The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951 88mins.) [Film4 2.50pm &+1]
An alien ambassador lands his spaceship in America and warns humanity that Earth risks imminent destruction by an interplanetary alliance unless it abandons its warlike ways - and is promptly shot by the military. The wounded visitor is forced to live among humans, but his powerful robot servant is poised to punish mankind for its aggression. Sci-fi drama, with Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal and Hugh Marlowe.
Smart adaptation of a Harry Bates short story Farewell To The Master which, in contrast to the we're-all-doomed Red Scare scares of the early fifties, put forward the idea that maybe it wasn't too late to save the world and the possibility that visitors from another world may not mean global destruction after all.
The underlying theme of the film is hope - personified by Michael Rennie's dignified, quiet, sympathetic Klaatu who brings his message of peace and unity to a United States whose first instinct is to shoot first and ask (a few) questions afterwards.
The idea that children are much quicker to accept and embrace ideas that differ from those that they have been taught would later be a major theme in the early works of Spielberg and there are several parallels between this film and his ET : The Extra Terrestrial.
Director Robert Wise was very good at fashioning a fully functioning film on a very small budget and his work and the cracking Bernard Herrmann score certainly add weight to what could have ended up as a heavy-handed "message" film.
Instead what we have is a solidly made and performed little masterpiece of the Cold War sci-fi genre with plenty of excitement, action and tension in it's pared back running time.