CINEMA FORUM ON AMERICAN CINEMA – ASPECTS TO CONSIDER WHILE VIEWING THE FILM FOR THE SUBSEQUENT DEBATE: LAST EARTH
One of the milestones of American science-fiction cinema of the 50s, as it brings together most of its constants: the arrival of aliens, the presence of superior intelligences or robots, a serious problem that could be global, social paranoia as a reflection of the cold war , violent human defense system (army, police) against the unknown, representation of science...
All of the above, however, is nuanced with two surprising features. On the one hand, a tone in line with the Thriller produced at the time by the same production company, 20th Century Fox (realistic setting, contrasted black and white, chases), with directors such as Elia Kazan, Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Henry Hathaway. On the other hand, noble and beautiful melodramatic nuances, in the reflection of the insertion of the extraterrestrial protagonist in a broken family: thanks to him, the widow protagonist will notice that her suitor is nothing more than a petty being and the son can enjoy a kind second father, noble and altruistic; the final disappearance of the alien will leave this woman and child sad and hopeless. All this within a great sobriety, containing the emotion; In this sense, two scenes of the stellar couple are masterful, the one that takes place in the elevator in the dark, above all, and Klaatu's healing inside the flying saucer, when she hears that it will be momentary and does not know how long it will last.
The film also introduces a messianic touch, but in a fine and subtle way, without the ideological and cutesy excesses that Spielberg deliberately incurred some time later in ET (1982). In the same way, it offers an antimilitarist and pacifist message that surprises within the bellicose historical and cinematographic context, no less naive and simple, less firm or brave at the time: the alien does not stop being attacked and harassed, when he only seeks harmony.
The purely fanta-scientific aesthetic is also beautifully sober: the design of the ship, the alien suit, the robot... are extremely stylized, contrasting beautifully with the ominous and sumptuous tone of the music by the great Bernard Herrmann, Hitchcock's recurring musician For many years, he made his film debut in Citizen Kane.
It is one of the best films by director Robert Wise, who began as editor of Orson Welles himself in Citizen Kane and The Fourth Commandment, and to whom other classics are owed, as different as I want to live! (1958), West Side Story (1961), The Haunting (1963), and The Sound of Music (1965). His next science fiction film was the first film adaptation of the Star Trek series, in 1980.
In 2008, a remake with the same title was made, directed by Scott Derrickson and starring Keanu Reeves.