Written by Hombre Divertido
Though clear that 20th Century Fox has put together the 2-Disc Special Edition of the classic 1951 science-fiction film to help promote its release of the 2008 version of the same name, due to hit theatres on Friday December 11th, it’s always a good time to revisit this classic, and some of the new bonus material is both entertaining and informative. As poignant and enthralling as it was in its day, The Day the Earth Stood Still remains an incredibly subtle look at our culture under the guise of the flying saucer-themed camp so prevalent in the fifties.
After being tracked around the world, a flying saucer lands in Washington D.C. on a beautiful summer day. After being surround by the military, Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and Gort (Lock Martin) emerge from the ship, announce that they have come in peace, and though baring a gift, Klaatu is shot by an over-zealous young soldier. After escaping from his hospital, Klaatu befriends Bobby (A pre-Father Knows Best Billy Gray) who gives Klaatu a tour around Washington and some insight into the culture. As he is tracked by the military, Klaatu will eventually be assisted by Bobby’s mom Helen (a slightly mis-cast Patricia Neal) and Professor Barnhardt (the always-reliable Sam Jaffe). Though shot again by the military, with the help of Helen and her delivery of the classic line “Gort, Klaatu Barada Nikto,” Klaatu manages to make his way back to his ship, and deliver his classic speech before speeding back from whence he came.
This film has a subtle elegance to it as it dabbles more in film noir than the typical monster-invasion films. From the lighting and set design to the dialogue-driven story combined with the classic theremin-filled soundtrack, this film was well ahead of its time in both special-effects technology as well as storytelling.
As this film has been released on DVD previously, as well as shown on television regularly, the question is: should you buy this new 2-Disc Special Edition? The answer is a qualified “Yes.”
Someone would really have to be a huge fan to want to scan through each page of the working script, or listen to all the available commentary and a reading of the original Harry Bates short story on which the film was based; all of which is certainly available here. Some of the more entertaining features include numerous galleries of photos and articles of the day, and some well-crafted documentaries on the making of the film. The interviews with the daughters of Edmund H. North are particularly entertaining, and finding out what became of the stationary Gort, or that Spencer Tracy was considered for the role of Klaatu, which would have resulted in Father Flanagan emerging from the flying saucer, certainly makes the bonus material worth owning.
Recommendation: Yes, over the years the meaning behind this simple film may have been over analyzed, but in some ways that only adds to its charm. Those looking for an action-packed science-fiction film should look elsewhere. This is a thought-provoking story told in vintage form by masters of the craft. A must-have for the true fan of classic films, and a must-see for those who have yet to experience Gort and Klaatu. Let us hope that the new rendition does it justice.