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War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds

4.8 8
Director: Byron Haskin

Cast: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne


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H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds had been on the Paramount Pictures docket since the silent era, when it was optioned as a potential Cecil B. DeMille production. When Paramount finally got around to a filming the Wells novel, the property was firmly in the hands of special-effects maestro George Pal. Like Orson Welles's infamous 1938 radio adaptation, the film


H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds had been on the Paramount Pictures docket since the silent era, when it was optioned as a potential Cecil B. DeMille production. When Paramount finally got around to a filming the Wells novel, the property was firmly in the hands of special-effects maestro George Pal. Like Orson Welles's infamous 1938 radio adaptation, the film eschews Wells's original Victorian England setting for a contemporary American locale, in this case Southern California. A meteorlike object crash-lands near the small town of Linda Rosa. Among the crowd of curious onlookers is Pacific Tech scientist Gene Barry, who strikes up a friendship with Ann Robinson, the niece of local minister Lewis Martin. Because the meteor is too hot to approach at present, Barry decides to wait a few days to investigate, leaving three townsmen to guard the strange, glowing object. Left alone, the three men decide to approach the meterorite, and are evaporated for their trouble. It turns out that this is no meteorite, but an invading spaceship from the planet Mars. The hideous-looking Martians utilize huge, mushroomlike flying ships, equipped with heat rays, to pursue the helpless earthlings. When the military is called in, the Martians demonstrate their ruthlessness by "zapping" Ann's minister uncle, who'd hoped to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the standoff. As Barry and Ann seek shelter, the Martians go on a destructive rampage. Nothing-not even an atom-bomb blast-can halt the Martian death machines. The film's climax occurs in a besieged Los Angeles, where Barry fights through a crowd of refugees and looters so that he may be reunited with Ann in Earth's last moments of existence. In the end, the Martians are defeated not by science or the military, but by bacteria germs-or, to quote H.G. Wells, "the humblest things that God in his wisdom has put upon the earth." Forty years' worth of progressively improving special effects have not dimmed the brilliance of George Pal's War of the Worlds. Even on television, Pal's Oscar-winning camera trickery is awesome to behold. So indelible an impression has this film made on modern-day sci-fi mavens that, when a 1988 TV version of War of the Worlds was put together, it was conceived as a direct sequel to the 1953 film, rather than a derivation of the Wells novel or the Welles radio production.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Monica McIntyre
A science-fiction classic, The War of the Worlds, based on the H. G. Wells novel, is a mesmerizing Hollywood entertainment -- a solid B movie that holds up better today than most of its big-budget contemporaries. Introduced in the style of a newsreel, the narrative concerns a respected scientist (Gene Barry) who becomes the man of the hour when killer Martians invade Earth. Suddenly, the entire planet (Earth, that is) finds itself on the defensive and on the brink of certain apocalypse. The Martians are more technologically advanced than Earthlings, as evidenced by their indestructible flying machines and firepower. But they have one problem -- a frail immune system that has trouble with an invisible enemy: bacteria. The film may be an unconscious reflection of its era's cold war hysteria or perhaps a warning about the runaway dangers of technology. Whatever the case, the visually stunning production design and hypnotic special effects -- for instance, that eerie techno-cricket chirp that issues from the Martian spaceships -- make The War of the Worlds an irresistible gem.
All Movie Guide - Mike Cummings
This 1953 film ranks as a sci-fi classic for its brilliant pacing and stunning special effects. The story line is simple: Martians have arrived and they mean to annihilate the world's population with fire-breathing spaceships protected by invisible shields which no missile can penetrate. Earth is helpless. Doomsday is nearing. Although the dialogue is pedestrian at times, it is lean and short-winded. Consequently, the plot moves like a frightened gazelle: leaping, dodging, sprinting. Producer George Pal's special effects are outstanding, even by modern standards, as spaceships roam for quarry in Asia, Europe, and America. The lead actors -- Gene Barry as mild-mannered scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester, and Ann Robinson as a mild-mannered teacher of library science, Sylvia Van Buren -- wisely cede the starring role to the suspenseful action. They recite their lines, neither overacting nor underacting, then let the plot takes its course. In a memorable scene, Forrester and Van Buren huddle in the dusty ruins of a building while a Martian optical probe pokes through windows to find signs of life. They escape, of course -- just barely -- then try to discover the Martians' Achilles' heel, to no avail. The visual effects -- featuring stampeding crowds and spaceships zapping landmarks and whole city blocks -- provide plenty of thrills all along the way. Cedric Hardwicke's resonant British voice opens the film to set the scene and delivers the final lines during the wonderful surprise ending. Because the film debuted at a time when Americans feared communist infiltration of the U.S. government and its society, some moviegoers of the 1950s viewed the Martians as communists -- and went home wondering what Stalin was up to.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Paramount Catalog
Region Code:
[Dolby Digital Mono]

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Gene Barry Dr. Clayton Forrester
Ann Robinson Sylvia Van Buren
Les Tremayne Gen. Mann
Lewis Martin Pastor Matthew Collins
Henry Brandon Cop
Robert Cornthwaite Dr. Pryor
Sandro Giglio Dr. Bilderbeck
Jack Kruschen Salvatore
Paul H. Frees Radio Announcer
William Phipps Wash Perry
Vernon Rich Col. Ralph Heffner
Cedric Hardwicke Commentary
Eric Alden Man
Hugh Allen Brigadier General
Russ Bender Dr. Carmichael
Hazel Boyne Screaming Woman
Cliff Clark Australian Policeman
Edward Colmans Spanish Priest
Jimmie Dundee Civil Defense Official
Al Ferguson Police Chief
Frank Freeman Bum
Nancy Hale Young Wife
Virginia Hall Actor
Jerry James Reporter
Don Kohler Colonel
Rudy Lee Actor
Mike Mahoney Young Man
John Mansfield Actor
Joel Marston MP
John Maxwell Doctor
David McMahon Minister
Bill Meader P.E. Official
Ralph Montgomery Red Cross Leader
Jamesson Shade Deacon
Cora Shannon Old Woman
Dorothy Vernon Elderly Woman
Bud Wolfe Big Man
Fred Zendar Marine Lieutenant
Morton C. Thompson Actor
Gus Taillon Elderly Man
Stanley Orr Marine Major
Jim Davies Marine Commanding Officer
Dick Fortune Marine Captain
Ned Glass Well-dressed Man During Looting
Ann Codee Dr. DuPrey
Frank Kreig Fiddler Hawkins
Paul Birch Alonzo Hogue
Edgar Barrier Prof. McPherson
Ralph Dumke Buck Monahan
Carolyn Jones Bird-Brained Blonde
Walter Sande Sheriff Bogany
Teru Shimada Japanese Diplomat
Charles Gemora Martian
Freeman Lusk Secretary of Defense
Alex Frazer Dr. James
Ted Hecht KGEB Reporter
George Pal Bum #1 listening to radio
Robert Rockwell Ranger
Peter Adams Lookout
Sydney Mason Fire Chief
Anthony Warde M.P. Officer
Alvy Moore Zippy
David Sharpe Looter
Dale Van Sickel Looter
Fred Graham Looter
Douglas Henderson Staff Sergeant
Herbert Lytton Chief of Staff
Pierre Cressoy Man
Houseley Stevenson General's Aide
Russ Conway Rev. Bethany
Ivan Lebedeff Dr. Gratzman
Gertrude W. Hoffman News Vendor

Technical Credits
Byron Haskin Director
George Barnes Cinematographer
Chesley Bonestell Special Effects
Ivyl Burks Special Effects
Mushy Callahan Stunts
Sam Comer Set Decoration/Design
Everett Douglas Editor
Frank Freeman Associate Producer
Fred Graham Stunts
Edith Head Costumes/Costume Designer
Walter Hoffman Special Effects
Gordon Jennings Special Effects
Emile Kuri Set Decoration/Design
Paul K. Lerpae Special Effects
Barré Lyndon Screenwriter
Michael D. Moore Asst. Director
Albert Nozaki Art Director
George Pal Producer
Hal Pereira Art Director
Irmin Roberts Special Effects
David Sharpe Stunts
Leith Stevens Score Composer
Dale Van Sickel Stunts
Wally Westmore Makeup

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The War of the Worlds
1. Main Title and Prologue
2. Meteor Strikes at Pine Summit
3. Martians Reveal Themselves
4. The Military Arrives
5. War Begins
6. The Farm House
7. A World in Retreat
8. Captured Martian Electronic Eye Examined
9. The A-Bomb
10. Los Angeles Evacuated
11. Mob Rule
12. Martian Attack on Los Angeles
13. The Beginning of the End


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The War of the Worlds 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tom Cruise can jump all over everyone's sofas, he still won't be as entertaining as even the actor with the smallest role in this great version of the H.G. Wells classic. One of the truly greats about this film version is to compare what was "Way Out There" technology with what is everyday use items today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is outstanding! the movie has explosive action! (literaly!) It has everything! Action,romance,drama,and it's actually pretty scary at some parts. The first time I saw the alien's eye in the window and it's hand out of the spaceship,I was scared stiff! If you like sci-fi flicks, then buy this movie! trust me, you won't be dissapointed!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just wanted everyone to know that the information here is misleading. This edition of War of the Worlds was filmed in Academy Standard ratio, 1.33:1, which is the normal ratio of square TV sets. There's no pan & scan here because it's not a widescreen movie. It was just transferred with the original "full frame" format intact. There's nothing to miss because nothing is cut off the sides.
Guest More than 1 year ago
War of the Worlds is a great DVD to own. You can also watch the theatrical trailer (the TV advertisement,) and watch all of the un-cut scenes. (Not that any need to be cut!) Ever since I first watched this movie when I was 2, and have wanted it on tape until 2002 when we bought our first DVD player, and so I wanted it on DVD.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago