1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still is science-fiction cinema ground zero. It's all here — the flying saucer, the giant robot, the brainiac scientist, a damsel in distress and an aloof humanoid alien— all filmed documentary style (to heighten those atomic age, cold-war fears) and topped off with an eerie Theremin soundtrack. Klaatu (Michael Rennie) arrives on Earth with his robot, Gort, in tow to deliver an important message for humanity. Too bad humanity's more eager to fight a perceived alien menace than listen. The Day the Earth Stood Still was a prestige picture for 20th Century Fox and director Robert Wise, but Hollywood would soon recycle its elements ad nauseum till they became cliché. This culminated in the ill-advised 2008 remake that gets it all wrong from the get-go, substituting "superstar" Keanu Reeves as spaceman Klaatu and thus losing the impact Wise's Klaatu had — Michael Rennie was an unknown actor. But neither age nor a dodgy remake has weakened the original. A new 35mm print of The Day the Earth Stood Still screens at 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday (July 31 through August 2) in Webster University's Moore Auditorium (470 East Lockwood Avenue; www.webster.edu/filmseries or 314-968-7487). Tickets are $5 to $6.
July 31-Aug. 2, 2009