Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 1951. Twentieth Century Fox. Screenplay by Edmund H. North, based on a story by Harry Bates. Cinematography by Leo Tover. Produced by Julian Blaustein. Music by Bernard Herrmann. Production Design by Addison Hehr, Lyle R. Wheeler. Costume Design by Travilla. Film Editing by William Reynolds. Golden Globe Awards 1951.
The imagery in this groundbreaking science-fiction film is unforgettable: a perfectly designed spaceship arrives from the sky and lands in Washington; a giant robot emerges from it but doesn’t say a word or do anything until provoked. An intergalactic traveler (Michael Rennie) also emerges from the craft, but the gift he brings for Earth is mistaken by simpleminded humans for a dangerous weapon and is instantly destroyed. The traveler assimilates himself among the people by disguising himself as a regular businessman, and does his best to let the people around him know that he has come with an important mission to accomplish: he must let humans know about the dangers they are trifling with thanks to their new found ability to harness nuclear power. Instead of listening ears, however, he is met with fear and scorn until he comes upon a kindly widow (Patricia Neal) and her adventurous son, both of whom lead him to a wise scientist (Sam Jaffe) who tries to help the stranger out. After years of intergalactic adventures featuring monsters intent on ruining all of good society (i.e. the aliens represented communists), this was one of the first films to show aliens as friendly and helpful, highly superior to humanity and good enough to even bother themselves with our idiocy. It’s partly a nuclear activist effort, partly an exploration of humanity, and on top of that is a highly involving drama with some terrific special effects. The acting and beautiful set design put it high above similar genre flicks like The War Of The Worlds.