Movies and Film

Social Commentary as Science-Fiction – The 27th Day (1957)

Sometimes a science-fiction movie, or any movie, will come along that just completely surprises you with its originality, something that rarely happens in this day and age.  Truly, this is one of those films that has been overlooked by history and perhaps it is because its subject matter is too smart or perhaps the lack of action present.  Whatever the case, The 27th Day is a thought-provoking film that finds five strangers from across the globe, all from different countries and backgrounds and it gathers them all together at the behest of an alien.  Said alien gives them the means to save the Earth, or if they so choose, to destroy it and they have twenty-seven days to do so.

27th dayRight from the very beginning, the movie poses the question and asks if we as a species are able to rise above our petty jealousies and convictions to give peace a chance, if only for a little while?  The fate of the world is literally in the hands of these five people and the alien does not make it easy for the planet or for them as he reveals what they have to the entire populace, really testing each one our heroes, as well as the Earth itself with its own fate.  When it was released, the movie was a commentary on the sad state of the world and the booming Cold War, but in the years that followed, we as a people have not gotten any better, becoming even more paranoid and less trusting than ever.  Of course, the film tends to favour the good guys, and why should it not, with Russia playing the villain.  The movie was definitely a product of its time as there was no chance that America or Britain for instance, could ever be put in such a position.  As it is, the political landscape may have changed from what it was but the movie could have taken place during any year or decade, forty years ago or today, and still be as socially relevant as it was then.

27th day1The film would star Gene Barry in the lead, most famous for his role in War of the Worlds, as well as Valerie French, George Voskovec, Azemat Janti, Marie Tsien and Arnold Moss as the alien.  Though this group of actors may not have been on the A-list, the performances they turned in qualified them to be as such.  It also helped that they had a strong script from John Mantley and some steady direction from William Asher to make this picture as good as it turned out.  Surprisingly, even though it was just a B film, the production values on it were high and it looked as good as any top-rated picture.  Barry was the strongest actor of the bunch and the film tended to focus more on him than anyone else.  It would have been nice to see a little more of Marie Tsien’s character as she really did not do too much, but it is understandable why the filmmakers did what they did.

The only negative to be found in the film was at the point where George Voskovec’s character discovered a formula on the capsules and he decided to act on it.  It was not simply due to the fact that he took it upon himself to decide what was best for mankind; it was the end result that saw the capsules destroy all of those ‘enemies of freedom.’  It seemed a little specific and a bit of a cop-out for one and two, a little simplistic when compared to the material shown thus far.  Other than that though, the film was highly entertaining, well-acted and captivating.  It might be hard to find, but The 27th Day is well worth your time.

4 out of 5

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