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TV Movie Of The Week: The Day The Earth Stood Still

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Mark Kermode Mark Kermode | 11:38 UK time, Tuesday, 13 November 2012

My choice of the best film on television this week is Robert Wise's majestic science fiction story from 1951.

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Review: Keanu Reeves in The Day the Earth Stood Still

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  • Comment number 1.

    Sadly, John Boorman didn't use dueling theremins on the Deliverance soundtrack. (now there's high concept, it's Deliverance meets The Day the Earth Stood Still, is John Hillcoat available?).

    Seriously, though, the sad continued relevance of the themes of The Day The Earth Stood Still, is the main reason that it remains timeless, just as George Pal's Time Machine and Forbidden Planet. Even though we're all in the future now, and have many gadgets much better than those of even Klaatu, the Krell, or the spinning disc people who fathered the Eloi, mankind is still paranoid, violent and self-destructive. As the monolith people would say, "Kids, eh?"

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree, this film is a classic and like all great science fiction films, its central message is one that will touch a nerve for generations to come. The Day The Earth Stood Still is still relevant because it addresses an issue of human nature; that of war and destruction.

    Also less said about the remake the better.

  • Comment number 3.

    My mum taped this for me on video when I was 10 and I almost wore out the copy! It's still in my top 10 films of all time.
    From start to finish it's gripping. Rod Serling must have been heavily influenced by this movie in his own Twilight Zone stories. Infact, it is like an elongated, classic TZone episode.
    The music is fantastic and the visual imagery still striking but most of all it has an unsettling atmosphere all the way through that is very rare in this genre of movie.
    It's timeless and sadly the message of the film will always be relevant while humans still occupy Earth.
    I saw 20 minutes of the remake and turned it off. Please don't apologise for criticising Keanu Reeves,ever.

  • Comment number 4.

    I love this film and blackmailed my Twiglet obsessed 10 year old daugther and my 13 year old son to watch this last time it was on TV. Despite preliminary grumblings of "oh no black and white and prehistoric" being shouted before the film began - within 5 minutes they were hooked and the imfamous "klaatu barada nicto" is now a family saying. Thanks for being evangelical about this film.

  • Comment number 5.

    To be honest, Im suprised to see you choose this mark. There's a lot of great rarely seen films on TV this week. Including Brassed Off, Don't Look Now, Weekend, The Killing (Early Stanley Kubrick Noir!), Tyrannosaur and Layer Cake. Still a good choice though, I'm looking forward to checking this out.

  • Comment number 6.

    So Mark, is this "TV film of the week" thing taking over from the Kermode Uncut Film Club?

  • Comment number 7.

    Even now the set design and minimalistic props are timeless. The story is the real winner here. Good acting, a good script, good score and great camera work it is not surprising it is still a good watch.

    The remake was all CGI and incredibly wooden acting, KR was bad but what about Kathy Bates!!

    If aliens do ever land the Earth will stand still. I am pretty sure it will feel like the 1951 portrayal.

  • Comment number 8.

    One of my favourite films for sure, but seeing that Tyrannosaur is out for the first time on British terrestrial TV, then I'm quite surprised that you didn't promote that instead.

    The Day the Earth Stood Still is a great classic and it has a powerful message, and stood out from most of the rest of the films of its genre of the time (and since). Still, it's on TV quite regularly. But Tyrannosaur, which has two fantastic acting performances from Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman (for me who tied with Tilda Swinton in who should have won the Oscar for last year) and is also a very strong film, albeit in a different way to The Day the Earth Stood Still, really needs to be promoted.

    Ah well, the important thing is that it's your blog, your choice, but thought I'd get that off my chest. ;)

  • Comment number 9.

    Dr K has covered Tyrannosaur extensively in the radio show, and unless he's radically revised his opinion, I'm sure he stands by his previous remarks. TDTESS is in need of re-evaluation after that reprehensible remake. But I wouldn't say Keanu was (and always is) wooden - more like MDF with a thick layer of Formica.

  • Comment number 10.

    In the comments on this website for the remake I used the famous phrase 'Klaatu barada nikto'. It was removed for breaking the 'no use of foreign languages' rule. Mon dieu!

  • Comment number 11.

    FOUR blog entries since the breaking of the biggest movie news of 2012, and not a word from the Doc. Incredible.

  • Comment number 12.


  • Comment number 13.

    @ Phud:

    "Dr K has covered Tyrannosaur extensively in the radio show, and unless he's radically revised his opinion, I'm sure he stands by his previous remarks."

    His previous remarks were very positive, he was also gushing about Olivia Colman's performance, so not sure how "radically revised" his opinion would need to be. Still, The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of my favourites despite what I said above, so I'll move on... and it's also Mark's blog, so his choice.

    BTW, one thing I love about The Day the Earth Stood Still is its understated nature. It doesn't hype itself, go with cheap scares, it doesn't cheapen itself, it's really different to a lot of the sci-fi films of the time, a lot of which were either going along with the Red Scare paranoia during that time or were ambiguous (deliberately or perceived). It's a bigger film than it appears to be and well worth watching.

  • Comment number 14.

    I love this film and rate it as one of the greatest sf films ever made...

    What are the others?

  • Comment number 15.

    This was one of the key films of my childhood, as well as my first true introduction to the unappreciated world of film music, courtesy of Bernard Herrmann's stunning music. From there, I was delving into his work for Hitchcock. As for the film, it is the best of the 1950's SF films, even though it contains very little science fiction 'stuff;' but the film is all the better for that. Brilliantly directed by Robert Wise (it's arguably his best film), the film is over 60 years old and it's still great (I watched it again recently and it still works). As for the remake, I haven't even seen it. Why should I? The original is all I need....

  • Comment number 16.

    Radio news: "A large object is currently heading for the eastern coast of the United States". If that were real, you'd just have countless military talking heads on every media network insisting that it's just swamp gas refracted through the light from Venus.

    Timeless classic. The remake was a god-awful crime against cinema, made by people whose intellectual capacity is surpassed by a concussed bee.

  • Comment number 17.

    Yeah it is a great film, although note to any aliens with a message of peace for us, just say hello and explain it first before getting out any gifts that look like futuristic flick knives.

    madgirlipswich - you could try Quatermass And The Pit, it probably doesn't have the same stature as The Day the Earth Stood Still but it is sci fi with a brain. It explored the idea of human evolution being accelerated by alien intervention decades before Prometheus.

  • Comment number 18.

    One thing that has been mentioned in comments so far -- whoever designed the interior of Klaatu's ship was way ahead of their time, esp. in terms of the controls. If you look at other early science fiction films, the technology looks laughably dated today -- with lots of old radio knobs and flashing lights on control panels. But the interior of Klaatu's ship still looks futuristic, with hands-free, gesture controlled interfaces -- not dissimilar to Microsoft's Kinect. Pretty amazing considering DTESS came out 60 years ago.

  • Comment number 19.

    Seeing this film on Blu-Ray for the first time after 40 years viewing it only at standard definition was a real pleasure. There's a real intelligence to the script and performances that SF should always have to be credible. Thankfully Jar Jar Binks would be no match for Gort!

  • Comment number 20.

    Hated the remake of "The Day The Earth Stood Still" - Well it stood still for me at least. The score, as you mentioned, Mr. Kermode, was the the underlining aspect of the film; It created an atmosphere that Herrmann was fluent in when musically challenging genres through a signature voice. In a surprise twist of fate, Danny Elfman channeled the said Herrmann with "Mars Attacks"; adapted the man himself with Van Sant's maligned "Psycho" remake; now bringing these influences to the fore with the upcoming "Hitchcock".

  • Comment number 21.

    it doesn't look dated? what planet are you from Marky Mark?

    It looks as dated as my gran.

  • Comment number 22.

    My Ex-boss and I broh shared a lover of films, he was a great lover of classic sci-fi films, and he convenced me to watched The Fobidden Planet, the Invasion of the Body Snachers and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Now they some of my faviourate fims.

    They endure because their story, idea or message is not lost behind endless CGI and pointless 3D, this is where the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still went wrong.

  • Comment number 23.

    Not much to add about this classic, easily in the all-time top 5 of sci-fi, except the hilarious contradiction between Klaatu's so called message of peace and his threat to annihilate all life on earth to stop a relatively small amount of scientists, politicians and soldiers toying with nuclear weapons: a case of collective punishment ad absurdum.

  • Comment number 24.

    I've been interested in watching this for a while, so here's an opportunity. One thing about these films is alien/robot/monster + white woman draped in their arms... seems a big theme in these old-fashioned movies, perhaps it reflects the fact that: Mars Needs Women. lol.

  • Comment number 25.

    My Dad was a huge sci-fi fan (both books and films). So I was introduced to this film at a very early age (probably in the 1960s) via the TV. It still remains a huge favourite of mine. Our lads were introduced to it at an early age too -so we're keeping the tradition going. Maybe it's time to get the DVD out for our granddaughter as she'll be at school when it's shown tomorrow. It also means we won't be annoyed by any adverts interrupting our viewing pleasure.
    I accidentally caught a few minutes of the remake the other night, I couldn't be bothered catching the rest and will avoid for the rest of my life.

  • Comment number 26.

    Vincent Kane - totally agree, for a message of peace its pretty warlike.

  • Comment number 27.

    Awww this is just a wonderful film. I love all 50s sci-fi, but this along with Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Forbidden Planet and The Thing From Another Planet are the best of the lot for me

  • Comment number 28.

    Don't be silly, Mark, TDTESS is as much a masterpiece as anything made by Lucio Fulci is! Though its tame script may have something to say about the human race, it's just another chirpy-chirpy-cheap-cheap '50s ham & cheese fest for me, along with a hundred other dodgy sci-fi movies of said decade.

    For a film to be a "masterpiece", it has to be complete in all departments and sadly this is far from that. The performances are of the usual 1950s sliced ham variety and the production values and sfx rise only so far above an Ed Wood production, making it pretty much standard fair and definitely not in the same league as the best 1950s sci-fi movie - The Incredible Shrinking Man.

    Having said that, you're perfectly entitled to your opinion, of which many are available.

  • Comment number 29.

    It's a film that makes me squeal 'hooray!' and clap like a child promised a puppy. And it isn't dated, in my opinion. It's highly stylized and I would say very influential. Unfortunately, that influence extends to George Lucas (the sci-fi-noir graphic style permeates everything 'Lucas', from Indiana Jones to Grim Fandango). And now he's ruined it for everyone.

  • Comment number 30.

    An excellent film, and definitely a masterpiece compared to its contemporaries. Robert Wise is a woefully under-rated director. Although he could be considered a jobbing director, rather than one of the 20th century's great auteurs, Wise gave us some of the classics of American cinema. Between 1958 and 1971 he gave us I Want To Live, Odds Against Tomorrow, West Side Story, The Haunting, The Sound of Music and, for me, one of the greatest Sci-Fi movies, The Andromeda Strain.

  • Comment number 31.

    My favourite bit is where the two doctors discuss Klaatu's physical state before sparking up and heading into the examination room.

    Aaah, the '50s...

  • Comment number 32.

    Had wanted to rent it after watching this blog and thought my local decent dvd store would have it. After waiting 30 minutes for the guy in charge to return (yeah, Back in 5 Minutes my foot!) I found to my horror that they only had the 2008 remake with Keanu. Aargh.

  • Comment number 33.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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