Bewildering Stories

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The Matrix of Its Day

by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith

Everyone past a certain age knows where they were, when they heard about John Wayne being shot and killed by Bruce Dern in the movie Cowboys. A lot of people will tell you they were in the theater, and saw it while there... and then also heard about it again later. But those are false memories. Those are the kind of people who claim they were at Woodstock... and Daley Plaza.

But I was there when Bruce Dern fired that gun... and I have a very vivid memory of the ticket stub to prove it. It's a ticket stub from the Shenandoah theatre on Grand Avenue. Of course the theater is closed now... and why shouldn't it be..? It's four in the morning while I'm writing this.

In a completely unrelated matter... It was 1962 when I met the movie that was the Matrix of its day. I was standing in line at the ticket window. The sign on the marquee said, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

For those who haven't seen the movie, first let me say I hold you in utter contempt, and I wish I had dogs to sic on you... but my wife decided we should own cats... and one of our three cats keeps wetting on the couch... and as soon as I find out which one, I'll also have a dead cat to throw at you.

If you haven't seen the movie here's what happens.

First crop circles start appearing everywhere. Then Mel Gibson's wife gets hit by a truck, but her insides are being held together by the truck, so they can't move the truck and put her body in a plastic bag. Then a big flying saucer lands in our nation's capitol. I also love the part in Apollo thirteen where they throw all this stuff on a table and say, "We need to make a LEM module using only this junk." I wish I could tell you that same line is in movie I'm describing... and you know what..? What the hell.... I will tell you that. That very same line is in the movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

The saucer lands, and the saucer door opens, and Lee Remick walks out and says, "We come in peace." Naturally a marine shoots the alien a couple of times. And the whole crowd is paying attention to the left side of the movie... they don't see this big lumbering robot come out of the spaceship. It's a big lumbering robot. I read that in a very old copy of Screen World. Lumbering. So I expected... like this very long two-handled saw to be perched on its shoulder. (And if you know what's good for you... you won't get me started on the word perched.)

Also... just in case you're wondering... I'm in this writer's group that meets every Tuesday and last week one of the men was reading a screenplay and he said... at some point in the process he said, "Think Anna Nicole Smith." And that just jerked me upright... because I was already thinking about Anna Nicole Smith. Right now I'm thinking about Kiersten Dunst, even though I'm typing the word typing and I just keep right on typing... and now I'm typing The big robot's name is Gort. He's wearing shiny silver pants and a shiny silver shirt. He has this one red eye that keeps wandering back and forth. Back and forth. My uncle's eye used to wander. That led to his getting divorced. Gort can melt things, just by looking at them hard. I'm told by a very chatty sock puppet I'm now wearing, that this led to the development of the laser.

If you think a friendly alien would only be shot one time... you don't know the American military. This time Klaatu gets shot by a machine gun and he collapses dead in the street! For the third time in his life, he's having second thoughts, about what to do first. My sister owned this cute little parrot and she taught it to imitate a phone. That parrot could imitate a phone perfectly. The poor thing died when she slammed him down thinking he was a pesky telemarketer.

This ground-breaking space Klaatu science fiction movie had a "love interest" built right in. Every movie has what they call a "love interest". Even the movie Deliverance had a love interest, but that love interest wasn't built right in... it had to be inserted.

In the movie, Klaatu meets Patricia O'Neil. They never actually kiss but there's a lot of chemistry between them. (I have to admit... I didn't feel it. I was only six at the time. But later, when I saw that one evil crystal meth lady dancing on the top of that car in the movie Blue Velvet... well... let's just say... it wasn't long before I was having my first all-vinyl stain-resistant sleeveless evening gown custom-fitted.)

So the alien lays dead in the street. Patricia O'Neil runs and tells the alien's robot, not to forget... that he's not to destroy the Earth... unless he's not told to... before he's contacted again.

I almost forgot the special effects. They were awe inspiring. There's this scene where nothing happens. All these cars and planes and machines built up over decades of hard labour and applied science and all of those machines are just standing still... (kind'a like the economy under George Bush.)

And then I have this one final thought... You'd think with all I do around the house somebody could have stopped on their way home from work and picked up my medicine.

Copyright © 2003 by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith