Gort was the huge, shiny robot that threatened to destroy the world in the 1951
movie The Day The Earth Stood Still. The screenplay for this was written by Edmund
H North, loosely based on a short story by Harry Bates. The name "Gort" is similar to "Gnut",
the name of the robot in Bates's original SF story.
The plot of the film is fairly straightforward: The humanoid alien Klaatu (Michael Rennie) lands on
the Earth in his flying saucer and instructs the world that our atomic weapons make us a
threat to other planets. We wil be destroyed unless we abandon them. As a demonstration
of his power Klaatu neutralises the world's electricity.
To back up his ultimatum, Klaatu has with him the indestructable robot Gort.
Gort was massive and was played by the 7'7" tall actor Lock Martin (1916 - 1959). Martin was spotted
and selected for the role whilst working as a doorman at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in
Hollywood. The Day The Earth Stood Still was one of his few film appearances.
It seems that there was more
than one Gort suit: apparently, at some points during the film Gort can be seen with air
vents under his chin, at others they are not present.
Klaatu Barada Nikto!
Gort has perhaps one of the strangest catchphrases of all time: Klaatu barada
Nikto! Although the phrase is associated with Gort, these famous words are actually uttered
not by the robot but by Klaatu his master (or servant?).
The words themselves have no agreed translation. What matters is the effect they have on Gort:
they prevent him from destroying the Earth.
These three words have been picked up by much popular culture, both SF and beyond, and Klaatu-spotting is
popular with some. Reported sightings include Return of the Jedi, Farscape and
Grand Prix 2 from Microprose!
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