Filmsite Movie Review
The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Later That Same Saturday At the Hospital - A Second Meeting with the President's Secretary:

Two military doctors at the hospital spoke outside Klaatu's room where he was recovering. The Medical Corps Major (Jim Doyle) was astonished after reading the alien's X-rays that he was so human-like: "The skeletal structure's completely normal. The tests show the same for major organs - the heart, liver, spleen, kidneys." The army physician (Lawrence Dobkin) was equally dumbfounded: "Yeah, and the lungs are the same as ours. That must mean a similar atmosphere, similar pressure." He had also been surprised about Klaatu's slow aging process - he wasn't in his mid-30s as he appeared: ("He told me this morning while I examined him. He's 78....Life expectancy is 130...Says their medicine is that much more advanced") - Klaatu was born in 1873! And the doctor felt that he had been politely talked down to and judged as having inferior medical skills: ("He was very nice about it, but he made me feel like a third-class witch doctor").

A third medical official, Major White (Robert Osterloh) was also bewildered by Klaatu's rapid bullet wound healing: ("I removed the bullet from that man's arm yesterday...I just examined the wound, and it's completely healed.... he said he put some salve on it, some stuff he had with him"). He shook his head in amazement: "And I don't know whether to just get drunk or give up the practice of medicine." Then, the first two doctors, after diagnosing and discussing the alien's health, unhealthily lit up cigarettes.

Mr. Harley returned that Saturday afternoon from his meeting with the President - with "not very good news." He informed Klaatu (who looked fully recovered) that a meeting would not be possible because of the unstable political tensions between countries. Cables to world leaders the previous evening to invite them to a meeting in Washington DC was met with criticism - the Soviet Premier refused unless the meeting was hosted and held in Moscow. The British government flatly rejected the Russian suggestion unless the assembly was held in Washington. Klaatu was clearly frustrated by the politicians' childish and petty squabbles and sternly insisted:

"I will not speak with any one nation or group of nations. I don't intend to add my contribution to your childish jealousies and suspicions."

Harley showed the cables to Klaatu, who ignored them and appeared incredulous. Uncomfortable with Klaatu's reaction, Harley urged the alien spaceman to be more accepting of the helplessness of the US government: ("Our problems are very complex, Klaatu. You mustn't judge us too harshly....Your impatience is quite understandable"). Rebuffed, Klaatu responded sharply: "I'm impatient with stupidity. My people have learned to live without it." Harley ruefully replied: "I'm afraid my people haven't. I'm very sorry. I wish it were otherwise."

Klaatu stood by his hospital window and looked down at people strolling about the hospital grounds. An inspired idea came to him, and he turned back to Harley and thoughtfully made a suggestion. He thought it would be prudent to first get to know about ordinary human life and to learn about the mindset of humankind: ("Before making any decisions, I think I should get out among your people, and become familiar with the basis for these strange, unreasoning attitudes"). However, Harley flatly denied permission for Klaatu to leave the hospital, an order reinforced by other military officials.

Klaatu's Escape From the Hospital on Saturday Evening - The Beginning of His Sojourn Among Ordinary Humans:

Constrained and imprisoned in his guarded and locked hospital room, Klaatu found a way by evening to escape from his room without a trace. The possible origin of Klaatu's trip was revealed in a headline in the Washington Chronicle newspaper: "MAN FROM MARS ESCAPES - Eludes Military Guard in Daring Walkout from Army Hospital." Word spread to alert residents in Washington DC of the fugitive's disappearance - in a short wordless montage of dissovling vignettes. Then, four radio reports (in voice-over) commented on the 'daring walkout' by the spaceman - expressing shock, irrational fear, terror, speculation, and exaggeration:

  • Reporter 1: "The authorities at Walter Reed Hospital refuse to comment on how he managed to escape, or what measures may be taken to apprehend..."
  • Reporter 2: "...descriptions of the creature are denounced as rumor by Police Chief Walter Baxter. He's not eight feet tall, as reported, nor does he have tentacles... "
  • Reporter 3: "There's no denying that there is a monster at large, that we are dealing with forces beyond our knowledge and power. The public is advised to take ordinary precautions and to remain calm as we await further..."
  • Reporter 4: "Officials have come to the inescapable conclusion that this ship and its occupants come from some other planet. Thus far, scientists have refused to speak officially on just which planet, until they've had an opportunity to study the ship. They seem to agree, however, that either Venus or Mars is the most likely possibility. Not only are these the closest planets to Earth, but all research to date indicates that they are the only two planets capable of sustaining life as we know it. However, all reputable scientists warn against jumping to hasty conclusions. Professor Havemeyer of M.I.T., for example, points out that it's entirely possible, in light of our meager knowledge...

Meanwhile, seen from behind, Klaatu was walking undetected down a residential brick sidewalk at nighttime. He was ostensibly listening to excerpts of the radio broadcasts as he passed the open windows of each residence. He was wearing a typical businessman's suit and tie and carrying a briefcase. Under a street lamp, he paused and noticed the dry cleaner's tag (Post Exchange Cleaners) attached to his right forearm sleeve of his cleaned and pressed 'gray flannel suit' that he had 'borrowed' from a Maj. Carpenter (Lieutenant Major Carpenter) at the hospital. He was, very appropriately, wearing the traditional garb of a 50s man, that would easily hide his identity.

He looked up and noted a lighted ROOM FOR RENT sign on the outside of one of the buildings. He also looked down at his briefcase and noted the initials L.M.C. He carried the case up the front steps of the boarding house - where inside, five adults and a young boy were gathered around a TV set in the living room -riveted by the emergency broadcast. All citizens were being urged to take precautions but remain calm during the "crisis", while a wide-spread manhunt commenced, coordinated by the police, the army and the FBI, although there were no photos of the spaceman:

"The President has urged all citizens to be on the alert for any information about this man, and to transmit such information immediately to the police, the Army or the FBI. While the President made no effort to minimize the crisis, he urged people all over the country to remain calm. And I might add, that though this man may be our bitter enemy, he could be also a new-found friend. Unfortunately for identification purposes, the only photographs we have are similar to this one and do not show the man's face...The President said the entire facilities of the FBI and every other federal agency are being brought to bear. He pointed out, however, that this is no ordinary manhunt. He warned 'We may be up against powers that are beyond our control'... "

The boarders in the living room of the rooming house turned around during the broadcast to see the dark silhouetted figure of a stranger standing inside the hallway. The young boy called out: "Hey, who's that?" and the entire viewing group nervously rose. The startled elderly landlady Mrs. Crockett ((Edith Evanson) turned off the TV, and illuminated one of the table lamps to light the man's face. After a moment of shocked and tense silence, Mrs. Crockett anxiously asked: "What is it you want?" Klaatu introduced himself as "Carpenter" - his adopted name to go incognito. [Note: To avoid detection, he had assumed an alias pseudonym from the borrowed suit, with its obvious Christian allusion to Jesus Christ's early occupation.] He made a simple request: "I'm looking for a room." There was obvious relief that he wasn't someone more ominous related to the current incident. Young Bobby jokingly speculated about how the man was possibly an FBI agent looking for the spaceman - revealing his tendency toward imaginative exaggeration.

The other tenants - a group of typical Americans, were formally introduced:

  • Mrs. Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), a young WWII war widow, a single mother, and a Department of Commerce secretary
  • Bobby Benson (Billy Gray), Helen's inquisitive, friendly young 10 year-old son
  • George Barley (John Brown) and his snooty, obnoxious wife Mrs. Barley (Frances Bavier)
  • Mr. Krull (Olan Soule) and Mrs. Krull

As the welcoming, business-like Mrs. Crockett offered Carpenter a nice room on the second floor, the excited young boy volunteered to help 'Carpenter' look for the alien spaceman: "I know just what he looks like. He's got a big square head with three great big eyes." Mrs. Crockett was hoping the young talkative boy wouldn't scare away her prospective tenant ("He's really a dear little boy and quiet as a mouse." She thought of a clever question to ask 'Carpenter' as they proceeded upstairs: "You're a long way from home, aren't you, Mr. Carpenter?...Oh. I can tell a New England accent a mile away." He smiled.

The Next Morning: Sunday:

At breakfast time in the boarding house dining room, five of the adult boarders (including 'Carpenter') listened to a radio report broadcast from Miami Beach, Florida from Gabriel Heatter (as Himself). It sounded the alarm for the alien's capture (now described as a "monster," "wild animal," "creature," or "menace from another world"), two days after the Friday afternoon spaceship landing. 'Carpenter' listened intently with the other boarders:

"And now on this Sunday morning we ask some questions that have been haunting the entire nation for two whole days. This creature: Where is he? What is he up to? If he can build a spaceship that can fly to Earth, and a robot that can destroy our tanks and guns, what other terrors can he unleash at will? Obviously, the monster must be found. He must be tracked down like a wild animal. He must be destroyed. But where would such a creature hide? Would he disappear into the north woods? Would he crawl into the sewers of some great city? Everybody agrees. There is grave danger. The question remains: What can we do to protect ourselves? What measures can we take to neutralize this menace from another world? Destroy it? Of course! But how? And if we do destroy it, what do we face in retaliation?"

During the broadcast, 'Carpenter' read - with great interest - headlines in a newspaper article: "Savant Calls Meeting to Study Spaceship - Professor Barnhardt Invites World's Science Leaders." Mrs. Barley noticed a fanciful illustration in a two-page spread (of a massive alien invasion involving the giant robot and other flying saucers with ray guns that were attacking Earth), asking the question: "Are We Long For This World?" The boarders engaged in a conversation about the purpose of the alien's visit - was it harmless or harmful?:

George Barley: (complaining) "Why doesn't the government do something? That's what I'd like to know."
Mr. Krull: "What can they do? They're only people just like us."
George Barley: "People my foot. They're Democrats."
Mr. Krull: "It's enough to give you the shakes. He's got that robot standing there, 8 feet tall, just waiting for orders to destroy us."
Helen: "This spaceman, or whatever he is. We automatically assume he's a menace. Maybe he isn't at all."
George Barley: (critically) "Then what's he hiding for? Why doesn't he come out in the open?"
Mr. Krull: "Yeah, like that Heatter fella says. What's he up to?"
Helen: "Maybe he's afraid."
Mrs. Barley: (derisively) "He's afraid!" (she snorted)
Helen: "Well, after all, he was shot the minute he landed here. I was just wondering what I would do."

After the others spoke, 'Carpenter' concurred with Helen - he thoughtfully defended the alien ("from another planet") and tried to explain the perspective the 'stranger' might want to take. George was the only one to wisely suggest that the alien was here on a mission:

Carpenter: "Perhaps before deciding on a course of action, you'd want to know more about the people here, to orient yourself in a strange environment."
Mrs. Barley: (snapping back) "There's nothing strange about Washington, Mr. Carpenter."
Carpenter: (tongue-in-cheek) "A person from another planet might disagree with you."
Mrs. Barley: (suspiciously) "Well, if you want my opinion, he comes from right here on Earth. And you know where I mean."
Mr. Krull: "They wouldn't come in a space ship. They'd come in airplanes."
Mrs. Barley: (condescendingly) "I wouldn't be too sure about that."
George Barley: (wisely) "It stands to reason that fella wants something, otherwise he wouldn't be here. That right, Mr. Carpenter?"
Carpenter: "I must admit. I'm a little confused."

Klaatu's Sunday Tour of the City with Bobby:

Helen was greeted by her personable and energetic boyfriend-fiancee Tom Stevens (Hugh Marlowe), an ambitious Treasury Department employee. They had plans to take a Sunday day trip with a picnic of sandwiches - his inoperable car radio meant they could "forget about the spaceman for today." When 'Carpenter' heard that Helen needed someone who had no Sunday plans, to watch over her pre-teen son Bobby, he helpfully volunteered ("I haven't any plans"). Tom was impulsively pleased to not have the boy in their company: "Say, that would be great! Wouldn't it?" 'Carpenter' also suggested that he would like to take a tour around Washington D.C. Helen briefly debated the proposal in her mind, not entirely sure about the comparative stranger, but then assented to the plan, with Tom's nod of approval.

Bobby led 'Carpenter' to many of the tourist attractions and sites in the city (most of the shots were background-screened shots). They first visited Arlington National Cemetery (and the grave of Bobby's father, who was killed at Anzio during WWII in January 1944). 'Carpenter' was amazed ("Did all those people die in wars?") because where he came from, there were no wars ("They have cemeteries, but not like this one - you see, they don't have any wars"). He explained his lack of knowledge about certain things, such as the cemetery: "I've been away a long time. Very far away." 'Carpenter' offered to take Bobby to the movies that afternoon and pay his admission - he held out a handful of about half a dozen cut diamonds (his planet's currency - easy to carry and not destructible), and then traded two diamonds for Bobby's $2.00 dollars. Bobby nervously thought of the amazing deal as outright theft: "Let's not say anything to Mom about this though, huh?....She doesn't like me to steal from people."

'Carpenter' was particularly impressed with the Lincoln Memorial (and its inscribed Gettysburg Address): "Those are great words. He must have been a great man....That's the kind of man I'd like to talk to." When 'Carpenter' asked Bobby for a recommendation for "the greatest man in America today" -- Bobby suggested the "spaceman," but then 'Carpenter' clarified -- he was asking for the "greatest philosopher, the greatest thinker." Bobby offered his pick for the "smartest man in the world" - the prominent, Einstein-like scientist Professor Jacob Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe) who lived in the city.

They also paid a visit to the heavily-guarded spacecraft, where crowds of people were kept back behind ropes. Gort still stood guard, and Bobby was awed by the sight: "I bet that iron guy's strong. I bet he could knock down a whole building." 'Carpenter' answered Bobby's question about what could power the spacecraft - he proposed a "highly-developed form of atomic power" that could speed up to 4,000 miles an hour - "and outside the Earth's atmosphere a good deal faster." Two amused men who were eavesdropping on the complex answers given to the confused young boy grinned and joked: "Keep goin', Mister. He was fallin' for it."

When a news-interviewer (Glenn Hardy) approached and asked if 'Carpenter' was scared like so many others, he responded: "In a different way, perhaps. I am fearful when I see people substituting fear for reason. In fact, I would..." - but he was cut off as the interviewer moved on to seek more sensational answers. A newsboy was selling papers with the headline: "Spaceman Eludes Police!" As they chatted, Bobby admitted his liking for 'Carpenter' - "You're a real screwball!" (Off-screen, they went to the movies and had ice cream cones for part of the afternoon.)

Seeking Out Professor Barnhardt:

Later in the day, they decided to visit Barnhardt's suburban home, but the Professor was not there. Just before leaving, the two peered through a pair of French doors leading into a library-study and observed an advanced, very complex problem (in celestial mechanics) written on the Professor's chalkboard (marked with warning signs: "DO NOT TOUCH"). 'Carpenter' realized that the Professor was stumped and couldn't solve the final equation: "He doesn't know the answer. And he'll never get it that way." He opened the locked door to "leave a calling card" - and added some key suggestions and a mathematical solution to aid in the Professor's calculations: "He just needs a little help."

In the midst of their break-in, the suspicious housekeeper Hilda (Marjorie Crossland) returned home and noticed the opened door to the study. She confronted 'Carpenter' - outraged that he would desecrate the blackboard with scribblings: "How dare you write on that blackboard! Do you realize the Professor's been working on that problem for weeks?" 'Carpenter' innocently replied: "He'll solve it in no time now." As they were sternly ordered to leave, since the Professor wouldn't be home until evening, 'Carpenter' wrote a note on a pad of paper with his name and contact information: 1412 Harvard St. NW. When Hilda was about to erase his corrections, 'Carpenter' turned back and cautioned: "I wouldn't erase that. The professor needs it very badly." In a rage, Hilda phoned authorities to report the unauthorized entry.

As a result of her phone call, later that Sunday night, a plainclothesman government agent named Brady (Tyler McVey) rang the boarding house doorbell, asking for Mr. Carpenter. Bobby let the man into the living room, where 'Carpenter' identified himself and guessed the man's reason for being there: "Oh, I suppose Professor Barnhardt's been looking for me." Simultaneously, Helen and her boyfriend Tom had driven up and parked by the front curb after their day together, to discuss their possible marital plans. She told him twice that she was still considering his proposal ("I've got to think about it").

When she entered the boarding house, Helen was puzzled to see 'Carpenter' leaving with Brady, identified by Bobby as a "government agent." Bobby gave a quick recap of his "swell time" with 'Carpenter': "We went to the movies and had some ice cream cones, and then we went to see Daddy." [Note: However, the order of sites was the other way around - they went to the cemetery first, and then to the movies.] Helen watched as 'Carpenter' abruptly left with Brady, wondering if there was some "mistake," and then heard more about Bobby's day:

"We sure had fun today. We saw the spaceship, and we went to see Professor Barnhardt."

A look of concern came over Helen's face when he mentioned the Professor. And she denied Bobby's request to skip school on Monday, because he wished to spend the day again with Mr. Carpenter. [Note: Unless Bobby was in summer school, he wouldn't be attending school in mid-July, the time frame of the film.]

In the next scene that same evening, an Army Captain (Mike Ragan) [Note: it was not Mr. Brady - a film discontinuity! - due to a deleted scene] was delivering 'Carpenter' to confer with the frizzy-haired Dr. Barnhardt in his study. The Professor immediately thanked him for providing some of the solution to his mathematical problem. 'Carpenter' called the notations a "clumsy" means to introduce himself, and gave another hint about the theoretical calculations that would produce the answer. He also assured Barnhardt that his theory had been tested by his actual space flight:

"I find it works well enough to get me from one planet to another. I am Klaatu. I spent two days at your Walter Reed Hospital, Room 309. [Note: The hospital room number earlier was actually 306.] My doctor's name was Major White. And if you're not interested or if you intend to turn me over to your Army, we needn't waste any more time."

The esteemed professor hesitated for a moment, then dismissed the Army Captain outside the study, explaining that he knew the gentleman. Barnhardt was extremely curious about Klaatu and his mission to Earth - expressing both interest and trusting faith in the spaceman:

"It isn't faith that makes good science, Mr. Klaatu. It's curiosity....There are several thousand questions I'd like to ask you."

Klaatu wasted no time in explaining his mission involving his concerns that other alien peoples threatened "violent action" to completely eliminate Earth (after its threatening development of atomic power for space travel and the use of rockets):

"We know from scientific observation that your planet has discovered a rudimentary kind of atomic energy. We also know that you're experimenting with rockets....So long as you were limited to fighting among yourselves with your primitive tanks and aircraft, we were unconcerned. But soon, one of your nations will apply atomic energy to spaceships. That will create a threat to the peace and security of other planets. That, of course, we cannot tolerate..."

He reminded Earthlings that they must not be irresponsible with the new nuclear technology that could endanger other alien worlds, or otherwise Earth would itself face "very grave danger." And he also confessed that his initial efforts on a "official level" to bring together all nations had been stymied. He was losing patience and beginning to think that only "violent action" would get people's attention:

"I came here to warn you that by threatening danger, your planet faces danger, very grave danger. I'm prepared, however, to offer a solution....What I have to say must be said to all concerned. It is too important to be entrusted to any individual.... I come to you as a last resort, and I confess my patience is wearing thin. Must I take drastic action in order to get a hearing?...Violent action, since that seems to be the only thing your people understand. Leveling New York City perhaps, or sinking the Rock of Gibraltar."

Although Professor Barnhardt agreed to have Klaatu meet with his group of scientists, who would then present the spaceman's message to others, he also realized it wouldn't be enough - politicians would also need to be included:

"It is not enough to have men of science. We scientists are too often ignored or misunderstood. We must get leaders from every field - the finest minds in the world."

Klaatu assented: "I leave that in your hands." Barnhardt wondered what would happen if Klaatu's proposals were rejected. The spaceman warned that there was "no alternative" if the meeting failed - if Earth didn't seek peace and heed his message - the warning was clear: Planet Earth would be eliminated:

"I'm afraid there is no alternative. In such a case, the planet Earth would have to be - eliminated...I assure you, such power exists."

Barnhardt was astounded - he worriedly speculated that Klaatu's message had to be taken very seriously, and suggested that the meeting would have greater import if beforehand, his superior capabilities could be proven through a "demonstration of force":

"The people who come to the meeting must be made to realize this. They must understand what is at stake."

To be effective, Klaatu was urged to present a powerful "demonstration of force" before the meeting:

"Something that will dramatize for them and for their people the seriousness of the situation. Something that would affect the entire planet."

But Barnhardt hoped show of force would not be too harmful or destructive. Klaatu agreed and said that could be arranged: ("Something dramatic but not destructive"), and would take place "the day after tomorrow" at about noon.

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