This is part two of this post. For part one click here.
0:46:24 – Klaatu leaves Professor Barnhart's lab and returns to the boardinghouse where everyone is playing gin rummy. All the old cranks adjusted to Armageddon surprisingly fast.
0:47:11 – Klaatu starts creeping on Helen by complimenting her son Bobby for being “warm and intelligent.” She shoots him down by pointing out that the FBI came to interview him less than 24 hours ago... but she says it in an inquisitive way, as if she wants to politely provide him with an opportunity to explain himself. I guess being the subject of an active federal investigation wasn't a dealbreaker for a single mom in the 1950s... It must have been a simpler time back then.
0:49:09 – Tom shows up to take Helen on another date, and she's ready and willing to go, but first she has to sit Bobby down and tell him that he shouldn't hang out with Klaatu anymore. Bobby responds “but he's my best friend!” I hate to point this out, kid, but he's a forty year old stranger you met two days ago... If he's your best friend then your life is as tragic as a Hamlet monologue. Also: Helen wasn't comfortable leaving Bobby unsupervised forty eight hours ago, but all of a sudden a criminal rents the room next door to her and she's cool with her child babysitting himself?
0:49:41 – Huh, Helen just left with Tom so I guess she really thought that all she had to do to ensure her son's safety was to give him a stern lecture about avoiding the creep who lives one door down from them. I hate to slut shame but she seems a little more interested in harlotin' than in parentin'.
0:50:20 – Helen hasn't even been out of the house for two minutes before Klaatu comes into Bobby's room to borrow a flashlight and Bobby, who is obviously a willfully ignorant fool, conveniently forgets to tell Klaatu that they can't be friends anymore. Then when Klaatu leaves the boardinghouse with flashlight in hand Bobby starts following him. Yeah, this kid is definitely going to end up on the back of a milk carton some day.
0:52:34 – Klaatu returns to his spaceship but he can't figure out how to get past all the guards without being seen. You'd think that a man who would risk traveling across the void of space towards a presumably hostile planet in pursuit of a risky mission wouldn't be afraid of some teenaged grunts in jeeps but then again what do I know?
0:53:10 – Klaatu sneaks up to the fence and uses Bobby's flashlight to flash a message in Morse code to Gort, activating the sleeping robot. We get a good view of Gort's ass as he slowly creeps up to the hapless guards and I have to say: it is pretty solid. Like not tour-de-France-rider solid, but respectable.
00:54:40 – Bobby sees Gort the laser eyed death machine slowly sidling up to the two guards but he doesn't try to warn them. Then Gort murders them in cold blood and Bobby is still silent. Somebody show this kid an afternoon special - he needs to learn to speak up in crisis situations. Also he needs to learn how to avoid being in so many crisis situations. Actually, come to think of it there's a lot that young Bobby needs to learn.
0:55:05 – Klaatu and Gort approach the spaceship together, which makes Bobby realize that his “best friend” isn't who he thought he was. The young boy looks crestfallen, but hopefully he's learned a valuable lesson: don't trust anyone because you never know who is a goddamned commie in disguise.
0:57:25 – The inside of the spaceship is surprisingly tasteful – generally spaceships from this era are overflowing with blinking lights and neon. However, Klaatu's crib is so sparsely decorated that I think the infamously fussy Steve Jobs would be at home there.
0:57:57 – Bobby returns home and tries to tell his mom that Klaatu is an alien. Unfortunately, Helen isn't hearing it – she accuses him of dreaming the whole thing up. Uh, what? Apparently the entire world was willing to jump to the conclusion that Klaatu is a violent psychopath even though he refused to retaliate when he was shot (and he even yelled at Gort when the robot tried to retaliate on his behalf) but Helen isn't willing to believe that her new neighbor is a stone cold creep even after her young son says that he's seen him acting weird with his own two eyes? I don't understand her character at all.
0:58:20 – Tom goes into Klaatu's room on a hunt for evidence that would either prove or disprove Bobby's accusations. He discovers a diamond on the floor. That settles it: Klaatu is totally an alien.
0:59:14 – Tom shows Helen the suspicious diamond and then Bobby admits that he bought a bunch of rare stones off of Klaatu when they were hanging out together at the cemetery. Helen looks concerned by this news, but she does not yell at Bobby for refusing to share his riches with her. Nor does she tell Bobby not to accept expensive gifts from random old men. I'm beginning to think that she, too, is an alien.
1:00:20 – Then we cut to... Helen at work the next day? So, wait... She just found out that her neighbor is a visitor from another planet... a visitor whom the entire world thinks is dangerous... and she decided "oh, that's not important enough for me to disrupt my normal routine in any way?" I might not have narced Klaatu out to the cops but I would have at least made an emergency move to a different alien-free boardinghouse.
1:00:25- Anyway, Klaatu shows up at Helen's work to bug her. I wish there was some way to combine “stalker” and “Klaatu” into a good portmanteau but “Staalktu” sounds like an Ikea product
1:01:15 – Helen leads Klaatu into a hallway and then asks him what he wants with Bobby; he starts to explain that he's an alien. Then she lets Klaatu guide her into an elevator – because the best place to have an intense conversation with a potentially murderous sociopath is in a tightly enclosed space that you can't easily escape from. Then the lights go out, causing her to freak out. Klaatu tells her to calm down because he caused the blackout - it's part of his global "hey everyone listen to me" initiative, and it is going to last for at least half an hour. I'm sure that's exactly what she wanted to hear.
1:01:37 – To prove that the worldwide blackout has begun we get to see several shots of confused people standing near machines wondering why they stopped working. (AKA Stock Footage the Movie Part Two.) I wonder if they cut away so they didn't have to show Klaatu and Bobby's mama pulling an Aerosmith and doing it in an elevator?
1:02:40 – Examples of people struggling now that the power is out: a fisherman who can't get his boat to start; some teens stuck in a car that's stopped at the top of a rollercoaster; a milkshake maker who keeps jamming the metal cup into the mixing blade angrily. Some of those examples are reasonably evocative, but several of them just reminded me of those late night infomercials where they try to sell you a worthless new invention by showing you several morons struggling to use simple to operate pre-existing machines.
1:04:15 – Meanwhile back in D.C. Professor Barnhart is totally chill with Klaatu's blackout. Does he not realize that hospitals – oh, nevermind, we just cut to a general who is explaining that the worldwide blackout is definitely not an accident because every hospital known to man still has power. That's...a very well targeted blackout. How does Klaatu know what buildings do what? The walking tour Bobby took him on must have been very thorough.
1:05:18 – Cut to: Tom, who is trying to get one of Klaatu's diamonds evaluated by a jeweler. The diamond guy verifies Tom's worst fears: he's never seen a diamond like this in all the world so clearly whoever owned it is a madman from outer space who can't be trusted to treat our Earth women with respect. Which raises the question: what makes space diamonds so special? Are they shinier or something?
1:05:33 – Back to Klaatu and Helen in the elevator. Their clothes are still on. Damnit.
1:06:04 – Meanwhile back at my house I'm trying to distract the cat with the laser pointer so she'll leave me alone. If Gort was real do you think I could reprogram him using a flashlight and Morse code to play with the cat on my behalf?
1:07:24 – Anyway, the global blackout has put the fear of God into the military and now a general is having a team of soldiers encase Gort in a cage made of "unbreakable plastic." But come on - we're talking about 1951 here; their plastic can't be that unbreakable, especially if Gort is shooting his magic eye-lasers at it.
1:08:00 – The general has decided that all of Washington DC. is going to be under quarantine until the space man is captured. How did the FBI agent not connect the dots that the fingerprint-less weirdo who solved all of Barnhart's math equations was the space alien that everyone was looking for?
1:08:26 – Tom hurries to Helen's work to tell her that Bobby was right and that Klaatu is an alien. She says “I know.” There's an awkward pause as Tom realizes that he's just lost his true love to an alien who has an unflattering haircut and a stick up his ass. And believe me: when I say awkward I mean awkward.
1:09:00 – Tom tells Helen that he's going to reveal Klaatu's secret identity to the army and become “the biggest man in the world”. I hate to tell you this, Tom, but the media probably isn't going to treat you like a hero once they discover that you only turned Klaatu in once you realized that he was cuckolding you. In fact, they're probably going to make you look like an impotent fool.
1:10:48 – Tom makes good on his word and calls the military. If I was a general and I got a random phone call saying “you know that spaceman you're looking for? Well, he's living in a cheap boardinghouse with a bunch of cranky old people” I would be like FOH but apparently this guy is taking the bait.
1:11:13 – Cut to a read projection shot of some soldiers speeding to the boardinghouse. Damn, rear projection always looks so cheesy.
1:12:30 – Meanwhile, Klaatu is trying to return home... in a cab. Wait, what? First of all, how is he going to pay for a cab? With his diamonds? More importantly, he's in a hurry, so why is he taking ground transportation instead of busting out some jet boots? He has to own jet boots, right? He's a space alien from the 50s... I'm pretty sure that was their footwear of choice.
1:14:12 – Klaatu's taxi can't get anywhere near his spaceship because of all the roadblocks. That's why you need jetboots homeboy!
1:14:25 – Klaatu realizes that the army is hot on his trail. He tells Helen that if they catch him it could be bad for humanity because he's the only one who can keep the all-powerful Gort in line. He decides to tell Helen the secret words that will can shut the robot down – Klaatu barada nikto. You might recognize that phrase if you've ever seen Army of Darkness...
1:15:10 – (The cat was calmly licking itself till I annoyed it with the laser pointer. How's it feel to get harassed you little punk? Turnabout is fair play.)
1:16:34 – Klaatu finally arrives at the boardinghouse but the army is already waiting for him. He gets out of the cab and the soldiers instantly shoot him in cold blood. Wait, how do they know that he was the guy from Tom's tip? How do they know that Tom's tip was accurate? Are they just murdering everyone that was accused of being an alien? That sounds like a good way to start a lot of lawsuits. And again: why is no one afraid of pissing Gort off?
1:18:10 – Gort senses that Klaatu is dead and he starts to go apeshit. He melts down his plastic cage... Then he eye-laser murders his guards... Then he begins to head to the site of Klaatu's last stand to confront the army... Methinks this won't end well for humanity...
1:20:05 – I know this is a bit of a silly question for such a serious moment in the movie but... Is Gort wearing a chastity belt? Or is that a pair of steel tighty whities? Are tighty whities still technically tighty whities if they are metal colored?
1:20:15 – Gort arrives at the murder scene. He's about to straight up melt Helen but she remembers the magic words in the nick of time and his eye visor goes back down. However, he doesn't completely go to sleep. In fact, he forcefully scoops her up into his arms and carries her across the threshold into the spaceship. Wait, did she just say the spaceman marriage vows? Are they robot and wife now? If so, then Tom's been double cuckolded so he's probably double pissed off.
1:21:00 – Gort sets Helen down at the back of the ship and then begins waving his hands around random parts of the wall and making them light up. I bet their spaceship would be a good place to host a rave.
1:22:08 – Gort locks her in the control room, then he leaves the spaceship. It appears as if he's heading to the jail where Klaatu's body is being held in a cell... I wonder how Helen is going to pass the time in Gort's absence? I didn't see any magazines lying around and this is pre-smartphones. Hopefully Klaatu hid the keys to the spaceship really well because I don't have very much faith in her abilities to successfully pilot a flying saucer.
1:23:47 – Gort melts the side of the jail, scoops up Klaatu's prone body and then takes it back to the spaceship. Helen sees Klaatu's corpse and gasps in horror. Is she upset that Klaatu is dead, or that she's about to get kidnapped by aliens, or both at once? I wouldn't want to ride across the galaxy with a corpse as my co-pilot. (That's God's job.)
1:24:05 – I know this is a tangent, but... who names a robot Gort anyway? That's such a dumb name. Admittedly, it isn't this movie's fault that “Gort” just makes me think of “Bort” aka the best Simpsons joke of all time... but "Gort" had to sound silly long before the Simpsons made that joke.
1:24:45 – The shot of Klaatu's prone body in the foreground, a standing Gort in the middle ground and Mama Bobby back in the distance is really well composed.
1:25:17 – Barnhart is desperately trying to save humanity's ass by organizing the meeting that Klaatu demanded but the military refuses to be reasonable. Why is everyone so dead-set on defying the unspeakably powerful and perfectly reasonable spaceman? Jesus Christ, just hear the damn alien out before he Gorts us all to death.
1:26:12 – Gort places Klaatu in a healing machine which is supposed to bring him back to life. The healing machine is clearly a few pieces of light-up plastic that got stapled together by an intern. Elysium might have been dumb, but I will give it this: at least they made their magic healing pods look cool.
1:27:28 – Klaatu comes back to life, prompting Helen to ask him if he has the power to defeat death. He says that power is reserved for “the Almighty Spirit.” Well, I'm glad to know that Christ exists in outer space, too.
1:28:23 – Back on the baseball diamond, Barnhart is telling the gathered dignitaries “hey, maybe we should listen to this guy?” Again: I'm surprised this is such a controversial sentiment. After all, now we have dozens of television channels that are exclusively devoted to letting asshats spout their political beliefs - why wouldn't we listen to one alien for ten damn minutes? It's not like Klaatu is demanding that we all sacrifice our first born sons...
1:28:29 – The revived Klaatu heads outside to give the big speech which is clearly going to end the movie. He starts off by saying that he is about to leave Earth permanently. (Can't say I blame him.) Then he says that Gort is an automated space-cop, and that he is going to stay behind and make sure that the peace is preserved. The penalty for undertaking any action that would wake up Gort is “too terrible to risk.” That's... ominous.
1:29:49 – Basically Klaatu's message comes down to this: humanity needs to stop being so aggressive and if we don't knock it off then Gort's gonna reduce Earth to a “burned out cinder.” Which honestly seems a bit like overkill to me. I mean, I agree that humanity has a lot of unfortunate tendencies, but we aren't the only species on this planet and most of them don't deserve to be destroyed because of our hubris. Leave the lobsters out of this, Gort.
1:30:08 – Cut to the crowd which is surprisingly ethnically balanced – white, black, middle eastern - and they all nod like Klaatu's speech is very wise. Then Klaatu does a weird hand wave in Helen's general direction and re-enters the ship.
1:32:03 – The spaceship takes off, THE END.
Final Takeaway: In many ways I enjoyed The Day the Earth Stood Still, which has a lot of the naive charm of a classic 50's sci-fi flick. For example, Gort has a simple sleek look that still looks cool, and the dialogue is unintentionally campy. That said, over time the bluntness of this movie's approach gets pretty wearisome.
The Day the Earth Stood Still is basically a liberal version of an Ayn Rand novel. By that I mean that it is a relentless political movie that stacks its deck in a very manipulative way. I understand that the filmmakers were trying to tell America to calm down its cold war rhetoric, and that's a noble goal, but unfortunately you can't really translate the black-and-white lessons of a film like this to our real life shades-of-grey world. We might be a violent species, and we are definitely capable of unspeakable cruelty, but that doesn't mean that we're simplistic creatures who are always guaranteed to act irrationally. This film's insistence on arguing against cartoonish straw-men makes it hard to buy what its selling, even though its heart is clearly in the right place.
Still, people with a strong sense of irony will ultimately find more to like than dislike in this film. Sure, the Day the Earth Stood Still is barely coherent - why did Klaatu waste all that time hanging out with Bobby? It doesn't seem like his time on Earth changed his impressions of earthlings at all - but at the end of the day all of those bizarre script choices help give the final product a high kitsch factor, and that helps redeem some of its dumber aspects.
It also helps that The Day The Earth Stood Still is slightly more serious than your average 50's schlockfest; for the most part the effects aren't too cheesy and there are multiple shots that are legitimately well composed. In other words, this film offers you the best of both worlds - just kitschy enough to be fun, just serious enough not to feel like a total waste of time. That's probably not what the filmmakers were going for - but honestly, that does put it ahead of most of its b-movie peers, many of which have become almost completely unwatchable in the years since they were first made.