Saturday, April 8, 2017

Anne Francis Stars in, Forbidden Planet, or Thoughts on The Day The Earth Stood Still

Perhaps the first film noir/ science fiction hybrid, Robert Wise’s The Day The Earth Stood Still (1955) blends Cold War paranoia with a mid-century Christ allegory in a beautifully composed black and white movie with one of the most iconic movie robots.   When a flying saucer lands in front of the White House it’s surrounded by tanks and the alien pilot, who conveniently speaks English, is immediately shot during his take me to your leader speech.
British actor Michael Rennie starred in the role he would be remembered for as Klaatu, the alien with god-like powers who blackmails the people of Earth into world peace through the use of superior technology in the form of Gort, who I would describe to a first time viewer as an 8-foot tall silver robot with a Daft Punk helmet and laser eyes.  The film noir elements are most evident in the use of shadows, the general tone of paranoia and the Washington police manhunt for Klaatu.  The soundtrack by Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Hermann also helps establish the noir mood.
Directed by Hollywood Legend Robert Wise, who won his first Oscar for editing Citizen Kane (1941) ,before going on to direct some movies you may have heard of; West Side Story (1961), The Haunting (1963), The Sound of Music (1965), The Andromeda Strain (1971) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).  Michael Rennie also played The Sandman in Batman ’66, as well as guest starring in classic TV series including Lost in Space (1966), Bonanza (1965) and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1967).
Gort, in case you care, and I know you do, was portrayed by 7’7” Lock Martin, a former doorman from the historic Graumann’s Chinese Theater.  Klaatu, Barada, Nikto, the phrase that would go on to become an Evil Dead reference, was spoken by Patricia Neal as single mom Helen Benson, would go on to appear in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), win an Academy Award for Hud (1963) and star in Ghost Story (1981) as Stella Hawthorne, Fred Astaire’s wife. 

Watch out for the doctors lighting up inside Walter Reed hospital as they discuss Klaatu’s physiology.  It was a different time, kids.  There was a 2008 remake with the potentially clever casting of Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly.  I couldn’t watch it; I’m not ready to see a CGI Gort.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready.


my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).