You may have noticed my review of Metropolis yesterday as part of the BFI Fear & Wonder weekend at the Scala Cinema in Prestatyn, well after seeing that I took in the next movie at the event which was the 1953 version of War of the Worlds, yet another favourite of mine from my years of watching classic Sci-Fi movies.
Although this version moves to America at a time when the “Cold War” was a key point, this H.G. Wells story is still there, yes the film may have moved to the 50s, present day at the time, and the Martian ships aren’t tripods, but the idea is there and for all intensive purposes it all works extremely well for the time that the film was released.
Starring Gene Barry as Dr. Clayton Forrester and Ann Robinson as Sylvia Van Buren, the War of the Worlds follows the incidents of a meteorite crashing down to Earth in outskirts of a small American town, obviously the towns people are fascinated by this strange object and try to discover what it is, without unwittingly knowing that it is the start of an invasion from Mars and before they know it the deadly heat ray has unleashed its power on the town folk and the other cylinders start to crash to the rest of the world.
The War of the Worlds an invasion of California
And so the invasion begins, we go on a journey with Forrester and Van Buren as they escape the onslaught of the Martian killing machines, escaping the close clutches of one in a farmhouse destroyed by a crashing cylinder, but onward they go to fight the Martians and claim back the Earth.
Now although I do love the War of the Worlds, I do just which that someone could do a version that is based in the Victorian times, very much like Wells’ original book, but apart from that little niggle, War of the Worlds is a 50s Sci-Fi classic with it great use of special effects for the heat rays, the magnetic force fields that keep the Martian ships afloat (ignore the wires, it’s the 1950s remember). George Pal was going to go with the tripods of the book, but he had no idea how a tripod would walk, so opted for the flying machines.
In fact the H.G. Wells estate was so happy with the final product that director George Pal had created that they offered him any choice of the Wells’ books and he chose The Time Machine, another one of my all time favourites.
There are several differences that those that have read Wells’ book or even heard Jeff Wayne’s superb musical, one key element missing from the 1953 version is the “Red Weed” which the Martians bring with them, this was included in the Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds, other things that are different are the Martians, described by H.G. Wells as, bear-sized, roundish creatures with brown bodies, “merely heads,” with quivering beak-like, V-shaped mouths dripping saliva; they have sixteen whip-like tentacles in two groupings of eight arranged on each side of their mouths and two large “luminous, disk-like eyes.“.
But all quite trivial, specially if you haven’t read the book, but as the film was made in the 50s and the budget was something that had to be watched closely, things were kept out or changed, a shame but these things happen, may be one day we will have a version that is very close to the H.G. Wells classic.
The War of the Worlds is a superb piece of 50s Sci-Fi and very much like Metropolis it was fantastic to get to see the movie as it should be seen on a cinema screen with other Sci-Fi fans that appreciate those classic movie of bygone years, so yet again it’s time to thank everyone at the Scala in Prestatyn for yet another brilliant film and for being given the chance to see it on the big screen.