The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) – [rate 2]
B-movies, impossible to rate. If you look at this movie with modern eyes, it hard to see any quality at all. The plot is shaky and incredibly stereotypical. The special effects are limited to a sliding door in a big metal box and a big ray of light emanating from the eyes of a robot that makes weapons disappear. Stuff you can reproduce with garden-variety toys available to everyone today, even without the use of a PC. And there’s not a lot of acting going on either, though that’s not the worst part of the movie, considering other contemporary pieces.
But clearly, there’s more to it than that. The movie feels classical in more than just a campy way, though there is plenty of camp to go round. If you appreciate the time in which it was shot, you can make out a number of themes that may have been very stirring at the time. The movie seems to speak out for something like the UN, which didn’t have the stature it has (had?) today. The movie portrays an alien as somewhat of a messiah, drawing multiple paralels between the main character Klaatu and the christian messiah. This is old in our day and age, but was bold back in the early 50’s.
The score of the movie isn’t bad either and most of it is shot in a professional, though hardly adventurous way. It stays within the bounds of a genre that we now consider campy, but which was all the rage at the time and it applies the themes of the genre to current events and themes. If you look at it with 50’s eyes, it becomes easier to see why people still appreciate it and why it even deserved a recent remake (The Day the Earth Stood Still, with Keanu Reeves as Klaatu – another excuse for that blank stare of his).
If you feel like watching a 50’s B-movie, this one isn’t a bad pick.