70 Years ago Times Square was the scariest place on Earth.
The movie theater was full of people and anticipation. It was still only matinee time as dusk settled on 44th Street. It felt night time. I have re-run the movie in my head scores of times. I remember it clearly. The flying saucer circles and lands in a park in Washington DC. People run, leaving picnics behind. Suddenly a metallic door appears in the side of the seamless ship and slides open. Out walks tall, elegant and soft spoken Michael Rennie. He seems dressed in Aluminum and is masked. He pulls a strange device from his suit.
It springs open.
People in the audience gasp. The army has arrived and a soldier, just as nervy as the audience, fires a round from his WWII rifle and wings Rennnie. He goes to ground, clutching his shoulder.
Now a giant metallic robot appears in the doorway, his face masked by a metal plate that slides up revealing a pulsating light. We later learn his name is Gort and although he never speaks he will be remembered for one of the most memorable lines in the movies:
“Klaatu Barada Nicto!”
Inside where his mouth would have been is a ray gun or laser. It pulses. When it speaks members of the army dematerialize. Rifles dissolve in their hands
At that point I stood up in the now silent theater.
I grabbed my father’s arm and said, in a calm, loud voice: “We’re going!” My six year old brain told me it was time.
It was definitely time. ”The Day The Earth Stood Still. and come to Times Square. New York and I needed to be somewhere else.
At some point in the following 70 years I realized DC was a red herring, there as the movie’s location to involve the government and max up incipient paranoia, in this case fear of “the other”. All the characters were clearly New Yorkers (come on, what else could Sam Jaffee be?) Only Michael; Rennie didn’t fit, but hey, he was an alien probably a Brit.
The ending of th film is tame. Klaatu and Gort, his robot galactic policeman, take off for the heavens. This planet is no place for them. Which poses a question.
If not them, for who?