The Retro-Futurist Production Design
Okay, so it's not Metropolis (I LOVE YOU METROPOLIS MEET ME AT THE ALTAR AS SOON AS THEY LEGALIZE HUMAN/MOVIE MARRIAGE), but it's still got a pretty snazzy aesthetic. The smooth white uniformity of both the spaceship and the robot Gort prefigures Apple products by about 50 years.
The Amazingly Non-Annoying Movie Kid
Everyone hates kids in movies not aimed at kids. We all agree that Terminator 2: Judgment Day was marred only by the obnoxious brat and his even more obnoxious haircut. Movie kids, as a rule, fall into two equally unbearable categories: Whiny Brat and Smug Prodigy. Little Bobby Benson, though, sidesteps this rule. As a good-natured, obliging, happy kid, he's not at all whiny or bratty, and he's curious and inquisitive without being precocious or smug.
The ~Deeply Subtle~ Christian Allegory
Klaatu's first words to humankind are, “We have come to visit you in peace and with goodwill.” He assumes the name Carpenter (OH I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE), teams up with a Jew, and suffers little children to come to him. He's distrusted, demonized, and eventually assassinated by the authorities. He gets resurrected and delivers a message to all humans that leaves the decision of how we act in our own hands, and then ascends to the heavens. Yes, it has all the subtlety and finesse of a chainsaw, but I saw E.T. a billionty times as a kid – I'm a sucker for a hamfisted Christ allegory.
In Places It's Hilariously Dated
This isn't always to the film's credit: for a movie with such a progressive, let's-all-join-hands-and-sing-kumbaya message, it's remarkably light on people who aren't rich white American men (my favorite class of people in movies!). And how creepy is the scene where Klaatu gets into the elevator with Helen, knowing full well that the power's about to go out and she'll be trapped in the elevator with a man she doesn't trust? THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES. Funnier are the more naïve signs of its times: the fact that Helen willingly leaves her son in the care of a strange man (after asking her boyfriend, “Do you think it's all right?”, to which my brain cannot possibly avoid adding “to leave the boy with Uncle Ernie...”); the doctors who complain that Klaatu's advanced medicine makes them feel like “third-rate witch doctors” and then light up cancer sticks inside the freaking hospital.
Claude Rains Almost Played Klaatu
As good as Michael Rennie is, I have a bit of a thing for Claude Rains, so I would have loved to see this happen. On the downside, it would have totally screwed up the first verse of “Science Fiction Double Feature”, which is the best song in Rocky Horror and if you disagree you are the Mayor of Wrongsville, the President of the Society for the Promotion of Wrongness, and the Supreme Leader of Wrongistan.
“Klaatu Barada Nikto”
I used to have a hoodie with “Klaatu Barada Nikto” on the back, but then the K fell off, and I was like, “I can't walk around with 'laatu Barada Nikto' on my back, everyone will think I am a DORK” so I peeled off all the other letters and then I found the K and I was like dammit. I guess the moral of the story is, tidy your room, kids.
It's Basically Plan 9 From Outer Space Done Right
Plan 9 From Outer Space is one of my comfort movies, right alongside The Final Sacrifice on MST3K and any of the Disney pics from the early '90s. I love the shit out of that ridiculous frickin' movie and would quite happily watch it every day for the rest of my life. The Day The Earth Stood Still has more or less the same plot as Plan 9 – aliens, concerned that nuclear-age humanity is going to blow them all to kingdom come, descend to Earth in order to stop that from happening – but dispenses with the continuity errors, ill logic, and golden Ed Wood dialog. Which, okay, makes it sound like it's missing all the good stuff, but I promise you, this is a fantastic movie.
(Who is Keanu Reeves what remake I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT)