Filmsite Movie Review
The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

The Next Day - Monday Evening - The Revelation of the Alien's Identity at the Spaceship:

While the manhunt for the space alien continuing by the police and FBI, everyone in the boarding house was jittery and anxious, except for Bobby (whose schoolwork kept him occupied, according to his mother). 'Carpenter' praised him to Helen, calling him "a fine boy...warm, friendly, intelligent."

During a conversation in the boarding house living room, Helen was slightly skeptical about 'Carpenter' - and concerned about the reason for Mr. Brady's visit the previous evening: ("Why did that man come here last night?). She suspected he might be in trouble. 'Carpenter' explained it as follow-up to ask a few questions after their visit to Barnhardt's place in the afternoon, when the Professor was out: ("Apparently, they thought I was looking for secrets of some kind"). Helen was even more puzzled by his answer.

They were interrupted when Tom arrived to take Helen to the movies for an 8:50 pm show. He was annoyed that she wasn't ready, and then he turned immediately dismissive of the friendship he sensed was developing suspiciously between Helen and Bobby with the stranger:

"I guess I'm just tired of hearing about Mr. Carpenter. I don't like the way he's attached himself to you and Bobby. After all, what do you know about him?"

Taking his advice to remain more distant, Helen proceeded to Bobby's room and advised him to see and think less of 'Carpenter.' Bobby wondered why: "Gee, why, Mom? He's my best friend, and he's awful good in arithmetic. He even helps Professor Barnhardt." Bobby confirmed their visit to Barnhardt's place, and then asked imaginatively: "Mom? Something wrong with Mr. Carpenter?...On account of last night. You think he's a bank robber or a gangster, maybe?" His mother cautioned her boy about bothering the strange boarder and spending too much time with him: "He's a very nice man. I just think that he might prefer to be left alone, that's all." After a moment's thought, Bobby inquired: "Why would he want to be left alone?"

While Bobby's mother was out for the evening, the now-suspicious Bobby was surprised by Mr. Carpenter's request to borrow a flashlight (Bobby bragged that it was "a real Boy Scout one"). He evasively answered why he needed it with a lame excuse: "The lights in my room went out." Bobby became even more curious when a few moments later, he cracked open his door - and looked down the hallway. He saw 'Carpenter's' shadow in the doorway of his well-lit room, before he flipped off the light switch, stepped into the hallway, and closed the door. He realized that he had been lied to - but for what purpose? He watched as 'Carpenter' surreptitiously crept down the hallway and descended the stairs.

To get answers, Bobby followed after 'Carpenter' when he departed from the boarding house and walked across town through semi-deserted streets. After a dark and adventure-filled nocturnal journey to the Ellipse, walking about a block behind him the entire way, Bobby watched as 'Carpenter' hid behind a tree and spied upon the spacecraft - now surrounded by a wall-like enclosing perimeter that was guarded by military sentries. Bobby watched as 'Carpenter' used the flashlight to flash intermittent bursts of light at Gort - apparently signals - through a window (crossed with barbed wire) in the perimeter. The giant robot slowly turned in his direction and then lumbered toward the two guards and knocked them unconscious (off-screen). Bobby was horrified, fearful and shaken by what he witnessed, and undoubtedly lost his faith in 'Carpenter' when he realized that he was the alien. He watched with terrified fascination as the spaceman entered the enclosure, issued spoken commands to the robot: "Gort, Berenga" to stand vigil. Then, the alien climbed up the ramp to proceed into the open entryway of the saucer.

Inside the spacecraft, the spaceman entered a circular control center with various gadgets, knobs, and vertical panels of round lights. He hand-activated a number of interfaces that caused some of the futuristic instruments to light up. In front of a glowing circular projector, he spoke in a strange alien language to others on his planet.

Bobby raced home and waited up for Helen and Tom to return home. He breathlessly and frantically told them he couldn't sleep and had to tell them about his adventure at the flying saucer on the lawn at the Ellipse: ("It opened up and he walked right in. And that big iron fella was walkin' around, too"). Both of them doubted his story about how the robot knocked out the two guards. They were in disbelief and only thought that Bobby was having a "bad dream" or fancifully imagining everything about his claim that 'Carpenter' was the spaceman. Bobby admitted: "I like Mr. Carpenter, Mom. I'm kind of scared." He was hurt, however, that his skeptical mother didn't believe his wild tale:

Helen: (determinedly) "You didn't follow Mr. Carpenter at all, did you? You haven't even been out of the house....Now you didn't really see a space ship, but you thought you did."
Bobby: "I'd never call you a liar."

Worried about the revelations, Tom went upstairs to see if 'Carpenter' was in his room. He found the bedroom empty, but while snooping around, he found a glittering diamond on the floor near the dresser. Bobby guiltily confirmed that 'Carpenter' possessed more of them, and had exchanged two of his many diamonds for $2 dollars: ("Mr. Carpenter's got lots of diamonds. He gave me a couple of 'em"). Tom suspected that 'Carpenter' was a common jewel thief: "This doesn't make sense. I think the guy's a crook. I never did trust him." And then they noticed Bobby's soaking wet shoes (from the lawn) as he went up the stairs - a tell-tale confirmation that supported part of his account that he had left the boarding house.

Gort's Demonstration of Power on Tuesday at 12 Noon - "The Day the Earth Stood Still":

Mid-day on the next day, Tuesday, "Carpenter' located Helen at her Department of Commerce workplace, as she was leaving for lunch. She received a phone call from Tom at Bleecker's, who was acquiring an appraisal on the diamond. She declined his invitation for lunch, and then 'Carpenter' accompanied her down the hallway and urgently asked what Bobby had told her about the previous night: "I'd like to know what he told you last night....Did you believe what he told you? I have a reason for asking this - a very important reason." She couldn't answer directly and was evasive ("Oh, I really didn't pay much attention. Bobby has such an active imagination"), and suggested that they take a less-crowded, more private elevator.

When both became mysteriously trapped at noon in the stalled elevator (filmed with impressive chiaroscuro images), he explained that he knew ahead of time that the power would be shut down: "We shall be here for a little while, about 30 minutes....You see, the electricity's been neutralized all over the world." Forced to talk together, it dawned on her that Bobby's account was true, when he conceded that he was the alien. Klaatu explained that the robot was demonstrating his power by neutralizing or shutting down the world's electrical power supply for 30 minutes - (hence, the film's title "The Day the Earth Stood Still").

Vignettes showed the effects of the world-wide blackout (with stock photos):

  • Times Square and 5th Avenue, in New York City
  • London, England (a Britisher at Piccadilly Circus exclaimed: "It's that spaceman. That's what it is")
  • the Arche de Triomphe in Paris, France
  • Moscow, USSR

The breakdown affected all mechanical and electrical devices, and all forms of transportation were frozen in place or non-functional, such as car motors, motorcycles, and busses. Many other services or operations also ceased, including generators in power plants, giant newspaper printing presses, electric trolly cars and trains, washing machines, boat motors, milk-shake mixers, dairy farm milkers, amusement park roller coasters, automobile assembly lines, drawbridges, and mowing tractors.

Professor Barnhardt was secretly amused, unperturbed and impressed by the blackout, when his housekeeper frantically entered his study with a fearful report: 'You should go out and see it for yourself....The whole city has stopped. People are running around like ants." He calmly thought to himself how clever the 'demonstration of power' was: "What a brilliant idea! I never would have thought of it." She assured him that all of the scientists invited to the city had arrived and would be assembling for the evening's meeting at 8:30 pm at the spaceship with the spaceman. And then Professor Barnhardt asked Hilda how everything made her feel: "Tell me, Hilda, does all this frighten you? Does it make you feel insecure?" She replied: "Yes sir, it certainly does," and he seemed pleased: "That's good, Hilda. I'm glad." She looked at him with consternation. He was assured and pleased - realizing that the 30-minute demonstration would guarantee strong attendance.

Officials surrounding a conference table at the Pentagon reported on the bewildering catastrophe: ("As far as we can tell, power's been cut off everywhere, with a few exceptions. And even these exceptions are remarkable - hospitals, planes in flight, that sort of thing"). All communications had ceased (telephones, radio, and cable), but hospitals and airplanes had been spared and were not affected. The President was prepared to declare a state of national emergency.

At Bleecker's Jewelers, the shop owner (Wheaton Chambers) asked his assistant Eleanor (Elizabeth Flournoy) about notifying repair services to restore electrical power - it was an oddly funny exchange:

Bleecker: "Eleanor, did you call the electrician?"
Eleanor: "I tried, Mr. Bleecker, but the phone doesn't work either."
Bleecker: "Well, call the phone company."
Eleanor: "But the phone doesn't work!"

Bleecker was astounded by the diamond's extreme rarity, and told Tom: "I have never seen such a stone in all my life...there are no diamonds like this any place in the world that I know of." Tom refused to sell it, and rushed out.

Back in the stalled elevator, Klaatu placed his trust in Helen and explained how he held out great hope for the extremely important meeting to be held later that evening with scientific officials at 8:30 pm at the saucer:

"I've already told you more than I told Professor Barnhardt because, in a sense, my life is in your hands. I thought if you knew the facts, you'd appreciate the importance of my not being apprehended before the meeting tonight....I can see no other hope for your planet. If this meeting should fail, then I'm afraid there is no hope."

Suddenly, the power was restored - at exactly 12:30 pm. Klaatu mentioned that he would be safe at the boarding house during the afternoon. He assumed that only Helen and Bobby knew about him, but then she reminded him that Tom had expressed suspicions: "There's someone else...He was there last night when Bobby told me what he saw." She promised to get in touch with her fiancee to make sure that he wouldn't interrupt what was planned for the evening, but she was unable to reach him by phone.

Containment of the Robot and the Nationwide Manhunt for the Alien:

Meanwhile, at the Pentagon's command headquarters, Colonel Ryder (George Lynn) reported on the latest efforts to immobilize the giant robot:

"When it was discovered last night that the robot had moved, I was directed by the Joint Chiefs to find a means of immobilizing him. We accomplished that this morning by encasing him in a block of KL-93. It's a new plastic material stronger than steel...He's locked up tight as a drum."

The generals disregarded their original plan, and were intent on capturing the spaceman, dead or alive: "We can no longer afford to be so particular. We'll get him, alive if possible, but we must get him." Headlines in various Washington newspapers reported on the new measures:

  • Washington Eagle: "STEP-UP HUNT FOR SPACE MAN" - Nationwide Search Begun
  • Washington Express: "WASHINGTON QUARANTINED" - No One Permitted to Leave City

Military forces were deployed at various transportation checkpoints - at train stations, transportation hubs and at numerous highway roadblocks.

At around 6:00 pm, Tom entered his Treasury Department office that evening and ordered his nervous secretary Margaret (Dorothy Neumann) to contact the Pentagon. He was urgently prepared to talk to someone "in charge of this spaceman business." When Helen arrived, Tom was preoccupied with his own discoveries, and breathlessly told her his conclusive realization: "He's the man from the spaceship." He described how he had the diamond checked at three places that all concluded: "Nobody's ever seen a stone like that."

Helen calmly confirmed that she already knew about 'Carpenter's' real identity: "I know it's true" - and begged for him to not expose his discovery to anyone. Distrustful of 'Carpenter' and impatiently in disagreement with Helen, Tom told her that he was going to immediately report the "menace" to authorities to expose him - to gain patriotic fame and glory for himself:

Tom: "We can do something about it."
Helen: "That's what I'm trying to tell you. We mustn't do anything about it. Believe me, Tom. I know what I'm talking about."
Tom: "He's a menace to the whole world. It's our duty to turn him in."
Helen: (desperately) "But he isn't a menace. He told me why he came here."
Tom: (contemptuously) "He told - he told you? Oh, don't be silly, honey, just because you like the guy. You realize, of course, what this would mean to us? I could write my own ticket. I'd be the biggest man in the country."
Helen: (coldly) "Is that what you're thinking about?"
Tom: "Why not? Somebody's got to get rid of him."

In opposition to her jealous boyfriend, Helen was upset that he was threatening to betray 'Carpenter' (as Judas had betrayed Jesus), when General Cutler's aide called on the line from the Pentagon. She pleaded wildly with him to not turn in the alien, but he ignored her entreaties - it dawned on her that he had become distasteful, contemptuous, and repulsive in her eyes:

Helen: "You mustn't. You don't know what you're doing. It isn't just you and Mr. Carpenter. The rest of the world is involved."
Tom: (sternly) "I don't care about the rest of the world. You'll feel different when you see my picture in the papers."
Helen: "I feel different right now."
Tom: "You wait and see, you're gonna marry a big hero."
Helen: (starkly) "I'm not going to marry anybody."

She curtly broke off their relationship due to their fundamental disagreement, and because of his hot-headed, self-serving crazed desire to be a big hero - she hurriedly stormed out of his office and hailed a yellow cab to return to the boarding house. Tom's call to General Cutler (Freeman Lusk) was finally put through, and he revealed that the "spaceman" was at his temporary residence on Harvard St. NW.

Manhunt for Klaatu Before Tuesday's 8:30 pm Meeting at the Saucer:

A manhunt for Klaatu began to intensify when General Cutler deployed five units (according to Plan B) to the area. Helen returned and was able to alert 'Carpenter' just before a convoy of jeeps and other military vehicles arrived. The two shared a tense taxi ride to Professor Barnhardt's home (to hide there before the meeting of eminent scientists and other leaders at the ship later in the evening). They sensed that their cab's position was being tracked, targeted and observed at every street corner checkpoint by military jeeps and armed personnel. With only a few moments to talk before they arrived at Barnhardt's place, 'Carpenter' gave Helen specific instructions - urgently fearing that something was about to happen to him:

"I'm worried about Gort. I'm afraid of what he might do if anything should happen to me... There's no limit to what he could do. He could destroy the Earth. If anything should happen to me, you must go to Gort. You must say these words: Klaatu barada nikto. Please repeat that....You must remember those words...Get that message to Gort, right away."

When Klaatu saw a roadblock forming ahead, both he and Helen exited from the cab. He was shot and mortally-wounded when he fled down the street, by one gun-blast from .30 caliber mounted machine gun in one of the jeeps. As he lay on the pavement, he reminded Helen (as she held his head in her hands): "Get that message to Gort right away." Helen looked up helplessly at the troops huddling around the dead alien on the ground. Unbelievably, Helen was able to get away unquestioned and unharmed. She found herself ignored and pushed away by the troops, whose sole focus was the alien. Shocked but realizing the importance of the alien's words, she backed away, entered a pedestrian underpass, and continued on to the spaceship as the troops transported the alien's body via stretcher to a nearby precinct police station.

Fail-Safe Command - Klaatu barada nikto:

In one of the film's most memorable scenes, at the spaceship, Gort was encased or sealed in a solid block of clear, transparent plastic. Wooden folding chairs had been set up for the 8:30 pm meeting. Awakened after sensing Klaatu's death, the robot produced a whirring sound of generated power that signaled the melting of the block that was designed to constrain him. A faint glow emanated from his body and moved down the block as the plastic surrounding him melted. Two apprehensive sentry guards warily approached with their weapons drawn. [Note: Many astute viewers asked themselves - why only a lone pair of soldiers to guard the saucer?] As they advanced toward the robot, Gort's visor opened to reveal its laser-beam directed at the two guards and at their weapons. In seconds, the two were vaporized and completely disappeared.

Helen cautiously approached the entrance to the enclosure surrounding the spaceship - and spotted the awesome and menacing figure of Gort standing tall. The remainder of the plastic block was being melted away. She backed away when Gort started to move towards her. It cornered her within the enclosure, and she became frozen in fear. Trapped and immobilized, Helen screamed ("Aaahh") and fell to the ground as the shadow of the hulking Gort loomed over her. To save herself when she saw Gort's visor slowly opening, she remembered Klaatu's words and message given to her. She twice delivered the fail-safe command of three words - "Klaatu barada nikto" - and it was miraculously effective. It prevented the menacing Gort from killing her and destroying the planet after Klaatu had been targeted and killed by the Army's troops.

In response, the robot's visor closed and then Gort slowly bent down, picked Helen up, and gently carried her cradled in his arms into the spaceship. Gort delivered her into the central command center of the spacecraft, where he activated the glowing circular projector and received further commands before walking out and locking Helen inside. The ramp closed behind him, as he determinedly strode from the Ellipse area. Somehow or other without being detected or stopped, Gort marched across the city to the precinct police station, burned through the jail's ground floor outer cell wall, and retrieved Klaatu's corpse where it had been locked away. Then, he carried the body through the gaping hole and back into the interior of the spaceship and placed it in a rectangular chamber. Gort manipulated the interface of some futuristic instrument dials inside the chamber that caused a loud mechanical humming noise, while an amazed Helen looked on.

Meanwhile, as the group of scientists began to arrive and assemble for the 8:30 pm gathering outside the spaceship, a representative of the military ordered Professor Barnhardt to call off his meeting, because of safety concerns: "The robot's on the loose now, and it's not safe around here. You'll have to get your people out of this area." Inside the spacecraft, a loud modulated beeping noise brought Klaatu back to life. His breathing was the first sign of his revival, followed by the fluttering of his opening eyes. The alien spaceman lifted himself up to a seated position, and then stood up. He explained to Helen that his resurrection was only temporary and of short duration - because the alien planet's technology could not truly overcome death:

Helen: "I thought you were..."
Klaatu: "I was."
Helen: "You mean he [Gort] has the power of life and death?"
Klaatu: "No. That power is reserved to the Almighty Spirit. This technique, in some cases, can restore life for a limited period."
Helen: "But how long?"
Klaatu: "You mean how long will I live? That, no one can tell."

Klaatu's Final Ultimatum to Earthlings Before His Departure:

During the film's soft-spoken final scene, the ramp and entrance into the spaceship slowly opened, and the giant robot Gort exited and stood silently. The sight of the hulking figure interrupted Professor Barnhardt's address to the assembled scientists who were just about to disperse after being commanded by the Army to leave. Behind Gort, the revived extra-terrestrial, now-space-suited Klaatu (with Helen at his side) also emerged from the spaceship's entrance. Helen descended on the ramp into the audience and stood next to the Professor, as Klaatu looked out over the scientists seated in front of him. [Note: Bobby was not in attendance in the final scene.] Robot Gort stood behind Klaatu near the upper entrance to the spaceship.

Klaatu lectured and warned them with a final challenge during a sobering, pro-disarmament address. He began by assuring them that he was leaving soon, but would not hold back with his last words: "I am leaving soon, and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly." He then described how humanity's violence, new advanced destructive weaponry, and outer space exploration (that was shrinking the universe) were beginning to worry other advanced alien inhabitants of all the other planets in the universe. He promised that Earth's inhabitants wouldn't lose any of their accepted freedoms, but would be carefully watched and monitored. The rule of law, enforced by "hired policemen," was an essential aspect of any society, in order to control the threat of aggression and protect everyone's freedom:

"The universe grows smaller every day, and the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all, or no one is secure. Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it."

His alien planet had invented or created "a race of robots" - deadly police enforcers such as Gort - to mutually protect themselves, and to impartially curtail aggressive nations and preserve peace. Klaatu revealed that the robot, an interstellar guardian - was a member of their police force, who was designed to swiftly destroy any violent acts of aggression. The result was that their system had brought about lasting peace without arms or armies:

"For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war, free to pursue more profitable enterprises. Now we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works."

He then cautioned that the robot police force had the power to destroy worlds, such as Earth, whose inhabitants were intent on war, destruction, aggression, and hostility. He further informed the people of Earth to not extend their violence into space - otherwise, the robot would reduce Earth to "a burned-out cinder." So the choice was clear and simple - seek peace or face total obliteration:

"I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet. But if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple. Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you."

His final words of warning were presented as an ultimatum, that resonated: "The decision rests with you." He walked back to Gort and ordered: "Gort, berenga" - the giant robot turned and re-entered the spaceship.

After gesturing goodbye with an extended arm to Helen, Klaatu also entered the spaceship before the craft glowed in preparation for departure. It caused panic among the attendees who retreated to the inside of the enclosed perimeter for safety. The humming saucer rose up vertically and quickly sped off into the night sky.

The film ended ambiguously, without any response from the humans gathered together - would they join the peaceful group of planets, or opt to self-destruct?

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