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Celebrating 1951’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” standing tall as a classic – despite everything we and the universe have thrown at it.

Klaatu

Start: Many years ago I had a co-worker ask me: “So, Daniel, as a visitor, what do you think of planet Earth?”

(Thank you Lance, wherever you are.)

No, unless my parents were somehow tricked, or kidding themselves, or were local assets for the alien invasion — which wouldn’t surprise me — I feel pretty confident I’m a native.

I’ll have to admit I frequently do look askance at the human race, and I think I may have had an early role model for that — albeit a human one — in the form of the late actor Michael Rennie. One of my all-time favorite science fiction movies is the classic Robert Wise film from 1951, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Rennie’s portrayal of the wise and caring alien emissary Klaatu still stands out in my mind as a wonderful execution of a well-written and directed role.

There are a handful of science fiction films I consider classic. (I suppose if you’re a slumming alien, you have a right to be picky … ) For me, for a science fiction film to warrant being considered a classic it has to do all the things a movie is supposed to do (keep me involved, give me characters that engage me, not get bogged down or sidetracked), and on top of this it needs to provoke thoughtful reflection, a sense of awe, or touch me somehow deeply. The most recent science fiction film that comes to mind which achieved any of these is Contact, the Jodie Foster film based on astronomer Carl Sagan’s novel.

The earliest film I am aware of that fits my picky criteria is in fact The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Fond Memories

I have a warm place in my heart for this movie. I don’t recall the very first time I saw it, but I do recall it being regularly shown on NBC’s Saturday Night at the Movies in the 1960’s. (For you younger folk, this was back before the modern cable TV era, when broadcast television was the only real show in town.) My parents went through a period in the early ’60’s where they would go upstate to the home of some friends to play cards and spend the night. Television was the obvious distraction for me, and it seemed like The Day the Earth Stood Still ran every Saturday evening we went there. It didn’t of course, but it was a very popular film in that venue and it probably did run every few months. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen it.

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