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DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)
By Frederick C. Szebin
June 08, 2001
Director Robert Wise was given the opportunity to take on sci-fi with THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, based on a minor short story that took place in a museum of the future and was totally jettisoned in favor of a contemporary (1951) SF/drama to warn mankind of its tripping into the nuclear age. Peace was the message, which would be backed up by uncompromising force if necessary. It was our choice, and we still haven't found the answer. Unknown Michael Rennie was cast as Klaatu, ordinary businessman-looking alien who could blend in and was met with fear and blood before uttering a word. It is his restraint that helps keep this black and white glory a passionate plea to this day, and still one of the best science fiction films ever made with only a few special effects to give it an otherworldliness tying it to the genre. Otherwise, you could turn this film on in the middle, and as long as you didn't see Gort hovering about you wouldn't know it was pure SF. Wise is a man of the mind, and his film reaches to that under-used organ with a deliberateness that never comes near preachiness, and a skill that today's computer-oriented films miss completely. It's a message movie that doesn't beat you over the head, but merely holds up a mirror to ourselves so we can judge appropriately. It should be required viewing for all members of the UN, and anyone interested in political service.