film is Robert Wise's cult classic of the 1950s, often
credited with starting the boom of that decade's
Although sci-fi is, as a rule, intrinsically a funny genre,
this movie is quite serious --like "2001: A Space Odyssey."
Gort moves somewhat like Frankenstein's monster, probably
because the man inside it has to cope with an oversize
covering and elevator shoes. And near the end, Klaatu is
resuscitated by Gort with machines that are like cat-scanners
with ultrasound. Interesting plot follows, easy on special
effects (good for the period), heavy on humanism and messages.
Unusually fine film is a multi-layered document of 1950s
malaise, especially cold war and freedom of thought. The
shadow of McCarthyism is evidenced by the criticism of
prejudice, and more subtly when Klaatu says in an interview:
"I'm afraid, but in a different way. When I see people
substituting fear for..." then a reporter cuts him off
with a "Thank you, sir."
One of the challenges was the Gort character himself. We knew
we had to have some kind of suit that somebody could be in.
This was before we had such a great number of 6'8",
7'2" basketball players, and we were searching all over
for a very tall man, going to extra casting people and casting
departments. Somebody remembered that the Grauman’s Chinese
Theater had in those days a terribly tall doorman. He was
7'7" and we hired him to be in that suit. He was not a
very strong man, and that suit was heavy. He could only stay
in it for about half an hour at a time.
eyes of the world converge on Washington, D.C. when a flying
saucer lands on the capital’s mall. From inside the ship
emerge an alien of human features, Klaatu, and an
eight-foot-tall metallic robot, Gort. As he reaches inside his
spacesuit for an object that turns out to be a gift for the
president, Klaatu is shot by a soldier. Gort reacts by
destroying all weapons in sight before being stopped by Klaatu,
who is then taken to a hospital.
alien seeks a meeting with all the leaders of the world but is
informed by a member of the White House staff that such a
gathering would be unthinkable. Klaatu escapes the hospital
and, in order to better understand the people of the Earth,
takes a room in a boarding house under the name of Mr.
Carpenter, befriending a young widow, Helen Benson, and her
son Bobby. Klaatu hits upon the idea of delivering his message
to the great minds of the world, and contacts the prominent
Professor Barnhardt. In a non-violent demonstration of his
powers, the alien stops all electricity on Earth for thirty
minutes, but the display only heightens the hostility fomented
against him by the government and the media. As he tries to
reach his spaceship, where Barnhardt’s peers will soon join
him, Klaatu is mortally wounded by the military. Acting on his
instructions, Helen seeks Gort’s help. The robot retrieves
Klaatu’s body and brings it back to life.
leaving, Klaatu tells the assembled scientists that other
planets have come to enjoy peaceful coexistence because of the
vigilance of an army of robots like Gort and that Earth will
face obliteration if it carries its belligerent ways into