‘Day the Earth Stood Still’ screens in Sonoma

The Day the Earth Stood Still - 1951Movies about the end of the world are never more popular than when we are most frightened that the world may truly be about to end. The pattern reaches back to the beginning of motion pictures, and forward to this summer’s “Independence Day 2.” The scariest apocalypse movies frequently occur during the most unsettled and fear-filled periods of our collective history.

It was in the early years of the Cold War that “The Day the Earth Stood Still” was released.

A critical and box office sensation in 1951, the film is now considered to be among the better examples of the genre. There are many who would put it at the top of the list. Having survived the insult of a botched remake in 2008, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is returning to Earth for a one-night-only screening at the Sebastiani Theater, Monday, May 5, 7 p.m. If, for no other reason than to cleanse our palate of that bad-tasting Keanu Reeves version, the Sebastiani Theater Foundation is screening the sci-fi classic as part of its popular monthly Vintage Film Series.

The film begins – as the best alien invasion films do – with the landing of a flying saucer. Piloted by the gentle space diplomat Klaatu (Michael Rennie), with his towering robot bodyguard Gort (the 7-foot-tall Lock Martin), the spacecraft lands in Washington D.C., where Klaatu is immediately shot by one of the nervous soldiers who surround the ship. Confined to a hospital, Klaatu eventually escapes. After interacting with various people while using the name John Carpenter, Klaatu ultimately ends up back in Washington, where he finally delivers an ultimatum from an alliance of peace-loving planets. The message: if the people of Earth don’t immediately cease waging war on each other, the entire planet will be obliterated.

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