“In the First World War, and for the first time in the history of man, nations combined to fight against nations using the crude weapons of those days. The Second World War involved every continent on the globe, and men turned to science for new devices of warfare, which reached an unparalleled peak in their capacity for destruction. And now, fought with the terrible weapons of super-science, menacing all mankind and every creature on the Earth comes the War of the Worlds.”
Now eighty years ago Orson Welles adapted H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi novel, The War of the Worlds, into the now infamous breaking-news bulletin. The radio drama caused a panic across the nation. According to the myth, millions of naive American’s believed that Martians had actually invaded the earth. Regardless of its ahistorical nature, the myth persists making The War of the Worlds an iconic name among science fiction circles.
The H.G. Wells’ classic is revitalized once more (and certainly not for the last time) in Byron Haskin’s 1953 The War of The Worlds. Our story begins after a strange meteor lands in the hills of a small town in California. When it is revealed that the meteor is truly a spaceship many are intrigued by the arrival of alien visitors. However, their intrigue quickly turns to dread “[once] they discover that [the passengers of the ship] are not very friendly.” as IMBD user KC Hunt puts it. Quickly, the Martian assault begins as they kill indiscriminately and our weapons prove to be no match for the aliens’ impenetrable flying machines.
Major General Mann:
Guns, tanks, bombs – they’re like toys against them!
Not even the atomic bomb can stop them! Our heroes quickly realize that “[they] can’t beat their machines” and that ‘[they’ve] got to beat them!” However when all hope seems lost the true savior of humanity turns out to be “something MUCH smaller…”(hints IMDB user Chris Makrozahopoulos without giving away any spoilers!)
Whats to Look at?
I was initially shocked to discover that the movie was filmed in Technicolor seeing as though most of the films on my watchlist recently have mostly been in black and white. The New York Times said that the film is “…an imaginatively conceived, professionally turned adventure, which makes excellent use of Technicolor, special effects by a crew of experts and impressively drawn backgrounds…Director Byron Haskin…made this excursion suspenseful, fast and, on occasion, properly chilling.”
A lot of attention is placed on color in the film an on such example is the eyes of the Martians and their Flying Machines. The compound eye of the Martians copper-red war machines is composed of three different eyes colored red-green-blue.The vivid colors bring life and excitement to the war-torn earth and that is not to say that film even needed color to remain exciting.
The film is full of movement and action so rest assured there is never a dull moment. The appearance of the Martian was laughable and I think most modern viewers would agree. The enormous three-color eye, lanky arms with suction-cup fingertips, and translucent skin is memorable to me solely for being comedic. According to John M. Miller in a Turner Classic Movies article,” the Martian was a rush job made from chicken wire, latex rubber, and tubing, and it barely held together during the shoot.” Why am I not surprised?
Seeing Through The Illusion:
While we’re still the subject of technical goofs lets talk about the flying machines. Apparently, they each had about twenty wires running to them. Some were for suspension and maneuvering, while others carried power to the various lights and mechanisms. Granted this was before the age of lightweight circuits and things of that nature, however, it is still hard not to notice a clearly visible wire holding up a “hovering” spacecraft.
(I also discovered that the sound of the spaceships shutting down was made by vacuum cleaners being turned off from the IMDB trivia page on this film.)
Despite all my joking, this was a great film to watch and I truly enjoyed myself. The film is surprisingly fast-paced moving quickly from scene to scene. The pacing of the film consistently heightens the suspense, and will constantly have you asking “what’s next?” The only down side to this is that it feels like it all comes to an end about as quickly as it began.