War of the Worlds (1953, directed by Byron Haskin)


Earlier today, when I saw that Lisa had posted a video of the infamous 1938 radio version of The War of the Worlds, it brought back memories of how much the first film version of War of the Worlds freaked me out.

I can’t remember how old I was when I first saw the 1953 version of War of the Worlds.  I think I must have been 10 or maybe 11.  I could have even been 9, I’m not sure.  I came across the original War of the Worlds at Blockbuster and begged my Dad to rent it for me because, back then, I was into anything that looked like it involved an alien invasion.  I watched it that night and I have no shame in admitting that it totally freaked me out.

I knew that the aliens were the bad guys but nothing prepared me for the scene where the three men approached the alien ship while waving a white flag and shouting that they came in peace.  The Martians took one look at them and…

And then there was the scene where the priest approached the aliens while reciting the Lord’s Prayer.  The Martians took one look at him and…

Today, everyone makes jokes about the scene where the military tries to nuke the aliens and then casually brushes the nuclear fallout off of their jackets.  Yes, that’s definitely not something that you want to try in real life but, when I first saw the movie, the only thing registered with me was that they dropped the greatest weapon known to man on the aliens and…

IT DIDN’T WORK!

When the Martians attacked all of the great cities of the world, they destroyed every famous landmark that they saw and they set the template for every Roland Emmerich film that would follow.  But for me, all that mattered was that they destroyed London, the city that I was looking forward to visiting in the summer.

Another scene that people tend to poke fun at is everyone gathering in the church and praying.  H.G. Wells was a noted skeptic when it came to religion so he probably would not have cared for that scene.  But when I first watched the movie, that didn’t matter.  What mattered was that the world was on fire and the only thing that could stop the aliens were germs.  Mankind’s weapons were useless.  We were doomed.  In the end, only nature could save the world.

I’ve rewatched War of the Worlds several times since then and it holds up well.  It may no longer freak me out but it still gets to me every time.  It’s still one of the best alien invasion films ever made and it still gets to me whenever I hear, “Everyone knows what a white flag means!”  No, they don’t.

Actually, I might have to watch it again, tonight.

Happy Halloween, readers!

Get Into the Halloween Mood With Orson Welles and The Mercury Theater!


Still need some help getting into the holiday spirit?

Here to help are Orson Welles, the Mercury Theater, and the broadcast the panicked America back in 1938!

It’s …. The War of the Worlds!

A Blast From The Past: Orson Welles’s 1938 Broadcast of The War of the Worlds


Since it’s Orson Welles’s birthday and everyone’s kind of nervous about going outside right now, why not experience the live radio broadcast that panicked America in 1938?

Actually, there’s some debate as to just how panicked America got when they heard the Mercury Theater On The Air’s adaptation of War of the Worlds.  There was definitely some panic but there are differing reports on just how wide spread it was.  For our purposes, let’s assume that the entire country was terrified at the same time and that everyone was loading up a shotgun and planning to go out and look for aliens.  One thing is for sure.  With his adaptation of War of the Worlds, Orson Welles managed to invent the whole found footage genre that would later come to dominate horror cinema in the late 90s and the aughts.  Every Paranormal Activity film owes a debt to what Orson Welles accomplished with War of the Worlds.  We won’t hold that against Orson.

H.G. Wells, the original author of War of the Worlds, and Orson Welles only met once.  Interestingly enough, they were both in San Antonio, Texas in 1940.  They were interviewed for a local radio station.  H.G. Wells expressed some skepticism about the reports of Americans panicking while Welles compared the radio broadcast to someone dressing up like a ghost and shouting “Boo!” during Halloween.  Both Wells and Welles then encouraged Americans to worry less about Martians and more about the growing threat of Hitler and the war in Europe.

I’ve shared this before but this just seems like the time to share it again.  Here is the 1938 Mercury Theater On The Air production of The War of the Worlds!

Here’s The Trailer For BBC One’s The War Of The Worlds!


Now, this looks really good!

This is the latest of several adaptations of H.G. Wells’s classic tale about Martians invading Earth.  What sets this one apart from some of the others is that 1) it’s set close to the time period that the novel was originally written (the novel was published in 1898 and the new miniseries takes place during the Edwardian era so it’s only a difference of a few years) and 2) it takes place in the country where the novel is actually set.  In other words, the Martians have arrived and it’s up to the British to save us all!

Well, maybe.  Not to spoil the book but let’s just say that humanity didn’t do a very good job when it came to defending Earth from the Martians.

Anyway, this is a 3-episode miniseries which will air on the BBC sometime in the autumn.  (Hopefully in late November or early December, hint, hint.)  Eventually, I imagine that viewers in the States will get to see it.

For now, here’s the trailer!