The residents of a small Californian town witness the first stages of an alien invasion by Martians. As the planet is invaded by vicious alien forces, people fight for survival. Will Earth survive?
Reaction & Thoughts:
The end of World War II caused severe changes in the American society. The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima ended the international conflict and created a new set of fears that somehow got out of control during the 1950s. Communism became a real threat in the mind of many Americans, and Senator McCarthy and his witch-hunts perpetuated the idea of a possible invasion from the Soviet Union. Based on H. G. Wells’s 1897 novel, George Pal’s The War of the Worlds is a perfect embodiment of both the jittery Cold War culture and the sci-fi movies of the 1950s.
Part Michael Bay movie, part Disney cartoon, producer Pal’s (When Worlds Collide and The Time Machine) colored candy adaptation of the Wells story channels the decade’s worries and apprehensions quite well. As such, The War of the Worlds, written by Barré Lyndon (The Greatest Show on Earth and Night Has a Thousand Eyes), and directed by Byron Haskin (The Naked Jungle and Robinson Crusoe on Mars), remains an interesting time capsule. It’s also pretty darn entertaining.
The dialogue is sometimes hard on the ears, and the actors (Gene Barry, TV’s Burke’s Law, Ann Robinson, City Beneath the Sea, Jack Kruschen, The Apartment, etc.) are just okay, but that’s exactly what you’d expect from a Pal production. The producer was mostly interested in wowing the audience with inventive visuals. The War of the Worlds delivered what it promised — it’s a fun fireworks show of imagination.
This is such a beautiful-looking movie. Primary colors are emphasized to the nth degree (the wonderful Technicolor cinematography is by George Barnes, Jesse James and Samson and Delilah). Unlike most sci-fi movies of the era, the film has high production values — Pal clearly made the most of Paramount’s ample resources. The then-innovative visual effects won an Oscar, but now you can (literally) see the strings. However, there is something totally fun about seeing scale miniatures being blown up. And last but no least, we get to see some funky-looking Martians.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The War of the Worlds now looks like a kiddie show, but its influence is immediately palpable. Narrated by Sir Cedric Hardwicke (The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Ten Commandments). Look closely for Carolyn Jones (TV’s The Addams Family). Followed by a TV series. Remade in 2005. Color, 85 minutes, Not Rated.