Movie Notes: War Of The Worlds (1953)
= 4 stars
Starring Gene Barry, Ann Robinson
Directed by Byron Haskin
A meteor lands in the mountains outside of Los Angeles, which is actually an alien spacecraft. Dr. Clayton Forester (Gene Barry) and his niece Sylvia (Ann Robinson) are caught up in the turmoil of a martian invasion to take over the entire Earth.
- Despite having no recognizable stars, there’s still a lot to love. The special effects are still surprisingly effective, and there’s a great sense of pacing – the aliens are barely revealed leaving much to one’s imagination, heightening the tension significantly.
- I liked the pseudoscience angle – the main character is a scientist who tries to figure out what the aliens are capable of and trying to explain things to the scared accomplices.
- Some iconic moments – the sounds of the aliens, the first blast showing the martians have no peaceful intentions, and the nuclear blast where the biggest human weapon of the time is used to spectacular effect.
- It’s also quite interesting to compare to the recent Spielberg / Tom Cruise version which emphasizes different aspects of the same story. Rioters take over our hero’s car that Spielberg expanded upon considerably, and the alien observation tube enters a house and culminates in a brief sighting of an actual martian.
- Due to the limits of what special effects were capable of at the time, we don’t get to see the sheer spectacle of destruction which is provided only in newsreel footage. In this one aspect, the modern day version has an (unfair) edge.
You can see the seeds of today’s blockbusters in this movie – characters taking a back seat to a special effects extravaganza. In that sense, this movie is quite the same as the modern remake, and I found it interesting to see how the time preiod each was made influenced the telling of exactly the same story. Recommended.