Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Film reviews - The day the Earth stood still

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) was Directed by Robert Wise and helped to spawn the start of the "Alien invasion" movies that we still see popular to this day.

We see the Alien Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and his robot sidekick Gort (Lock Martin) land on Earth just post action of the last World War, which is spawned concern from the neighbouring civilisations in the starry consolations above. Klaatu must inform the world leaders that if the people of the Earth did not change their ways then the aliens would have no choice but to destroy Earth to protect other worlds in the Universe. As this task starts to appear more difficult than he first perceived, Klaatu decides to embark on further action - by draining the world of power to get attention.

The film work produced here is classic of its day - lots of clever tricks to get around things before the invention of the special effects we have today. Things such as reversing the tape of the door to the space ship opening to make it close and save costs on film and time - the space suit of the robot Gort having two models, one with a zip at the front for behind shots and one with a zip at the back for frontal shots. It is also to note that this suit was very heavy, so the scene in which Gort carries Helen (Patricia Neal) he wasn't actually carrying a real person, but was carrying a dummy in replacement.

For its time the special effects used were state of the art, however you can see how they have tried to create story around over excessive use of the primitive (and expensive) effects of its time to avoid extra cost and to keep the film believable. It was originally wrote by Harry Bates, then later turned into a screenplay by Edmund H. North. The filmic version of the original story is vastly different in many comparisons. In the story, Klaatu is killed my a maniac (not a soldier) straight away on arrival to Earth. It puts mention that Gort the Robot comes to life every night to continue his quest and that he recovers a recording of Klaatu's voice from his tomb and uses it to make a copy of him. The way in which Klaatu warns the Earth of the consequence towards its actions is different to the overall way in which the film conveys this; From giving a Scientist the key to an extreme mathematical problem, to deactivating all electrical appliances on Earth asides from those which affect Human safety and being revived from the dead to give mankind the required message. When Klaatu is killed, Gort brings him back to life temporarily to communicate with the Humans gathered around the Spaceship, which is obvious for the many people to be the source of the strange events that have occurred. In the original story, it is then revealed that Robots are the actual true Masters of the Universe and that Organic beings are of less importance in the hieorachy of exsistence.

A film which uses every display of emotion, visual magic and clever twists to the plot that it can, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" really stands out as a legend amongst Science fiction.


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