Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Day the Earth Stood Still

1951, US, directed by Robert Wise

Despite the film's intergalactic plotline, in its own way it's very much a plea for the kind of values associated with small-town America - getting along with one another, creating a safe place for the younger generation, and being able to accept even the more eccentric residents. Of course, the tolerance has its limits; though Washington, DC occasionally has the feel of a village, where you'd trust your son with a new arrival, it's a village filled with white folks; there's more diversity at the scientific conference that's at the centre of the film than on the streets of the city.

This is very much from Robert Wise's early, brisk period: there's not an ounce of fat in the running time, with the director wasting no time on lengthy exposition, getting his space traveler onto the ground as quickly as possible. He creates an arresting sense of the panic that the arrival created, through the now-clichéd use of journalist talking heads from a variety of locations; there's a nod or two in the direction of Welles's legendary dramatisation of The War of the Worlds before the film goes in a different, more domesticated direction.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States