A classic science fiction film from the 1950s
This is our first venture into Science Fiction, and we are starting with “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, considered one of the greatest Sci-Fi films of the 1950s, if not all time. It is fun, dramatic, and suspenseful, and contains some of the best special effects of its day. To put things briefly in perspective, the 1950s were a time when the world was recovering from World War II, McCarthyism (a hunt for subversives and traitors) was in full swing, and the Cold War (a competition between the US and the Soviet Union) was becoming an increasingly scary situation. All the fears and suspicions in the air were the catalysts that helped create and solidify the Science Fiction genre, which as a result, blossomed in the 1950s. The story for “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in particular was fueled by fears of atomic war. The film’s conversation about humanity and war still resonate today.
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” was directed by one of the great and most versatile directors of all time, Robert Wise. He began as an editor, most notably editing the cinematic masterpiece, “Citizen Kane”. He then became a director and sometimes producer, and directed many great classic films including “The Sound of Music”, and “West Side Story”, winning Academy Awards for both, in directing and producing. Those 4 Oscars wins were out of 7 career nominations, and in 1967 he was awarded the Academy’s “Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award” for his body of work. In his career he directed classic dramas, musicals, horror films, and science fiction films including this one. More of his films will definitely be added to this site.
Patricia Neal, who plays “Helen Benson”, was a truly distinct and great actress who appeared in many films including several classics such as "Hud", "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "A Face in the Crowd" (each of which will eventually be added to this site). She gave a great performance in everything she did and is a “Best Actress” Academy Award winner ( for "Hud", with an additional career nomination), a Tony Award winner for her work on Broadway, and an Emmy Award nominee. She was a member of the Actors Studio (which I briefly mentioned in the “A Place in the Sun” entry, HERE). Her film career began in 1949, and she worked in film and TV up until 2009. In 1965, while pregnant, she had a series of strokes, followed by extensive brain surgery. She was in a coma for several weeks, and had to relearn to walk and talk, and regain her memory. She did give birth to the baby, which was one of her five children. She had one 30 year marriage which ended in divorce. She wrote in her autobiography, “Frequently my life has been likened to a Greek tragedy, and the actress in me cannot deny that comparison”. Despite her tough life (or perhaps because of it) she kept working and had an honesty and directness in her performances. She also had a wonderfully distinctive, raspy voice. Always a exciting to watch! She died of lung cancer in 2010, at 84 years old. We will definitely see more of her work.
Sam Jaffe, who plays “Professor Jacob Barnhardt”, is a fantastic character actor who appeared in many great films from the 1930’s through the 1950s, including "Ben-Hur", "Gunga Din", and "Gentlemen's Agreement", which will appear on this blog in the future. He was nominated once for a “Best Supporting Actor” Academy Award for another classic, "The Asphalt Jungle". Unfortunately, he was blacklisted during the McCarthy Hollywood “Red Scare” supposedly for being a communist sympathizer, which limited his work for almost a decade. I’ll talk about McCarthyism and the "Red Scare" a little bit more in an upcoming post. Jaffe worked mostly in television from 1960 until his death in 1984, at age 93.
Also in the cast:
Billy Gray plays “Bobby Benson”, a child actor who went on to fame in the 1950’s TV Show, “Father Knows Best”. Michael Rennie appears as “Klaatu”, and this is his most memorable performance and film. And be on the lookout for Hugh Marlowe, who plays “Tom Stevens” (“Helen’s” boyfriend). If you’ve been watching the films on here, you saw Hugh in the very first film of this blog, “All About Eve” (in which he played writer Lloyd Richards, one of the main characters).
Also important is the film score by one of the best known film composers, Bernard Herrmann. His score for "The Day the Earth Stood Still" was a landmark in his career as well as in films. In it he created a new sound through his brilliant and original orchestration. Only electronic instruments were used, including the theremin, electric violins and electric guitars. No strings or woodwinds were used in the orchestration. This was one of the first uses of an electronic sound, which has since became a standard for that “other worldly” sound. The score was used sporadically, with most of the film having no score, also rare at the time. Hermann composed the score for many film masterpieces, including “Citizen Kane”, "Fahrenheit 451", "Taxi Driver", "Cape Fear", "A Hatful of Rain”, and most notably for many Alfred Hitchcock films, including composing one of the most famous scores ever for “Psycho”. He was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, winning one for 1941’s “All That Money Can Buy”.
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” was remade in 1982 with Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, and Kathy Bates, but that version doesn’t compare to this classic.
Captivating and exciting from start to finish, get ready to enjoy, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”!
YOU CAN STREAM OR BUY THE FILM ON AMAZON:
OTHER PLACES YOU CAN BUY THE FILM: Ebay Deep Discount
TO READ AFTER VIEWING (contains spoilers):
I thought I’d point out that there is a biblical parallel. "Klaatu", who is trying to save the planet, calls himself, "John 'Carpenter'”, his initials are JC, (like Jesus Christ), and he dies and is reborn.
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" is also one of the first science fiction films to portray aliens as good and positive.