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War of the Worlds (1953)

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  • War of the Worlds (1953)

    Title The War of the Worlds
    Year 1953
    Rated G
    Released 26 Aug 1953
    Runtime 85 min
    Director Byron Haskin
    Writer H.G. Wells (novel), Barré Lyndon (screenplay)
    Actors Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne, Robert Cornthwaite
    Plot H.G. Well's classic novel is brought to life in this tale of alien invasion. The residents of a small town in California are excited when a flaming meteor lands in the hills. Their joy is tempered somewhat when they discover that it has passengers who are not very friendly. The movie itself is understood better when you consider that it was made at the height of the Cold War--just replace Martian with Russian....
    Language English, Spanish
    Country USA
    Awards Won 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations.
    Production N/A
    Website N/A
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  • #2
    I've been on a 50's science fiction kick lately and it's mandatory to visit with one of the decade's best. If The Day the Earth Stood Still best exemplifies the need for humanity to put down our differences and work together while Invasion of the Body Snatchers encapsulates the paranoia of the Cold War and a sense of distrust between races which continues to this day, The War of the Worlds is the best presentation of these two themes coming together. Most sci-fi films around this time feel stilted as long stretches are filled with tech talk and other garbled dialogue. The War of the Worlds blazes through without ever slowing down. Even when the romantic couple are set up in their introduction, the pace never falters. Add in beautiful model effects and captivating 3-strip Technicolor visuals and it's a colorful experience from start to finish.

    I'm willing to bet that any first time viewer will recognize the sound effects of the ray blasts. They may not be able to recall where they've heard them, but they're familiar just the same. They were invented for the movie, but were used in countless other pictures afterwards. As exciting as the visual effects are (warship models, alien scurrying in a house, crashed landings, people being blasted by death rays), it's the sound effects that stand out more in mind. It's difficult to describe, but there's a menace to the death ray tune. It's as if they sound just as dangerous as they look.

    For anyone that hasn't seen this, best to duck out now as I'm going to talk about the ending. The weapons of humanity fail to prevail against the alien conquerors. It's up to the scientists to find a chemical means for survival before it's too late. However, the scientists are attacked by a mob when trying to leave Las Angeles and their equipment is smashed while several are injured. The true nature of scared and terrified mankind is self-preservation no matter the costs. Yet it's this selfish desire of the mob mentality that dooms the planet.

    That is, until the aliens start dropping like flies. While blowing up churches, the beings fall prey to bacteria and germs not found on their own world. It's set up in such a way to make the viewer question if this is an act of God or a coincidence. Depending on your strength in religious faith, your answer will differ from the person next to you. It's smart and also refreshing. The movie goes out of its way to induce scientific realism at times, from the radiation of the ship to the magnetism emitted from the death rays, that such a means to stop the invaders doesn't feel like a cop out.

    The special edition DVD I watched has a commentary with Joe Dante, Bob Burns, and Bill Warren and is a perfect compliment to the film. Dante talks about the cast on screen while Burns chimes in about the effects. Warren gives some history about the book, radio program, and the production side of the movie. If you've never heard of Bill Warren, he's the author of Keep Watching the Skies!, the quintessential book on science fiction movies from the 1950's. He's also the author of The Evil Dead Companion which any fan of the series should read. Realizing the commentary was on the disc, I only planned to listen to a few minutes of it after just finishing the movie. It was so enthralling that I ended up watching the film again.

    The War of the Worlds manages to find itself in that perfect middle ground where it's a fun time for kids, but can be heavy enough for adults. It's easily in my top five science fiction movies of the 1950's and is required viewing for anyone remotely interested in the genre.
    People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."