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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Vivid, memorable, and timeless

Author: drbreakfastmachine from United States
19 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In 1898 H.G. Wells wrote one of the most influential and well-known books of all time. In 1938 Orson Welles delivered an amazing radio broadcast based on said book that terrified millions. And in 1953 George Pal and Byron Haskin created an incredible film version that is as timeless and important as either of the former.

The story of this movie is as follows: Martians invade earth because their own planet is dying, landing in California first. Initial attempts to peacefully communicate with the aliens fail and warfare begins, with the U.S. military confidently opening fire, but it soon becomes clear that we are vastly outmatched by the literally indestructible Martian war machines. Scientist Clayton Forrester and his companion Sylvia, whom he met at the first alien landing site, encounter danger from the invaders and fellow humans alike as the world falls apart, but the attack abruptly ends when the Martians die of Earthly diseases to which they have no immunity.

The story is only vaguely similar to the one from the book, but the details are unimportant because the themes of the powerful being weakened and human reaction to danger are intact, and that's what really matters. The acting is good, particularly Gene Barry as Forrester. The music is excellent and chilling, as are the incredible (for 1953) special effects. The image of the Martian war machines advancing slowly but steadily, gliding through the air while making discomforting, unearthly sounds is unforgettable and very frightening compared to other, tamer films from this time period.

There are some heavy Christian tones, especially near the end, but nothing too offensive. I myself am an atheistic agnostic (one who does not follow or believe in any particular deity, but does not actively declare that such a deity certainly doesn't exist) I found nothing intrusive or rude about the religious connotations because they are handled in a respectful manner.

All in all, this is the quintessential alien invasion movie, tying together all of these well-crafted aspects into a single cohesive and highly enjoyable experience.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

"We can't beat their machines. We've got to beat them!"

Author: ShadeGrenade from Ambrosia
9 June 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Produced by George Pal, the doyen of science fiction cinema, this is an updating of H.G. Wells' classic novel of an invasion of Earth from Mars ( he was not the first to do this. Orson Welles' infamous 1939 radio adaptation proved so convincing that panic swept America ). It was a favourite of mine as a youngster, and in those pre-home video days I made sure I was in front of a television set each and every time it came on.

The opening sequence ( narrated by Sir Cedric Hardwicke ) informs the audience that Mars has become uninhabitable, hence the beings who live there must search for a new home. Of all the planets in the Solar System, Earth is the only one compatible. Rather than asking us if they can come and live here, they decide to take the planet for themselves. When the first of their ships lands in a small American town, the locals are fascinated. Until it opens - and a thing resembling the head of a cobra emerges, spitting death rays.

More and more cylinders land, more Martian machines emerge, annihilating all in their path. Despite the military's best efforts, the invaders are unstoppable. Earth looks doomed. Not even the atomic bomb can save us.

The main character is Dr.Clayton Forrester ( Gene Barry ) who struggles to survive the onslaught while simultaneously trying to find a solution. He teams up with Sylvia Van Buren ( Ann Robinson - no, not the 'Weakest Link' lady! ), daughter of a clergyman who got incinerated by a Martian whilst reading aloud from the Bible ( his death scene was enough to turn me into a lifelong atheist ).

The special effects were excellent for their day, and still hold up now ( despite the occasionally visible wires on the Martian war machines ). Wells' walking automatons have been replaced by sleek, manta-ray-like craft, and that ghastly rattling sound they make will not swiftly be forgotten. As 'Forrester', Gene Barry is wooden, but no more so than Tom Cruise in the Spielberg remake. Ann Robinson, no great thespian either, throws herself into the thing with commendable verve.

So, as an adaptation of the Wells novel, this leaves much to be desired, but if what you're after is a thumping good '50's sci-fi flick, this cuts the mustard.

Director Byron Haskin later worked on the classic sci-fi show 'The Outer Limits'.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

After all these years....still perfect.!!!!

Author: jamesharrah from United states
31 January 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I recently purchased the "Special Edition" DVD of the original "War of the Worlds" and with the remixed surround soundtrack and crystal clear picture it is STILL one of, if not THE best sci-fi martian invasion movie ever made. Having mentioned the crystal clear picture, unfortunately you can see the strings extending from those elegantly sinister war machines(nothing even compares to those perfectly designed machines today), but even with that minor flaw (the strings), it is still a wonder to watch. Those classic sound effects used by the war machines blows you away in the surround sound mode (and still get used to this day occasionally in other movies). I also loved it due to the fact that the martians were intended to be the star of the movie, not the actors. I did see the Tom Cruise version of this and to me it just cant come close to the original. Technically yes, the visual effects are far superior, but still too much other drama taking away from the actual story of an invasion. And one must give the makers of the original Kudos for the effects they achieved in the original...all done WITHOUT a computer and earned an Oscar for it and rightfully so. It will always be a 10 to me. Plus on the "Special Edition" is a documentary of the making of, an H.G. Wells documentary, and the original trailer plus other features. A MUST have for any lover of sci-fi and especially of this movie.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Flawed adaptation and a bit dated, but a definite highlight of 50s sci-fi

Author: DrLenera
26 January 2005

H.G.Wells' The War Of The Worlds remains a terrifying novel, and two adaptations of it have justifiably passed into popular culture, the Orson Welles radio production in 1938 which convinced many Americans that creatures from Mars actually WERE invading Earth, and Jeff Wayne's 1978 musical album, which still holds up today. The film Independence Day was basically a semi-remake, and of course we are all probably looking forward to the Steven Spielberg version. Somewhat forgotten amongst all those is this 1953 film version, which is a shame. It has considerable flaws, and deviates form the book considerably. However, it's still very enjoyable.

One really needs to think how spectacular and darned frightening it must have seemed to 1953 audiences. Films about aliens visiting Earth had up to than been relatively low key, they would have aliens taking human form, or coming in peace, or just taking over a small town. Here, we had aliens intent on just one thing- the complete destruction and extermination of everything and everyone on Earth. Battles between the Martians and the army, Martian death rays frying huge numbers of people, the destruction of Los Angeles, there had been little like it before, and all this on a moderate budget, which is why the cast is strictly B Movie, although they are adequate to the film's needs.

Of course to a modern audiences many aspects are dated and may even seem laughable. The sometimes visible wires of the Martian death machines -surely they could have been removed with computer technology for the DVD?. The oft repeated stock shots of the military. The religious element, which would have offended the atheist Welles and even suggests God got rid of the Martians. Some VERY corny dialog.

Yet the film has some scenes which are still extremely effective. Most notable is a lengthy sequence in which the hero and heroine are trapped in a house by Martians, this remains genuinely scary. The designs of the briefly seen Martians, their death machines-wires notwithstanding- and their 'cameras' still look great. Of course one misses the huge tripods of the novel, and certain other aspects of the novel, such as the red weed. I'm sure Spielberg will deliver on much of this, even if he is adapting a story which will always be more effective when set in Victorian times. However, until than, this version is still worth seeing as one of the most memorable alien pictures of the 50s alongside The Day The Earth Still and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

They don't come in peace.

Author: au_law2001 from Philippines
26 December 2004

This is yet another masterpiece from one of the masters of the sci-fi genre H.G. Wells. I loved this, sure the technology looks kinda dull and cheap but this is a masterpiece unlike those B-movies with weird aliens. Yet there are some things that this has that the book doesn't have, and some flaws. This took place in America instead of England, and the ships flew instead of moving like in the book, and the description of the aliens in this one doesn't look like the one described in the book. But despite that, the different features made it better! And creepier. I recommend this for all fans of the book and to all sci-fi fans.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:


Author: callanvass
21 September 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

AWESOME Science Fiction film and one of the best as far as i am concerned it's exciting and it still has dazzling special effects and weird enough the martians managed to get under my skin and gave me the creeps it's just how it was peeking in the house i don't know why but it just gave me a creepy feeling all over plus the story was engrossing with a captivating ending and great dialog those effects are still daring and awesome even now. they have not dated one bit. the pacing is fantastic and never lets up. the direction is astounding and it's very well made. The Acting is fantastic. Gene Barry gives an Oscar Winning performance here he is this movie in my opinion giving a focused charming performance this dude was on. Ann Robinson is very pretty and does very well here i was impressed. way to go! where is she now? rest of the cast do very well too. Overall a classic of the Science Fiction genre that is a must see! ****1/2 out of 5

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

What more can be said?

Author: MChittum-California from California
2 October 2002

I was 6 when I saw War of the Worlds, my first color sci-fi film, "live" in a theater. (We did not have TV then!). I've seen all the other classics like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "Day the Earth Stood Still", "Them", "The Thing", etc. before and after WOTW, all good films but War of The Worlds was in a class all by itself. I know, the Brits lampoon the film all the time because it's not set in England/London, and not in the proper time period. I didn't know why it was updated and set in LA a 6 year old I could have cared less...the movie was magical, frightening and memorable.

Over the years I've read the book and and seen dozens of films within this genre. Yes, FX are far better now but 50 years ago this film set the standard. I hope the rumored remake in 2004 can be as memorable. Gene Barry and Ann Robinson did a great job. (If they're up to it, it would be neat for them to have cameos) Has anyone compared the farmhouse scene to the similar scene in "Close Encounters". Both deliver the goods...they scare the heck out of you. The sound effects were so outstanding the producers of the new film should consider using them again! All true WOTW fans know that the sounds of the "cobra" and the weapons fire are sounds you never the antenna sounds of "Them".

Try to look past the re-locating and re-dating, kick back and enjoy a film that was king for 20-30 years, not topped until "2001", "Star Wars", "Close Encounters" and "Alien" came along.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Frightening Entertainment

Author: arbarnes from Oslo, Norway
17 April 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the first films I remember seeing as a child was War of the Worlds. I was probably only around 7 at the time, and the film was shown as one of a series of classic science-fiction films from the fifties and sixties. Even on a small black and white television set many of the images in the film burned themselves on my mind and and stayed with me throughout my childhood. Images such as the priest boldly walking towards the martian craft; the eerie pictures of empty streets in an evacuated Los Angeles; the panic of the people trying to escape –and above all the frightening images of the alien craft rising slowly from the gully, pressing forth despite the massive fire-power directed at them. Their cold stateliness and absolute impregnability terrified me, but held great fascination, and I so easily managed to feel great empathy for all the human characters who were forced to evacuate the city, or face the consequences. I yearned for the film to be shown again, but it never was.

However, a number of years later, when I was in my twenties, this was one of the first films I bought on video. Though excited at the prospect of seeing once again one of the most memorable movies of my childhood, I was also somewhat worried that the film could not live up my expectations and give me the same thrill when viewed with an adult sensibility. Happily my worries were unfounded, for I found myself being affected by the film in almost exactly the same way I had as a child. And having now seen War of the Worlds about a dozen times all in all it has lost none of its fascination. True a number of its flaws become quite apparent after so many viewings, and one does wish that some of the acting had a greater depth at times, but one cannot help being eternally intrigued by the predicaments facing the characters and their despair at their weakness in the face of such adversity. Above all there is a fascination for the effects which for the most part not only stand the test of time remarkably well (does it really deter anyone's enjoyment that a wire or two is visible occasionally?), but which unlike many films of today are there to serve the story, not the other way round. And yet the effects have so many grace notes that it would be wrong not to give them well deserved attention in a review such as this. Take for example the sound- effects of the martian craft as they patrol –a disturbing, totally alien sound, with an eeriness that I believe is unmatched in film history. A lot of what frightened me as a child was the sound of this movie, which is also demonstrated by the remarkably forceful sound of the 'blasts' of the martian weapons. These sounds are 100% destructive, and matched perfectly with the streams or rays of the optical shots, which have themselves a disturbing strength.

Despite what a number of people have said about the model work I think it is remarkable, and in most cases extremely convincing.(possible spoiler ahead:) There is just one shot towards the end of the movie, where a martian craft crashes into a building, which is not up to the standard of the rest of the film, but otherwise I always find myself totally convinced –and if there are wires, I mostly don't see them because the film's atmosphere and narrative convince me not to!

Another thing worth mentioning is the lighting. I find this extremely effective in the colouring of certain areas of the screen, which in the case of the martian nest are truly alien. The somewhat misty brightness of the green/turquoise associated with the martian's is contrasted nicely with the warmer, often earthy colours of the scenes involving humans. A lot of the film takes place at night, yet there is always colour even in the darkness. The photography of George Barnes certainly contributes to the fascination the film holds.

In other words this is a movie that continues to intrigue, and deserves multiple viewing. If seen at home I recommend turning out the lights and watching it in the dark!

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

"If they start anything we can blast them right off the Earth." One of the best alien invasion pics you will ever see.

Author: Paul Andrews ( from UK
4 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The War of the Worlds begins with a black & white prologue which talks about the first & second world wars & that every nation on Earth must now combine to fight the war of the worlds! The narration credited to Vittorio Cramer continues as the viewer is informed that the Martian race is looking to relocate & the only suitable planet is Earth, the others are either too cold, too hot or are in a constant state of day or night. Earth appears perfect to the Martians who don't like to share... Somewhere in California just outside of Los Angeles what appears to be a meteorite falls from the sky & crash lands on Earth. While on a fishing trip top scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) is asked to investigate but tells a local bird named Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson, no not that one) that the meteorite is too hot to go near at the moment & invites himself to a square dance party with her that very night. Three men, Wash Perry (William Phipps as Bill Phipps), Salvatore (Jack Kruschen) & some other guy whose name I don't remember or more likely never mentioned, are left behind to guard the meteorite & soon notice a round hatch unscrewing itself from which a antenna thing pops out & incinerates them. Reports of similar meteorites landing all over Earth flood in as the military are called, Colonel Ralph Heffner (Vernon Rich) & General Mann (Les Tremayne) liaise with Dr. Forrester about any potential alien threat & let Miss Van Buren make tea & cakes for the soldiers just like a 1950's woman should... Soon enough the Martians decide to launch their attack & nothing the army has seems able to even dent their flying machines, not even an atom bomb. Scientists quickly predict that unless a way of stopping the Martian attack is found they will have taken over the entire Earth in just six days times...

Directed by Byron Haskin The War of the Worlds is surely the Grandfather of all alien invasion films. The script by Barre Lyndon based on the H.G. Wells novel is quick to set things up with a lengthy narration that excludes the need for long scenes of exposition later on, a very good move. Before long Martian spaceships are destroying our planet with ruthless efficiency, unfortunately this point is where The War of the Worlds almost slows to an absolute halt as the script then concentrates on humanities (well a group of soldiers & scientists) attempts to find a way of defeating the Martians. The Martians then make an appearance again ten or so minutes before the end which I personally think works terrifically well. There are a few expected 50's stereotypical characters here like Van Buren who is just there to scream & provide the love interest although the blossoming relationship between Van Buren & Forrester isn't as in your face as it could have been & doesn't dominate. The sequence inside the farmhouse when we actually see a Martain for the first & only time is quite creepy & effective. The Martian itself is seen briefly & looks OK but for the majority of The War of the Worlds the Martians themselves are not needed as their ships do all the damage. The ships have a certain elegance about them even if they look a little basic by todays standards, I could do without all the 70's cheap computer game like Space Invader sound effects though. The special effects are a million miles behind the likes of todays multi million Dollar CGI productions much like the Steven Spielberg War of the Worlds (2005) remake but they hold up reasonably well as long as you cut them some slack & I've sat through a lot worse on much later & much bigger budget productions. The acting is as wooden as most 50's Sci-Fi unfortunately but The War of the Worlds has a strong enough story & provides enough entertainment to overlook this aspect. Cinematography is OK if a little bland & as a whole Haskin doesn't seem like a particularly adventurous director with the whole production coming off as a little too by-the-numbers on occasion. Overall I liked The War of the Worlds a lot, it provides good clean fun entertainment throughout it's pacey 85 minutes running time. Definitely worth watching & absolutely essential viewing for Sci-Fi fans but just don't expect state-of-the-art special effects or Oscar worthy acting...

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

"Wait a minute! Asteroids don't unscrew!!"

Author: Michael DeZubiria ( from Luoyang, China
17 February 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are a few titles that I consider to be perfect science fiction titles, and I mean perfect in that they fit their content and their genre flawlessly. One of them is Star Wars, and another is The War of the Worlds. It's amazing to me that it took 50 years for someone to try to remake this classic, especially since remakes have become the cool thing to do over the last decade or so. This science fiction classic is one of the biggest landmarks of the genre, from director George Pal, who we also have to thank for the 1960 version of The Time Machine and who was probably the most famous name in science fiction in the 1950s.

What I especially respected about the movie was the staying power that it retained by realizing the limitations of its special effects. For much of the first half of the movie, the crash landed space ship is nothing but a crisped asteroid and then a green glow behind the hills while locals and the national guard arrive to investigate. The film easily creates a level of tension and fear that had probably not been seen since Orson Welles did his radio adaptation of the story 15 yeas earlier, causing panic because it was done as a news broadcast and people thought that aliens had really invaded. I wish I had been there for that.

In contrast to the benevolent, even good looking alien that invaded in The Day the Earth Stood Still, which was released a couple of years before this movie, the Martians in this movie are not interested in forcing the earthlings to help themselves, to join us and live in peace or pursue their present course and face obliteration. The three men that approach the craft peacefully and waving white flags are vaporized, turned into piles of ash where they stood. The military respond by firing upon the crafts with everything that they have (including the atomic bomb, which attracted hordes of curious onlookers who wanted to see the blast and probably walked away from it glowing with their hair falling out in clumps), but to no avail.

The three alien spacecraft flying slowly and destroying everything in their path is pretty impressive despite the primitive special effects. I love the design of the ships themselves, very simple but very sleek and threatening and cycloptic, with stolid and constant movement. The effect on 1950s audiences must have been quite a sight to see, especially in the brief glimpses that we get of the Martians themselves, which is mostly just the arm at the end of the film.

I read a review of the movie that made a very good point that the religious context of the final line in Wells' novel (that the Martians were "defeated by the smallest thing in God's creation") was taken entirely out of context, imposing massive religious meaning onto the material when there was never meant to be any there in the first place (Wells, an atheist, meant it ironically, not religiously). Ann Robinson says in the film that she always knew that if she hid in a church her true love would find her there, then sure enough it happened, then the alien ship crash lands in front of a church while the people surround it singing hymns thanking the heavens for their salvation.

None of this really bothered me about the movie itself, although the perpendicular departure not only from the source material but from the author himself is a bit unsettling. What I had more of a problem with was the way the bacteria bringing down the ships was structured. They are going and going and going full speed, flying and shooting lasers at the people until all hope in their survival has been lost, and then just like that they start dropping out of the sky like flies. True, bacteria killed them in the novel, but I haven't read the novel and I like to think that it wasn't quite as abrupt and convenient there.

Nevertheless, this remains a true science fiction classic that should not be missed, and I have great faith that the upcoming Spielberg remake will do justice both to H.G. Wells and to this film. Excellent show.

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