar 14 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

      And then there is Transcendence (Tom Cruise). And the theory that we are all holograms anyway. We will probably never know :-)

    • Robert Sacchi profile image
      Author

      Robert Sacchi 14 months ago

      Yes, computers are often programmed to choose the best of a series of options. They are often given the ability to make a random choice. This gives the appearance of a Free Will but it isn't Free Will as we know it. There is also the "Colossus: The Forbin Project" scenario.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Austinstar 14 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Seriously? I would think that there is such a thing as Perfect Free Will - Where we could choose between equally good or optimum scenarios.

      If this god has a pre-detrmined plan for mankind, there is no free will involved anyway, we would have to follow his plan, right?

      Robots have the ability to choose best options, and so do we. No gods needed.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image
      Author

      Robert Sacchi 14 months ago

      Thank you for reading and feedback. Therein lies the concept of free will. If humans don't have free will then they are just robots. We can be perfect or we can have free will but we can't have both.

    • profile image

      Wild Bill 14 months ago

      Austin

      It is amazing how you can create an anti-God rant from anything.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Austinstar 14 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

      If only there were such a robot. Apparently, mankind needs a 'god' in order to control our violent nature? The one we have doesn't do a very good job of controlling us. Probably because our 'gods' don't really exist. Maybe we will get around to building a Gort one day. That would be nice.

      Hopefully, we will get it done before Soylent Green becomes real.

    • Mike Nolan profile image

      Michael Nolan 2 years ago from Sarasota, FL

      Essentially, his message is "We don't care if you destroy each other, but if one of these weapons leaves your planet, we will destroy you all." He's direct. There's no negotiation, no bargaining, and it's not even a threat. He's just telling it like it is.

    • qeyler profile image

      qeyler 2 years ago

      I am trying to recall if I ever saw a remake which was as good as the original. Most suck.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I enjoyed both movies.

      Lawrence

    • qeyler profile image

      qeyler 2 years ago

      I saw it very real; if an alien ship landed, this is what would happen. There would be a shoot first, there would be this attitude.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 2 years ago from Orange County California

      I don't agree with your interpretation of the message.

      The message was that the Earth was endangering their worlds, Gort was one of many autonomous police force that patrolled their worlds.

      The Earth was instructed to cooperate, and follow the same restrictions that they follow.

      Not a Tyrant.

      But for me the movie transcended the message. I saw it only as the reason why there was a Gort.

    • qeyler profile image

      qeyler 2 years ago

      I loved that movie. It was serious, the actors took it seriously, and it was very real.