Martian Mondays – War of the Worlds (1953)

Martian Mondays: War of the Worlds (1953)
Cast:        Gene Barry as Dr. Clayton Forrester
Ann Robinson as Sylvia Van Buren
Les Tremayne as Major General Mann
Lewis Martin as Pastor Dr. Matthew Collins

Based on the novel by H.G. Wells
Written by Barre Lyndon
Directed by Byron Haskin

Plot: When Earth is invaded by Martians, a full scale war ensues while Dr. Clayton Forrester desperately searches for any weakness the Martians may have. Will he be able to find a weapon to use against the Martians before it’s too late?

Richard’s Review: I have fond memories of watching this on a Sunday afternoon back in the 1970s before we got cable TV. The iconic sound of the weapons has always stuck with me. I loved the flying ships but would have liked to have seen the Martians a little more than we did. Another stronger lead could have made the character of Dr. Forrester pop a little more on screen and Ann Robinson definitely overacted at times. But these flaws are easily forgiven as this is truly a classic from start to finish. I especially find the scenes on the farmhouse very chilling and I think they hold up quite well. I’ve also always thought the final scene in the church with the sounds of destruction juxtaposed with the singing very moving. This is sci-fi classic that everyone needs to see.

Karla’s Thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I think the ships looked great but I would have liked to have seen more creativity on the Martians. I don’t recall they ever mentioned the meaning behind three ships (and three hands and three fingers). I don’t think Gene Barry had much charisma. In fact, he came across very slug like throughout the film. I think another actor could have done much more with the role. Ann Robinson was good, even if she did overact throughout the film. Despite those few flaws, I would definitely watch this one again.

Trivia:

  • Gene Barry (Burke’s Law, The 27th Day) made his final screen appearance in the 2005 remake as the grandfather prior to his death in 2009 at the age of 90.
  • Ann Robinson appeared in three episodes of the 1988 television series as well as a grandmother in the 2005 film. She’s just turned 90 on May 25 and is still acting, most recently appearing in Tales of Frankenstein (2018).
  • Les Tremayne was a well-accomplished radio actor and was elected into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995. However, genre fans may best remember his face as he starred in all 28 episodes of Shazam! (1974-1976) as Mentor.
  • Barre Lyndon wrote the screenplays for The Lodger (1944), Hangover Square (1945) and Man in the Attic (1953), as well as three episodes of Thriller.
  • Byron Haskin also directed Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) and six episodes of The Outer Limits.
  • The film was produced by George Pal, who upon impressing the H.G. Wells estate was given the rights to produce any other Wells story. He chose The Time Machine, which he made in 1960.
  • The classic H.G. Wells story was first adapted by Orson Welles in the infamous 1938 radio broadcast. Jeff Wayne produced a musical version in 1978 and Tom Cruise starred in a 2005 remake, among other loose adaptations.
  • Voice actor Paul Frees appears as the opening announcer and second radio reporter (in an Orson Welles impersonation).
  • Sir Cedric Hardwicke provides the voice of the commentator.
  • Carolyn Jones (Morticia Addams, The Addams Family) appears as a blonde party guest.
  • The Martians were originally going to be tripods, as in the novel, but George Pal didn’t know how to make that possible in 1953. So, they went with flying machines and briefly mentioned visible electronic beams, seen only briefly at the beginning of the movie.
  • Two of the sound effects used eventually were heard again in the Star Trek television series. The sound of the hovering ships became the hand phaser sound while the skeleton ray morphed into a photon torpedo.
  • Sadly, none of the original Martian war machines exist today. They were made of copper and supposedly turned over to a Boy Scout copper drive.
  • War of the Worlds was added to the national Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress in 2011.

Availability: War of the Worlds is sadly out-of-print on DVD and has still not been released on Blu-ray in the United States.

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