Thursday, October 13, 2022

War of the Worlds

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Ah, The War of the Worlds! One of Young ShellHawk's favorite movies to see on Tom Hatten's Family Film Festival! Too young at the time to have read the 1898 original version of the book, I, probably like most of you, took the 1953 version of the movie to be the end-all and be-all of the story.

But nine-year-old me was so wrong! There's so much more to it.

For instance, back in 1938, Orson Welles and his radio show crew together broadcast a version of The War of the Worlds on live airwaves which ended up scaring the daylights out of all Americans within the sound of his voice. Overnight, Welles became a household name because of the nationwide "hysteria" he'd caused the night before.

Ostensibly one of the best Hallowe'en pranks ever pulled (even though it was pulled on October 30th), the 1938 Orson Welles broadcast of The War of the Worlds has lived in horror and pop culture legend ever since. Sounding like an emergency broadcast had broken in and taken over, Welles and his crew alerted people of the danger of aliens landing and taking over towns and cities, leaving destruction in their malicious, Martian wakes. Their voice acting was so accomplished, people just tuning in, mid-broadcast, thought the radio show was a real news broadcast and began calling their local police departments, concerned for the safety of themselves and their families, and looking for evacuation instructions.

But the 1953 movie, updated for a more modern audience, was a marvel of the visual effects of the day, so much so that it won the Academy Award for best VFX for that year, in addition to being nominated for Best Sound and Best Editing.

I mean, who doesn't remember the sound of those weapons going off and vaporizing everything in their paths?

It's worth noting that the 1953 version of The War of the Worlds was very much massaged into being an "In God we trust" film. Communism was the Big Bad in that day and age, and McCarthyism and "the Red Scare" was in full swing. It's hardly surprising the film reflected the hysteria of possible Communist takeover with the Martians as proxies and people of the cloth standing in for scientists.

Even so, I'd highly recommend watching this film in all its glory this Halloween season! It's a classic monster/sci-fi/horror film which shouldn't be missed!

1 comment:

  1. I watch it at least twice a year, and one of those viewings is usually a week or so before Hallowe'en (and usually followed by listening to the '38 radio broadcast). It's a GORGEOUS film -- George Pal's color scheme is mesmerizing. I have always loved the movie, the radio broadcast, the book (holy cow the book!)... all the various remakes, radio tributes, all of it. The War of the Worlds... a perfect melange of horror, science fiction and Hallowe'en dress up.


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