“The Day the Earth Stood Still,” 1951
“The Day the Earth Stood Still,” 1951
The 1951 science fiction film classic, "The Day the Earth Stood Still," won a Golden Globe award and in 2008, was ranked as Number 5 on American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the Sci-Fi genre.
Film synopsis, via Wikipedia:
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" (a.k.a. "Farewell to the Master" and "Journey to the World") is a 1951 black-and-white American science fiction film from 20th Century Fox, produced by Julian Blaustein, directed by Robert Wise, that stars Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, and Sam Jaffe. The screenplay was written by Edmund H. North, based on the 1940 science fiction short story, "Farewell to the Master" by Harry Bates. The score was composed by Bernard Herrmann.
In "The Day the Earth Stood Still," a humanoid alien visitor named Klaatu comes to Earth, accompanied by a powerful eight-foot-tall robot, Gort, to deliver an important message that will affect the entire human race.
In 1995, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Film trivia, via IMDb:
One of the reasons that Michael Rennie was cast as Klaatu was because he was generally unknown to American audiences, and would be more readily accepted as an "alien" than a more recognizable actor. Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck had shown the script to Spencer Tracy, who was eager to play the role. Producer Julian Blaustein objected, saying that the audience would have numerous expectations about the character upon seeing an actor of such repute emerging from the flying saucer. Blaustein knew that Zanuck had the ultimate control, and if he insisted, Blaustein would either have to resign, or make the movie in an unsatisfactory way. Fortunately, Zanuck agreed, and Rennie was cast instead.
Bernard Herrmann used two Theremins to create his creepy score, one pitched higher, the other lower, making this one of the first films to feature a largely electronic score. The musical score by Herrmann was what inspired Danny Elfman to be a composer.
To increase the sense of reality, some of the most famous broadcast journalists of the time were hired to do cameos as themselves. These included Gabriel Heatter, H.V. Kaltenborn, and Drew Pearson.
To give the appearance of seamlessness to the space ship, the crack around the door was filled with putty, then painted over. When the door opened, the putty was torn apart, making the door seem to simply appear. To depict the seamless closing of the ship and its ramp, they just reversed the film of the shot of the ship’s ramp and door appearing
In line with the film’s Christian allegory, Klaatu adopts the name "Carpenter" when hiding out from the authorities. Robert Wise hadn’t considered the Christian implications until it was pointed out to him several years later.
Patricia Neal has admitted in interviews that she was completely unaware during the filming that the film would turn out so well, and become one of the great science-fiction classics of all time. She assumed it would be just another one of the then-current and rather trashy flying saucer films, and she found it difficult to keep a straight face while saying her lines.
The Army refused to cooperate after reading the script. The National Guard had no such qualms and gladly offered their cooperation.
The crowds were made up of local government employees, including some from the FBI offices, who were asked to participate in the film. No releases were required of employees.
Writer Edmund H. North was a former army officer who wrote the script in response to the proliferation of nuclear weapons during the Cold War.
Doubles were used for Klaatu and Bobby in long shots of them walking around Washington, DC. In reality, none of the principal cast ever went to Washington, and the scenes with Klaatu and Bobby at the Lincoln Memorial and at Arlington Cemetery were shot in front of background screens using footage shot by the second unit crew in Washington, DC.
Although he was already signed to play the Einstein-like Professor Barnhardt, the studio wanted to remove Sam Jaffe as a result of the political witch hunts that were then underway. Producer Julian Blaustein appealed to studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck. Zanuck allowed Jaffe to play the role, but it would be Jaffe’s last Hollywood film until the late 1950s.
The role of Gort was played by Lock Martin, the doorman from Grauman’s Chinese Theater, because he was extremely tall. However, he was unable to pick up Helen because he was so weak and had to be aided by wires (in shots from the back where he’s carrying her, it’s actually a lightweight dummy in his arms). He also had difficulty with the heavy Gort suit and could only stay in it for about a half hour at a time.
The phrase "Klaatu barada nikto" has become a popular phrase among sci-fi fans over the years and has been featured in other movies, such as "Army of Darkness" (1992).
The scene of the large crowd fleeing the saucer area after Gort appears is all too obviously "sped up" film, making the shot look unnatural. The reason for the sped up film effect was explained by director Robert Wise in an interview. It seems that, despite much pleading and cajoling from him, the crowd of inexperienced extras portraying the saucer onlookers simply wouldn’t move away from the saucer quickly enough to look panicky and convincing. After several takes, Wise finally had to move on with filming and reluctantly allowed the scene to be "sped up" in post production, knowing that the end result would probably look strange.
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