The day the earth stood still, the 60th anniversary


September 28, 1951 the land mark film “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is released by 20th century Fox. I saw this movie for the first time on late night TV with my dad sometime in the late 60’s. Our local station KPHO channel 5 had it on late one Saturday night and at the time I didn’t get the heavy dialog but as a youth I remember the music setting the mood of the scenes more so than anything else I had seen at the time. It’s funny to look back and think that even at a young age that a films score tells  it’s own story. My dad had a habit of falling asleep quickly on these late night movie adventures and a lot of times the only comfort was having him close during the scary scenes.. GORT was one big scary robot and I was quite terrified of that silver giant and his laser beam eyes. Since that first viewing I was a fan and even more so today and I have to say that this one will always be one of my most favorite movies of all time. I’m sure everyone that reads this post has seen the film,,, most likely numerous times and I’m sure we all see something new with every showing. It is a perfect film on so many levels. The story is fairly simply yet very cleverly written. The visual effects were very believable and I’m sure jaw dropping at the time. the use of shadows Matte Paintings and miniatures were used with exquisite perfection, and still look quite impressive even by  today’s standards. The actors are all perfectly cast from the main stars all the way down to the smaller roles. The brilliant direction by  Robert Wise is flawless and every scene, be it big or small has a special place in the film. Bernard Herrmann’s incredible score with it’s unusual and at the time very other worldly instrumentation set a pace for Scifi films that has been imitated and copied for the last 60 years. If you recall the pilot of Lost in Space used Herrmann’s (Day the Earth Stood Still) music before John Williams was brought on to re score the series once it was launched. and of coarse the use of the monuments in and around Washington DC added a credibility to the film that made it stand out as a film that felt more factual than science fiction. There are so many touching and memorable scenes from this film and some of my favorites are when Michael Rennie and young Bobby Grey are walking through the Lincoln Memorial and amongst the graves at Arlington Cemetery.  The eerie moments when Rennie is signalling Gort with a flashlight, the high anxiety of the opening of the film when various military crews are frantically working to find out what is entering earths atmosphere and traveling at speeds of 4000 miles an hour, and to many more than there is time to write about. Director Robert Wise is an amazing talent and has made so many of my favorite films like, “The Sand Pebbles”, “The Sound of Music”, “The Haunting”, “Run Silent Run Deep” and also Star Trek the Motion Picture. Each one a milestone of it’s time and each film is so diversely different in theme and style. In today’s world I couldn’t even think of a director who could tackle every genra with such skill and perfection. Wise also was a fan of Jerry Goldsmith and many of Robert’s finest films were accompanied by a brilliant Goldsmith score. In my opinion the best movies are the older ones and “Day the earth stood still” stands out as a masterpiece. Not to say that all of the movies of today are bad but it seems story and performance was far more important than visual gags to capture the audience’s heart. I cant praise this one enough and it was great fun watching it again before writing this post. one of my favorite pastimes with the love of these old films is to find out where they were filmed and if there sites have changed over time. Aside from the actual locations in Washington DC, the features always return  to California for the bulk of the shooting to take place at the studio for more control of the interiors and matching exteriors. Until I started this  post I was assuming the film was shot on the Fox back lot, but later found out it was all shot at the RKO Encino movie ranch in the San Fernando Valley. the movie ranch is long gone and has been turned into a park which I have been to many times without knowing of the incredible history that those few acres held only a few decades ago. The location is a rectangular spot of land on the North East side of Balboa and Burbank Blvd. If you remember the Jimmy Stewart classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life” you’ll recognize a lot of the fictional town sets and streets from Bedford Falls in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” For being as small as the property was it was well used with the placement of neighborhoods, and park settings.After viewing some of the pics of the RKO ranch and that of the film it’s pretty easy to see where the saucer landed and where the town and neighborhood scenes were shot. Sad to find out about all these movie ranches and backlots that are now long gone. Like loosing a loved one, the same goes for these vintage films in the thought that the memories and pictures will never let these places be lost or forgotten. So with all that said here comes a lot of pictures from the film, behind the scenes images, and a few of the RKO Ranch so kick off your shoes and enjoy all the images from “THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL”.

coutesy of the Byson archives comes this picture of the RKO ranch with some added notes

aerial view of RKO

present day view of the long gone RKO

title credit

first glimpse of the saucer with it's incredible rumbling engines whining down

circling the monuments

coming in for a landing, note the shadow of the ship on the ground

almost down

down and all goes suddenly silent

a beautiful mixture of a saucer matte painting, live action foreground crowd & park, and matte painting of Washington DC

a 7 foot wide foreground miniature shot in real time with the crowd at the park

the full sized set with the virtually seamless hatch n ramp panels in motion

our introduction to Klaatu, (Michael Rennie)

fabulous shot of the ship and Rennie

a gift for the president results in Klaatu getting shot in the shoulder


our introduction to GORT

what a scary image from a day long gone.

in a matter of moments Gort proceeds to destroy most of the soldiers gun's, tanks, n cannons, with his destruction beam

an unimaginable power

taken to a hospital to heal his wounds Klaatu meets with a government official who informs him that a meeting of the worlds great leaders will never happen in the earths hostile atmosphere.

disguised as a businessman Klaatu escapes the hospital and takes up a residency at a local boarding house

the tenants of the boarding house, lots of recognizable faces in this crowd.

Klaatu befriends Bobbie who's innocents and untainted view of the world make for a great comradery between our alien friend and this young ambassador from earth

a fabulous piece or art printed in the paper promoting that the alien is on the loose and very dangerous

a trip to the saucer with Bobby

the meeting of the greatest scientist on earth, only he can put together a group of scientists from the entire world for Klaatu to speak to

Klaatu sneaks out to his ship in the wee hours of the night

signaling Gort with a flashlight

Gort gets the code from the light bouncing off the wall in front of him

gort knocks the guards unconscious

into the ship

the interior of the craft was designed by the legendary architect, Frank Loyd Wright

more of Wright's exquisite designs

noon and the Earth stands still for 30 minutes

awesome shots combining matte painting of still and inoperative cars and live action crowds in New York,,,


and other parts of the world.

Wise, on many occasions has small scenes where Rennie will be fascinated by objects of fancy in and around his surroundings, here he is amused by a simple music box

on the run Klaatu is hunted down and shot n killed in the streets

Gort to the rescue

brought back from the dead by Gort and this marvelous healing machine

you have the power of life and death asks Neal, No says Klaatu, only the divine spirit has that power,, pretty heavy lines for a scifi film acknowledging God as the creator of all worlds

Rennie delivers the final lines of the film,,, Live in peace or your planet will perish.

the saucer lifts off and the films ends on a heavy note

34 Responses to “The day the earth stood still, the 60th anniversary”

  1. September 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    one of my favorite classic sci-fi movies i loved the ufo in it. i have always had a weakness to old school ufos

    • 2 johneaves
      September 29, 2011 at 6:11 am

      This one is hard to beat!!! and yes that UFO!!!

      It’s a big model too, Greg Jein owned it for a while and now it’s at Bob Burns museum

      • September 29, 2011 at 11:54 am

        The one thing I like about you John when you create a new look for a remake you never forget about the soul and its template that made people say wow when it all began

  2. September 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Yes a classic!! Robert Wise was one of the best!

  3. 6 deg
    September 28, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Klaatu Barada Nikto, baby!

    • 7 johneaves
      September 29, 2011 at 6:09 am

      HAAAA we all used to run around the neighborhood as kids saying that!!!

      • 8 deg
        October 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm

        Ooooo, lots added pics! Thanks, bro! Love the old RKO studio shots esp.! This film is right up there alongside of 2001: a space odyssey as my fav film(s) of all-time. While many great films came outta this, my fav era of sci-fi films, for me this is thee quintessential vintage B&W 50’s sci-fi outing. It was intelligent and pure craft filmmaking all the way, not camp at all (don’t get me wrong, love the camp 50’s stuff too). A true classic in every sense of the word.

        Not crazy about the remake. Quite forgettable. Unlike this pure gem of a film.

        peace & bananas | deg

  4. 9 Richard Knapp
    September 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    The scenes at the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington Cemetery are classic.

  5. September 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    The one thing I can say about this film and others of their ilk is that no one can lite a candle to these eternal classics. Simplicity is always the best when one tries to over complicate it something is always lost, its soul as in the modern flurry of remakes etc. Some remakes are spot on and will become classic themselves while others do not respect the original vision.

    • 12 johneaves
      September 29, 2011 at 6:07 am

      we were talking yesterday about great remakes and sad to say there were very few in comparison to the horrible ones out and coming out!!! I refused to go see the remake of this one and from What I have heard It sounds like It has been a good decision!

      • September 30, 2011 at 4:00 am

        i saw the remake and it was awful and it should not have given its title. this goes with the War of the worlds one great ships but lacked no back story as to how and why the ships were buried and bad story telling. the 1953 movie was by far more superior and had all the elements of how a story is to be told and the ships were ageless and a stroke of genius in my books. the classics will stand above them all.

      • 14 johneaves
        September 30, 2011 at 5:41 am

        The remake of WOW was another one I refused to go and see and everyone says the same thing,,,, I had high hopes with Spielberg at the helm, but after it came out everyone started telling me it was awful!!! The original is a masterpiece and also one of the best movies to see the YB-49 flying wing in action…

  6. 15 Jay
    September 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Michael Rennie was ill the day the Earth stood still, when he told us where we stand.

  7. 17 evil_genius_180
    September 28, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Dude, I gotta watch it. (like I needed an excuse ;)) I love this film. Thanks for the heads-up on another important anniversary. 8)

  8. 18 johneaves
    September 29, 2011 at 6:04 am

    YEAH!!! I so love this one too and never need an excuse to watch it either!!!

  9. September 29, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I actually saw the new version recently…
    Hated it. The original was way better.

    • 20 johneaves
      September 30, 2011 at 5:39 am

      well from what I am reading hear it is a unanimous decision by everyone that the remake Stinks,, So glad I didn’t go and taint my brain..

  10. September 29, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Great presentation. I love reading about all those old Hollywood locations and ranches. I had wondered if the landing field was shot at the golf course across from 20th Century Fox on Pico blvd. Didn’t know about that old RKO lot – cool. Do you happen to know about the place where “It’s A Wonderful Life exteriors were shot? Wasn’t it a ranch somewhere in that area?

  11. September 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Wonder if any of those FLW set pieces still exist?

  12. September 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    CRAP! I totally missed celebrating this event ! 😦 Buddy, did you do an envelope cover for this one ?

  13. 26 the bluesman
    September 29, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    John, a true classic indeed. I am tired of hearing how effects in the 1950s were cheesy. When you say these composite shots are seamless between model, action plate and matte painting, they are. Love the interiro of the ship. I love to have a design office that looked that cool. Great post as always.

  14. 29 Marc Fraley
    September 29, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Hi John –
    What part of Arizona did you grow up in? The KPHO Channel 5 thing caught my attention. I was born in Casa Grande, AZ and grew up in that area. This a fantastic blog by the way. My wife and I bought the new version of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” when it was released on DVD. As a bonus, the original version of the film was included in the package. We watched them both back to back and agreed the original is far superior in many ways!


    • 30 johneaves
      September 30, 2011 at 5:33 am

      Howdy Marc, n thanks,, I was in Black Canyon City and North Phoenix. We went to Casa Grande a lot and you live in the town of the biggest rattle snakes in the state!!!!!! HAAAA Were you around during the Wallace and Ladmo days???

      • 31 Marc Fraley
        September 30, 2011 at 2:10 pm

        Yes, John I remember Wallace and Ladmo very well! I miss Legend City too! The Phoenix area has changed so much since I was a kid here; unfortunately not always for the better IMHO. 🙂 I now reside in East Mesa and certainly miss KPHO channel 5; they had the best TV shows!

  15. September 30, 2011 at 5:53 am

    with all the talk about remakes i shudder to think if and what other classics will be destroyed like Forbidden Planet, Land of the Giants, Voyage to the bottom of the Sea and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea etc… One other remake i thought was very bad was Lost in Space ugh.

    • 33 the bluesman
      September 30, 2011 at 7:53 am

      Lost in Space da Motion Picture did kinda blow, but Mimi Rogers and Gary Oldman was a perfect Dr Smith
      made the film at least tolerable.

  16. 34 Matt Boardman
    September 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Oh man! I still need to see the original! I caught the one that came out a few years ago with Keanu, but I don’t think that one could hold a candle to the original!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

September 2011

%d bloggers like this: