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Worth A Look: 10.64%
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2 reviews, 35 user ratings

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War of the Worlds, The (1953)
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by WilliamPrice

"A top-notch science-fiction thriller –colorful, stylish and unforgettable."
5 stars

Waving a white flag, the Delegation approaches the mysterious craft from another planet. “Come on out, we’re friends!” “That’s right! We welcome you, we’re friends, yeah?” P-zow p-zow p-zow! A blinding spray of energy leaps out and promptly fries them to cinders. Thus begins the Martian invasion of Earth in this classic adaptation of H. G. Wells’ 1898 science-fiction novel.

This time around, producer George Pal steers away from the awkward plot complications that marred his earlier apocalyptic epic When Worlds Collide (1951), and the result is a solid, punchy film that’s as sleek and relentless as the futuristic Martian killing machines which inhabit it. Believable characters and a straightforward dramatic context (borrowing heavily from the Second World War) were to prove far more accessible to a general audience than the lion’s share of crazy sci-fi films produced throughout the 1950s. Also contributing to the film's long-standing success are the memorable sights and sounds of the invading Martian fleet.

The menacing, devious-looking Martian ships are designed to look far more streamlined than the monstrous, mechanical hulks envisioned by Wells. The main body, which appears similar to a manta ray, is lit by sickly green lights and supported by almost invisible magnetic “legs”. From its top emerges the cobra-like “head”, which casts about for its prey with a palpable, brooding slowness, before dealing the fiery death-ray with soulless efficiency. The sound effects, likewise, are calculated to inspire a sense of unearthly, dreadful ruthlessness. A far away dynamo hum mixed with a sinister electronic sizzling, like a rattlesnake, creates an uncanny sense of slow motion, and leaves us feeling hypnotized and helpless, unable to break away even as we know that doom is approaching. Then follow the nerve-racking electronic sound barrage of the heat-ray and the meson-neutralizing energy beams. (True, it sounds a bit familiar today, because these effects were reused again and again for everything from Star Trek to video games.)

The careful, artistic styling and ultimate simplicity of these design elements make for a vivid and memorable theatrical experience. Unfortunately, this brand of thoughtfulness and restraint pretty much went the way of the buffalo with the 1977 release of Star Wars. Nowadays, you simply crowd the picture and the soundtrack with so much excessive crap, the viewer doesn’t even know what hit him. (Oops, was that a cheap potshot? Excuse me!)

The other great thing about George Pal’s The War of the Worlds is the way the drama builds and builds. Early on, we find ourselves in a hokey small-town drama, with a vacationing scientist, the parson’s niece, and some light romance at the local square dance. We are blind and unprepared for the mad chaos to come. We have no inkling that we are going to witness wholesale death and destruction, the rout of humanity, pathetic mobs running riot in the streets, whole cities reduced to rubble. Like the general population in Wells’ book, we aren’t fully apprised of the Martian’s total invulnerability until they are right at our doorstep. We figure the scientist will stop them. The army will stop them. The bomb will stop them. But nothing stops them! Gradually the film opens out into a full blown war/disaster epic. It undoubtedly struck a common chord with an audience freshly traumatized by World War Two. But in any era, the bold, dramatic line of this elemental story is bound to captivate the viewer.

The abrupt happy ending has been often criticized, and rightly so. However, it is true that the Martian’s vulnerability was foreshadowed earlier on by the discovery of their anemic blood. Another quibble is that the suggestion of divine mercy has been made more overt than it was in the original Wells, by the introduction of a church motif. But this is at least generally consistent with Wells’ theme of how best to carry on in a completely hopeless situation. Ultimately, the feeling at the end of the movie probably jived with how many people felt about the end of the war –not so much victorious as just plain thankful.

George Pal’s The War of the Worlds is one of the undisputed masterworks of the science fiction genre. It shows few signs of aging (just ignore those funny little strings holding up the Martian ships!). Its visual style remains fresh and striking, and complements a story that effortlessly blends full-bore science-fiction with epic drama. Like Wells’ classic novel, this film is likely to be around a long, long time.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6116&reviewer=407
originally posted: 08/19/05 02:24:15
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good alot better than the crap remake 4 stars
7/01/17 Ivan P. Freeley Absolutely phenomenal. 5 stars
6/04/17 Jack Proof that practical effects are superior to cgi. Great movie. 5 stars
10/29/16 morris campbell effective & entertaning millon xs better that shit eating remake 5 stars
4/15/15 stanley welles an effective sci-fi featuring spectacular battle scenes 4 stars
4/13/15 jokerass lol 1 stars
7/29/12 cr a 50s classic yes. but seriously overated. effects good. 3 stars
10/18/10 Jack This film scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. Great movie! 5 stars
6/15/07 Vincent Ebriega A masterpiece. Need I say more? 5/5. 5 stars
6/05/07 David Cohen Very different from the novel, but just as good (in its own way) 5 stars
3/08/07 David Pollastrini Great fx for it's time! 4 stars
1/30/07 action movie fan one of the best 50.s sci/fi-scene when creature grabs girl,scary as hell!!!! 4 stars
9/29/05 Eagle Great movie. Despite being over 50 years old, it's the best WOTW movie to date. 5 stars
8/16/05 Mark Radburn The Greatest Sci-Fi Movie of all-time 5 stars
7/28/05 Thurisaz Above average sci-fi film; lame War of the Worlds adaptation, but at least its entertaining 4 stars
7/07/05 John creepy and atmospheric...just great 5 stars
7/01/05 green gremlin still a classic despite the dated special effects and cheesy dialogue 5 stars
6/30/05 Eddie Very Intrestring, but still a classic 5 stars
3/25/05 Mike Lawrence Take this test in 120 days. Would you rather watch WOTW '53 a 2nd time or WOTW '05 twice? 5 stars
1/30/05 Smitty Good effects - absolutely horrible screenplay-"Do you have a pocket compass on you?-Sure" 2 stars
1/24/05 Barrett Robb Agree totally with the EFC review - the best of the 50's sci fi 5 stars
9/25/04 sbpat21 very overrated 1 stars
9/24/04 a iconic 5 stars
6/17/04 Bob W. One of the best 5 stars
4/12/04 tony montana Owns ID4.One of the best sci-fi. 5 stars
3/20/04 Peter A true classic with a message that still rings true 5 stars
3/16/04 Alfred Guy Excellent! A major classic of the genre. 5 stars
3/05/04 Andrew Dunn It's been too long since i've seen this movie. Thanks for the reminder. 5 stars
2/25/04 john just wonderful - everything a nostalgic sci fi film is all about - puts ID4 to shame! 5 stars
7/25/03 3man An excellent sci-fi classic! 5 stars
9/14/02 Zefram Mann One of the best examples of classic sci-fi ever made. 5 stars
8/31/02 Charles Tatum Kicks "Independence Day"'s alien butt 5 stars
8/31/02 R.W. Welch Very adept adaption of the HGW opus, good suspense and FX. 5 stars
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  DVD: 01-Nov-2005



Directed by
  Byron Haskin

Written by
  Barre Lyndon

  Gene Barry
  Ann Robinson
  Les Tremayne
  Lewis Martin
  Robert Cornthwaite
  Sandro Giglio

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