From the DVD case:
H.G. Wells’ chilling novel of a Martian invasion of Earth becomes even more frightening in this 1953 film adaptation that’s widely regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time. An Oscar winner for Best Special Effects, The War of the Worlds delivers eye-popping thrills, laser-hot action and unrelenting, edge-of-your-seat suspense. No one who has seen the film’s depiction of the swan-shaped Martian machines – ticking and hissing menacingly as they cut their path of destruction – will ever forget their ominous impact. (1953, color)
It would be hard to estimate how many times I’ve watched The War of the Worlds. This George Pal production was not only a favorite when I was a kid, but it still holds its charm these 50 plus years later.
Gene Barry plays the male lead, Dr. Clayton Forrester, a scientist on the scene when the first spacecraft lands. Ann Robinson plays pretty Sylvia Van Buren, the love interest. I’m still amazed that Miss Robinson was only seventeen years old when this movie was made.
I admit that The War of the Worlds can get a little corny at times, and it certainly won’t inspire the panic Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast created, but it still holds its own when it comes to plot and production values. Of course, when you base a movie on a novel by H.G. Wells and then have George Pal (Destination Moon, When Worlds Collide) produce it, you really can’t go wrong.
The War of the Worlds is a visually fascinating film. I love the vivid colors, the shape of the Martian war machines, Los Angeles in flames, and the distinct feel of a 1950s America. Some of my favorite scenes:
1. A Martian war machine slides into a rural farmhouse upon landing.
2. Dr. Forrester and Sylvia are trapped in the farmhouse, and a Martian surprises Sylvia by placing its creepy, tentacled hand on her shoulder.
3. LA is under attack and we see a church silhouetted by a burning sky.
Still, there are a few laughable moments. For instance, when we see the firefighters battling the fire started by the first spaceship, they are using what amounts to squirt guns and jackets to fight the flames.
Also, the Martians themselves (though possessing creepy arms and hands) look rather ridiculous when we see them in their full glory. Of course, the main focus is on the Martian machines, and the few scenes where the Martians are viewed fully can be forgiven.
The War of the Worlds also stars Les Tremayne (The Monolith Monsters, The Angry Red Planet) as Maj. Gen. Mann.
Directed by Byron Haskin (Conquest of Space, Robinson Crusoe on Mars).
Scene to watch for: Three yokels form a welcoming committee only to find the Martians are less than gracious guests.
Line to listen for: “The end came swiftly. All over the world, their machines began to stop and fall. After all that men could do had failed, the Martians were destroyed and humanity was saved by the littlest things, which God, in His wisdom, had put upon this Earth.”
Trivia: The H.G. Wells’ estate was so impressed with The War of the Worlds that George Pal was offered his choice of any other Wells’ property. The result was 1960’s The Time Machine.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ! ! out of 5.