Failed Safe

This weekend I picked up two films from the library that were related. The first one we watched was the classic The Day The Earth Stood Still. There’s a lot to say about the film but I’ll summarize. It was a powerful message in the middle of the Cold War that needed to be heard. This was Sam Jaffe’s last film for about 10 years because of the witch hunts that plagued our country at that time. In the midst of that comes this film which quietly and forcefully preaches the message of peace. Veiled in a pretty standard "man from Mars" film of the age came a solid warning. Klaatu kept warning about the earth becoming a burned out ball. Just what would happen in a nuclear exchange.

The other thing that needed to be said is the Christ imagery in the film. I know it has been covered before, but it bears repeating here. Klaatu walks among the common man peacefully with the name Carpenter, Jesus’ profession. He befriends a single mom with a son as her only child. If you accept the Roman Catholic legend that Mary remained perpetually virgin, it sounds like Jesus’ family. Klaatu meets Professor Barnhardt and amazes him with how much he knows about the equation he’s working on. Just like Jesus in the temple when he was 12, speaking about things he shouldn’t be able to understand. Soldiers kill Klaatu and put his dead body in a prison cell. Soldiers killed Jesus and his body was laid in a sealed and guarded tomb. Gort, Klaatu’s robot, blasts through the wall to carry Klaatu away. A large stone was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb. Helen Benson is the first to see Klaatu after a machine resurrects him. Mary was the first to see the resurrected Jesus. Klaatu appears to the assemble scientists and gives them a message that must be spread across the world if earth is to survive. Jesus appears to many, 500 at one time, and sent his disciples to the ends of the earth with a message of salvation.

Wow, that was more involved than I thought it would be! Anyway, the message of The Day The Earth Stood Still was not that the earth needs a savior, but that the earth needs to stop warring or it will be blasted. Still, it is a great film and I am horrified that it is being remade with Keanu Reeves in the lead. I hope they don’t mess this classic up.

The other film I rented was a remake of a classic and a fantastic remake it was! Fail Safe was released in 1964 and it had a similar message to The Day The Earth Stood Still. But I rented the 2000 version. It was shot in black and white and it was done as a live TV show on CBS. It had an all star cast and was not only well conceived but the pacing of the film was tense and gripping. Man, it was so good! To think that it was shot live. There were only one or two minor places where actors stepped on each others lines and once I think Dryfess forgot his line for a moment but he covered and recovered.

What I tried to explain to my kids as we watched was the constant threat of annihilation we lived under during the Cold War. We faced the possibility that the Soviet Union might misunderstand something we were doing or we might make a mistake and provoke them. By God’s mercy, my children never lived under that threat. If you want to give your kids a taste of what it was like, check out these two films.

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