The War Of The Worlds (1952)
Paramount Home Video
The 1950s were the golden era of science fiction films in Hollywood. The range of movies at the time covered all kinds of futuristic visions, from mutated insects in "Them!" and "Tarantula", the creatures and stories of Jack Arnold, all the way to the threat from outer space. Interestingly, all these movies have one thing in common. They all center around atomic bombs and radiation as part of their main story, and as such have been reflecting people’s fear of the unknown dangers of modern warfare. The invisible threat, as well as unexplored consequences of radiation have been material for a great many stories, while others simply tried to make a point that the atomic bomb is still not the ultimate weapon as many politicians tried to make their nations believe. "The War Of The Worlds" is a story by British science fiction novelist H. G. Wells, and it has turned out to become his most famous one. From Orson Welles’ radio play that literally scared people out of their homes, over a number of films, all the way to more recent efforts like "Mars Attacks!", Wells’ "The War Of The Worlds" has always been an inspiration to creative minds and is still one of the central stories of our culture about Earth’s invasion through aliens from Mars.
The original "War Of The Worlds" story by H. G. Wells is placed in Victorian England, but in an effort to keep with the times director Byron Haskin and his writer Barré Lyndon decided to relocate the story in space and time. It made its transformation all the way to the present – 1952 that was in this case.
When the resources on Mars seem to vanish, the Martians look over the solar system to find a new place for them to live. Out of all the planets only one suits their needs, Earth, and for a long time they study the blue planet and evaluate their options, forging plans for an invasion.
One summer night then, a huge meteor is seen in the skies above California and when it hits the Earth’s surface it turns out to be larger than any other meteor that has ever struck our planet. Researchers quickly try to study the meteor but it is still too hot to even get close to it, so they decide to wait until it cools off. Before they can give it another studious look however, the meteor opens and space ships rise out of the shell of the meteor. A check quickly shows that many more of these meteors have hit all parts of the Earth, all revealing the strange flying machines. The Martian invasion has begun and every attempt to communicate with them is in vain. The ominous Martians lay everything to waste, vaporizing every living being with their hissing green beams. The army is brought in but not even their strongest weapons can stop the advancing Martians.
The world unites in arms, and all nations try in concerted efforts to stop the Martian invaders but no human weapon can stop or even slow down the Martian’s progress as they sweep over the world to make this planet their own. The hope of the entire world rests on one of man’s latest inventions to save the planet – the atomic bomb.
"The War Of The Worlds" has long become a classic and is widely recognized as one of the best science fiction films of its time. Not only does it dazzle audiences with memorable images and a thrilling story it also displayed a technical excellence that was unsurpassed. Although some of the dialogues and characterizations may appear ridiculous today they were still a good notch above what people were used to see at the time. And if you wonder why these people don’t worry about radioactivity a bit, well, it’s probably because the long-term consequences of radioactive contamination had not really been studied at the time. The film is an outcry, similar to the one the world heard at the time. Afraid of rapid advancements in modern technologies, afraid of the unknown reaches of space, and with horrible memories of the Second World War, this film hit the right chord with audiences.
The film is presented in its original fullscreen aspect ratio on this DVD from Paramount Home Video. The transfer is surprisingly good for its age and signs of wear are truly the exception. The image is very clean for the most part and even grain is at a minimum. The colors are strong and vibrant with faithfully reproduced fleshtones. The picture has solid blacks and natural looking highlights, which gives the disc a balanced look. Throughout the disc compression is quite good, although not overly impressive, which may be a result of the film print’s quality. There is some minor artifacting evident in a number of shots, mostly in the shape of dot crawl. Nevertheless this film is gorgeous to behold and a gem for all fans of 50s science fiction.
A monaural soundtrack that is presented in a 2.0 channel <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix builds the appropriate sonic bed for this film. Due to its age and the technical limitations of the time, the soundtrack is thin sounding for the most part, and very slight noise is audible some of the quieter scenes. All in all it is nevertheless a great presentation that beautifully restores the menacing hisses and chilling warbling sounds made by the alien invaders. The disc contains English and French language tracks, but unfortunately there are no subtitles on this release at all, and extras are limited to the film’s theatrical trailer.
It would have been too nice to get a look behind the scenes of this film, just to get a rough idea how it was done, but I am not even sure if such material exists.
"The War Of The Worlds" was a great film then, as it is now. It’s suspenseful and exciting, thrilling and unrelenting. It is a true classic that won an Academy Award for its special effects and it is still commonly regarded as the mother of all alien invasion films. Paramount’s version on this DVD is great to watch and revives the film in all its colorful glory, so make sure to give "The War Of The Worlds" a look. It’s got everything classic cult films are made of!