Stream On: ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still,’ the original UAP?

By on August 3, 2023

As the mainstream news is distracted by the “urgent” news that some folks say UFO’s really do exist, I’ll do my part help protect the Republic by reporting on an equally timely film.


/Amazon /Streaming /🍅95%🍿87% /Trailer /1951 /G

“The latest incarnation of Oedipus, the continued romance of Beauty and the Beast, stands this afternoon on the corner of Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting for the traffic light to change.” (Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949)

“We have come to visit you in peace and with good will.” (Klaatu)

(In August 1945, near the end of the second World War, the United States detonated two atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombings together killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians. They remain the only use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict.)

1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still is more of a fable than a science-fiction movie. It tells of the visit to earth of a stranger with god-like powers, who appears to be one of us, and who carries a warning for humanity. He calls himself Carpenter. He is killed, by us—and resurrected.

It’s a quiet black-and-white film with low-key special effects—a flying saucer lands on a baseball field in Washington, D.C. The ship is not gigantic, maybe a hundred meters wide, but as people see it about to land, they scatter, and the army arrives. In Britain, a radar technician, who has been tracking the ship among others worldwide, exclaims, “Holy Christmas!”

As the army company surrounds the ship, a humanoid alien (Michael Rennie, Route 66) emerges, “in peace and with good will,” accompanied by a large robot, and is wounded by a nervous soldier when he produces what turns out to be a gift. The alien, whose name is Klaatu, is taken in custody to Walter Reed Army Hospital, where he surreptitiously treats himself, escapes, taking a suit of clothes from a locker, and takes a room in a boarding house, calling himself Major John Carpenter, after a dry-cleaning tag that he finds on the suit.

At the boarding-house breakfast table, “Major Carpenter” and the other tenants (including Frances Bavier, The Andy Griffith Show) listen to the radio reports of “the monster from outer space.”

The young son of a widow (Patricia O’Neal, A Face in the Crowd) in the house takes to the dignified stranger, and he becomes an audience surrogate. Klaatu agrees to watch Bobby for an afternoon and they tour the city.

At Arlington National Cemetery, to Klaatu’s distress, Bobby tells him his father “died at Anzio.” They visit the Lincoln Memorial and read the Gettysburg Address inscribed on its base. “That’s the kind of man I’d like to talk to,” Klaatu tells Bobby. “Who’s the greatest man in America today?”

“Well, I don’t know … the Spaceman, I guess.”

“No, I was speaking of earth men. I meant the greatest philosopher.”

They visit a scientist (Sam Jaffe), who, when Klaatu gives him the key to the solution of a deep equation, believes that he is indeed the missing alien and agrees to assemble scientists and leaders from across the globe to hear his message. Klaatu will arrange a “demonstration” of his power that the world will be unable to ignore in order to convince the participants to hear him out.

After some drama during which Klaatu is discovered by the authorities, killed on the way to the assembly, and resurrected by the robot that accompanies him, he finally addresses the world leaders:

“We know that your planet has discovered a rudimentary kind of atomic energy.  So long as you were limited to fighting amongst yourselves with your primitive tanks and aircraft, we were unconcerned. But soon one of your nations will apply atomic energy to spaceships that will create a threat to the peace and security of other planets. That, of course, we cannot tolerate.

“I came here to warn you that by threatening danger, your planet faces danger.”

A remake was attempted in 2008 by folks I don’t want to embarrass by calling their names. It’s awful—the message is changed to one of protecting the ecology, and even that is almost buried in gratuitous ludicrous special effects, videogame colors and horrible writing, directing and acting. Bless its heart!

GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE! One of my favorite shows, the sublime animated space opera Futurama, is being rebooted on Hulu! “Sweet toke of Ocracoke!” (Hermes Conrad)

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV columns by Pete Hummers. Columns are archived and updated when necessary on Substack.

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