Sunday, September 25, 2005

Talk to your robot

If you type ‘Klatu verada nictu’ into Google it comes up with 469 references to it, or at least there were today. This phrase has stayed with me for more than 40 years during which time I have forgotten countless other things, probably it stayed because I felt that someday it might save my life.
It comes from a ‘black & white’ film called ‘The day the earth stood still’ which starred Michael Rennie and a robot called Gort.
The phrase in question had to be memorised by the heroine and spoken to Gort to pacify him and prevent him from killing her and going on to destroy the world. Gort, by the way, was a huge figure, rather like an animated suit of armour but much more menacing.
The film terrified me but then for 30 years or so I never saw the film again or heard any mention of it.
I was watching, I lead a very sedentary life, the Rockford Files (James Garner) and there came a scene in which a huge thug hove into view, much to the despair of the hero who on sight of his massive opponent uttered the words ‘Klatu verada nictu!’
I immediately understood. I thought to myself surely I must be the only person in the UK who understands that reference, maybe the world?
That was more than 10 years ago so today I thought I would just check out Google in case the film has become a huge cult success and the reference was not quite so obscure as I had thought.
Well 469 does not I would have thought indicate a very high level of recognition. I reckon the James Garner script was almost a private joke by the writers and certainly to be welcomed.


henryg said...

q'Klaatu Barada Nikto' is a phrase I have been using for many years. Now when I use it people assume I'm from eastern Europe! A great film, no doubt

jane said...

It is indeed a classic film. I saw it when I was quite young and it unsettled me in the same way that the Cybermen in Dr Who always have. I'm sure that the inclusion of the phrase in the Rockford Files was an in-joke, I always appreciate that sort of thing too.