nightmares caused by a scene in THE BLOB (1958)! In any event, I decided now was the time to stretch myself a little and try out watching THE WAR OF THE WORLDS.
The film drew my interest for a few reasons, starting with its Technicolor filming of Los Angeles of the early '50s. I was also intrigued as I've seen a number of films this year which were written by TWOTW screenwriter Barre Lyndon. A short piece by Jacqueline at Another Old Movie Blog also caught my attention. Finally, the Welles radio broadcast -- played on LP -- was a staple of late-night slumber party entertainment when I was growing up in the '70s, so I was curious how the story translated to film.
This 1953 film version transfers the main action to Southern California, where scientist Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) meets Sylvia (Ann Robinson), a pretty library instructor from USC, just as Martians are invading the world. The military, led by Maj. Gen. Mann (Les Tremayne), proves to be no match for the invaders, while Dr. Forrester and his colleagues try to come up with scientific solutions. But time is running out...
I enjoyed the film, although I can't say it was a relaxing experience; even without my predisposition to be nervous during sci-fi films, if one is willing to buy into the story, this is a nerve-wracking experience. The Oscar-winning special effects still impress and spook today, nearly six decades later.
I especially enjoyed the film's vivid Technicolor, particularly the aforementioned scenes shot in Los Angeles. (The cinematographer was George Barnes.) The superbly designed opening credits also make great use of Technicolor.
I'm not sure I'd seen Gene Barry in a theatrical film before, and I thought he and Ann Robinson were an appealing team. It was quite believable, given the end-of-the-world circumstances, that they'd pair up immediately!
I also liked how the story was brought to a conclusion near the end of its 85 minutes. The miracle of God's design of life on earth accomplishes what the military and science could not.
Screenwriter Barre Lyndon had a number of creepy films in his prior credits, including THE LODGER (1944), HANGOVER SQUARE (1945), and NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948). This film has very different subject matter from the '40s movies, yet in various ways the same otherworldly malevolence suffuses all these titles.
The movie was directed by Byron Haskin and produced by George Pal.
The large supporting cast includes Robert Cornthwaite, Lewis Martin, Paul Frees, and Ann Codee. Edgar Barrier, a member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre, plays Professor McPherson. The narrator is Sir Cedric Hardwicke.
WAR OF THE WORLDS has had more than one DVD release, including a Collector's Edition DVD which includes a commentary track by lead actors Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. I watched this edition, and the print was outstanding.
The film was also released on VHS.