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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 10.64%
Average: 2.13%
Pretty Bad: 2.13%
Total Crap: 4.26%

2 reviews, 35 user ratings

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War of the Worlds, The (1953)
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by MP Bartley

"Welcome to Earth. On second thoughts, run away, run away!"
5 stars

This is the grandaddy of them all. Both the best alien invasion of Earth ever (it leaves Independence Day and Mars Attacks! in the dust) and the pinnacle of 50's sci-fi. Uprooted from HG Wells' Victorian London setting to contemporary America doesn't matter: it still terrifies.

After beginning with a great spooky voice-over detailing the Martians surveillance of the other planets before settling their designs on Earth, the invasion begins slowly. Meteorites hurtle to Earth in sets of three, all over the globe. Starting in America but spreading to Europe, Asia and all continents inbetween.

These aren't meteorites however, but merely protective casings for the Martian death machines housed inside which then make their slow, but steady and deathly way across the surface of the world razing all to the ground in their path. Can our plucky heroes, scientist Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) and reverend's niece Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson) save the day and mankind?

Actually 'War of the Worlds' never gets as hokey as that last sentence I've just wrote. And the most surprising thing is (and one of the best) is how little it has dated. Perhaps the only things that sets off alarm bells about it's 1950's setting is the character of Ann. While the army make their command post in her small town and the men gather round to make war plans, she totters around making cups of tea for everyone. And shortly after her uncle has been vaporised by the Martians she's happily cooking eggs for her and Forrester.

But everything else still stands up to this day. Granted, you can sometimes see the strings on the war-crafts but they're a hell of a lot more scary than the CGI fleet of 'Independence Day'. With their distinctive shape of a swan crossed with a manta ray and their gun-stalk spewing fire everywhere, they're one of the great unsung cinematic images. The special effects have yet to bettered either. The fire and plasma-like blobs they fire have been ripped off time and time again, but the devastation they wreak here is utterly convincing.

Some may call it a cheat that they use stock footage of WW2 armies to simulate mankind fighting back, or footage of a Blitz-destroyed London as evidence of the Martians destruction, but remember this was a world for whom WW2 was still a very fresh and painful memory. This would brings home its story with chilling effectiveness (and besides, John Woo is still using this trick 'Windtalkers' anyone?). Imagine a modern day re-make using footage of 9/11 to simulate the attack and you're nearly there.

The use of models to simulate the burning cities of the world is also first-rate. The final act set in a Los Angeles just succumbing to the invasion is simply jaw-dropping to behold. Clearly models, but brilliantly interspersed with location footage to give it a gritty realism. Combine this with scenes of evacuation and empty cities 50 years before '28 Days Later' and you have a sobering glimpse of what could happen. All this just when the Cold War was starting as well. Little wonder its sense of horror resonates.

And as for the actual sound of the war machines...astonishing. It's combination of pulsing and rattling before launching into screeching attack is a piece of magnificent sound design. Many things will live me forever, and the mere sound of the machines is one of them.

Because for all its occasional cheap effects, 'War of the Worlds' like that other great 50's sci-fi classic 'Them', works because it treats its subject matter deadly serious. There's no cheesy cornball speeches by the President launching a counter attack (government response to the invasion is seldom seen, and when it is seen, hugely ineffective) and best of all no Will Smith hip-talkin' or jivin' his way through this with a smug wink to the camera. Yes, there's horrible dialogue and strings you can see that you really wish you couldn't, but its sense of 'this is really happening' is what still scares to this day

For those put off by the cod-religious ending of 'Signs' might also be put off by the ending here. It's more blatant here actually suggesting divine intervention has spared Earth at the last. But I'd still buy into that quicker then Jeff Goldblum knocking up a virus on an Apple Mac that can intergrate into an alien races far superior technology. But that small niggle right at the last is but a human tank against the might of the Martian war-machines. Run for your lives, they're here! THEY'RE HERE!

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originally posted: 02/28/04 01:09:36
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good alot better than the crap remake 4 stars
7/01/17 Ivan P. Freeley Absolutely phenomenal. 5 stars
6/05/17 Jack Proof that practical effects are superior to cgi. Great movie. 5 stars
10/30/16 morris campbell effective & entertaning millon xs better that shit eating remake 5 stars
4/16/15 stanley welles an effective sci-fi featuring spectacular battle scenes 4 stars
4/13/15 jokerass lol 1 stars
7/29/12 cr a 50s classic yes. but seriously overated. effects good. 3 stars
10/19/10 Jack This film scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. Great movie! 5 stars
6/15/07 Vincent Ebriega A masterpiece. Need I say more? 5/5. 5 stars
6/06/07 David Cohen Very different from the novel, but just as good (in its own way) 5 stars
3/09/07 David Pollastrini Great fx for it's time! 4 stars
1/31/07 action movie fan one of the best 50.s sci/fi-scene when creature grabs girl,scary as hell!!!! 4 stars
9/30/05 Eagle Great movie. Despite being over 50 years old, it's the best WOTW movie to date. 5 stars
8/16/05 Mark Radburn The Greatest Sci-Fi Movie of all-time 5 stars
7/29/05 Thurisaz Above average sci-fi film; lame War of the Worlds adaptation, but at least its entertaining 4 stars
7/08/05 John creepy and atmospheric...just great 5 stars
7/01/05 green gremlin still a classic despite the dated special effects and cheesy dialogue 5 stars
7/01/05 Eddie Very Intrestring, but still a classic 5 stars
3/26/05 Mike Lawrence Take this test in 120 days. Would you rather watch WOTW '53 a 2nd time or WOTW '05 twice? 5 stars
1/31/05 Smitty Good effects - absolutely horrible screenplay-"Do you have a pocket compass on you?-Sure" 2 stars
1/25/05 Barrett Robb Agree totally with the EFC review - the best of the 50's sci fi 5 stars
9/26/04 sbpat21 very overrated 1 stars
9/24/04 a iconic 5 stars
6/18/04 Bob W. One of the best 5 stars
4/13/04 tony montana Owns ID4.One of the best sci-fi. 5 stars
3/21/04 Peter A true classic with a message that still rings true 5 stars
3/17/04 Alfred Guy Excellent! A major classic of the genre. 5 stars
3/06/04 Andrew Dunn It's been too long since i've seen this movie. Thanks for the reminder. 5 stars
2/25/04 john just wonderful - everything a nostalgic sci fi film is all about - puts ID4 to shame! 5 stars
7/25/03 3man An excellent sci-fi classic! 5 stars
9/15/02 Zefram Mann One of the best examples of classic sci-fi ever made. 5 stars
8/31/02 Charles Tatum Kicks "Independence Day"'s alien butt 5 stars
8/31/02 R.W. Welch Very adept adaption of the HGW opus, good suspense and FX. 5 stars
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  DVD: 01-Nov-2005



Directed by
  Byron Haskin

Written by
  Barre Lyndon

  Gene Barry
  Ann Robinson
  Les Tremayne
  Lewis Martin
  Robert Cornthwaite
  Sandro Giglio

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