8pm PST – The 27th Day (1957) – Aliens give five people from different nations the power to destroy their enemies. Cast: Gene Barry, Valerie French, George Voskovec, Arnold Moss Dir: William Asher BW-76 mins, TV-PG
What makes the “The 27th Day” unique from the more renowned 1950s sci-fi flicks is how the story takes a few wild philosophical turns you never expect, especially if you’re familiar at all with the genre. Everything starts out like “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” with one of those morally superior aliens coming to tsk-tsk mankind for our warlike ways as though the reasons behind the Cold War didn’t matter, but then ends in a surprising but emotionally satisfying fashion that avoids all that cynical moral relativism which is not only unjust but cliche.
This story of five ordinary people given the power to destroy the world might not be as good as “Earth Stood Still,” but intellectually it’s just as fascinating and with a much stronger moral clarity. Leftists will write it off as “jingoism” and “anti-Communist propaganda” (translation: patriotism they don’t like), but there’s nothing to justify those complaints. Ultimately, “The 27th Day” isn’t about nation or country or race or politics; it’s about liberty and hope and how good and similar we all are. And don’t let the cheap, recycled effects fool you. This is an under-appreciated gem with superb performances and a compelling concept played out efficiently.
For whatever reason, you won’t find this on DVD and TCM doesn’t screen it all that often, so you might want to set the DVR if only in the hope of seeing something unexpected. And if I’m wrong, it cost you a mere 75 minutes.