Wednesday, January 06, 2016
The 27th Day
The alien (Arnold Moss) tells them his people need a new planet to colonize before their sun goes supernova in 27 days. Because his people cannot destroy intelligent life, the alien hands each of them a container containing a capsule that, if activated, will destroy all life within a 3000-mile radius. Each capsule can be opened only by its owner, and the alien is betting his entire civilization on man’s propensity for murder — that the Earthlings will destroy each other, and his people can live on Earth on their place.
If the five had any intention of waiting out the 27-day period, Moss (who is excellent and believable) screws them by going on television and announcing to the world what he has done and who has the capsules. Thus, THE 27TH DAY is not only a morality play, but also a chase movie with Eve and Jonathan teaming up to hide at a Los Angeles racetrack, Bechner stalked by Commie assassins, and soldier Godofsky tortured by his superiors. Despite the international conflicts, the film is slowly paced and not particularly exciting.
Unusual as an American science fiction movie of the 1950s without monsters or robots, THE 27TH DAY is earnest in its presentation of Big Ideas, and it mostly succeeds, except for its absurdly optimistic ending. It may be the happiest ending to an all-life-on-Earth-may-be-destroyed movie ever.
Director William Asher was primarily a television director at the time — notably 102 episodes of I LOVE LUCY — and he takes his big-screen responsibilities seriously. A perfunctory love story develops between Eve and Jonathan, which is of little interest, but otherwise the film aims higher. It’s unclear whether Columbia noticed, as it released THE 27TH DAY on a double bill with 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, which does feature a monster. Barry was the cast’s only household name, primarily from OUR MISS BROOKS and THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, and went on to become a major television star in BAT MASTERSON, BURKE’S LAW, and THE NAME OF THE GAME.