March 23, 2015

The War of the Worlds ~ Worlds on Film

The War of the Worlds, a science fiction novel by English author, H. G. Wells, has been interpreted on film many times.

1898 UK First Edition


The first film version of this classic science fiction work was by producer, George Pal. It was released on August 26, 1953, in glorious Technicolor (technicolor projector) with completely saturated colors that made your eyes pop out. I had just turned thirteen that year; I was no longer an in-between, a belong-no-where kid. I was a TEENager! Also, I had just discovered the world of Si-Fi through novels . . . and I remember being completely scared out of my wits! What fun!

He! He! 

The film starred Gene Barry with Ann Robinson and was narrated by Sir Cedric Hardwicke, a brilliant Shakespearean actor whose voice perfectly suited the sinister mood of the story. There are fascinating stories about the special effects by the actors and crew members on YouTube (link below). The War of the Worlds won an Oscar for its special effects (which were pretty cool by those days standards) and was later selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress (links to the film on YouTube below).   

The score was by Leith Stevens, whose brilliant music added to the eerie feeling of the film. Stevens also composed two other Si-Fi scores for Pal productions: Destination Moon and When Worlds Collide, as well as the groundbreaking jazz score for The Wild One (link below) which starred Marlon Brando. All of them totally awesome!

The film transposed the original novel in time from the late Victorian era to the mid-fifties and in location from England to the U. S.; Southern California to be exact (where else?). Corona was used as the shooting location of the fictitious town of Linda Rosa.  

The War of the Worlds opens with a black-and-white prologue featuring newsreel war footage and a voice-over describing the destructive technological advancements of Earthly warfare from World War I through World War II. The image then smash cuts to vivid Technicolor and the dramatic opening title card and credits follow.  It's really terrific! The hair on my arms stood on end when I saw it the first time; I still get goose bumps when I watch it again. 

The War of the Worlds had its official Hollywood premiere on February 20, 1953, although it did not go into general theatrical release until the autumn of that year. The film was both a critical and box office success. It accrued $2,000,000 in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals, making it the year's biggest science fiction film hit. 

The New York Times review of The War of the Worlds by Armond White, noted, "[The film is] an imaginatively conceived, professionally turned adventure, which makes excellent use of Technicolor, special effects by a crew of experts, and impressively drawn backgrounds ... Director Byron Haskin, working from a tight script by Barré Lyndon, has made this excursion suspenseful, fast and, on occasion, properly chilling." "Brog" in Variety felt, "[It is] a socko science-fiction feature, as fearsome as a film as was the Orson Welles 1938 radio interpretation...what starring honors there are go strictly to the special effects, which create an atmosphere of soul-chilling apprehension so effectively [that] audiences will actually take alarm at the danger posed in the picture. It can't be recommended for the weak-hearted, but to the many who delight in an occasional good scare, it's socko entertainment of hackle-raising quality."    


The Night America Trembled 1957 was a Studio One, live production/performance for television (everything was live in those days before the advent of video tape).

 It was hosted by Edward R. Murrow 

promotional photo still
It is a documentary style re-enactment of the original Orson Wells broadcast on October 30, 1938. I remember seeing it. We had a used, beat-up TV with a picture that flipped up and down (ugh!). But by that time, I was so hooked on Si-Fi from all the novels I was soaking up, I didn't care.  

The Night America Trembled 1957
 studio photo

The production had a behind-the-scenes look so you got to see how they did stuff, sound effects, etc. There are also appearances by young actors who were to become major names in entertainment. It's a lot of fun to check out when you want to chill out (link to the complete film on YouTube below).


It is not really a film but it has been performed in concert and I'm amazed there hasn't been a film made of it by now. Jeff Wayne wrote a rock concept album that was a version of the Wells novel. Its local is England, as in the original novel, and it is narrated by Richard Burton (link to info about it below).   


The second version of the novel on film was, The War of the Worlds: Next Century (Polish: Wojna światów – następne stulecie). It is a 1981 Polish film by director Piotr Szulkin which had its premiere on February 20, 1983. However, Next Century diverges radically from the original story.    

(Wojna światów – następne stulecie
1983 movie poster

The story is used as a witty commentary on the political situation of Poland in the period of the Polish People's Republic. The film starts with the arrival of a more advanced civilization from Mars which purports to have a friendly attitude towards Earthlings. The place visited by the Martians resembles a police state in which a huge role is played by television, which is used as a propaganda tool.  - from Wikipedia   

The film opens on December 18, 1999, just a few days before the dawn of the new century. A local reporter, Iron Idem, announces that the Martians have landed. Shortly after that his program loses its independence: he is given the script telling the crowds how to welcome the invaders. Then the chaos breaks out: the Martians and police mistreat the populace; things become violent. Idem's own wife is kidnapped and it seems somebody is trying to reduce his effectiveness as a reporter. Idem decides to fight back: he illegally broadcasts a message during the rock concert, but nobody believes him anymore.     - from IMDb

There is a video of the complete film, in Polish with no subtitles, on YouTube and the full cast on IMDb  (links to both below).

The soundtrack for the film, composed by Jerzy Maksymiuk, is terrific! It is performed by Józef Skrzek and emsemble. Skrzek was originally from the Polish progressive rock group, SBB (link to more info below).   

1988 - 1990

War of the Worlds is a Canadian/American science-fiction television series that ran for two seasons, from October 10, 1988 to May 14, 1990. The series is an extension of the original 1953 film The War of the Worlds, using the same War Machine, often incorporating aspects from the film, radio adaptation, and original novel into its mythology.

The original film's producer, George Pal, conceived of a TV series from the same film sometime in the 1970s but it was not until the late 1980s that a series was finally realized, this time by television producer Greg Strangis. The series was filmed in Los Angeles, California and Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  

According to the series, rather than being killed outright by germs at the end of the 1953 film, the aliens had all slipped into a state of suspended animation. Their bodies were stored away in toxic waste drums and shipped to various disposal sites within the United States (ten such sites are known to exist in the country), and a widespread government cover-up combined with a condition dubbed “selective amnesia” has convinced most people that the invasion had never happened.

Thirty-five years later, in 1988 (modern day when the series began), a terrorist group calling itself the People's Liberation Party accidentally irradiates the drums containing the aliens while raiding dumpsite Fort Jericho. The radiation destroys the bacteria that are keeping the aliens unconscious. Once free, the aliens take possession of the bodies of the six terrorists who overran the site. From there they use a series of human bodies and crudely adapted Earth technology to find means of appropriating the planet, both in purging the plague that is humanity and developing a permanent means to inoculate themselves against the planet's indigenous bacteria. Their attempt to successfully make Earth into their new homeworld is imperative for in roughly five years, three million colonists from Mor-Tax are expected to arrive. Complete info on Wikipedia


2005 proved to be a boon year for the The War of the Worlds novel; three films based on it hit the screen. The earliest one was released on June 14, 2005, and went by the names (that's right plural; guess they couldn't decide on one) H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, The Classic War of the Worlds or simply as War of the Worlds.  

This version is noted for its "extreme faithfulness" to Wells' novel, produced by the independent film production company, Pendragon Pictures. Unlike the other film adaptations set in current day United States, it was the first adaptation set in the novel's original 1898 Victorian era England. It starred Anthony Piana with a score by Jamie Hall. 

Although the film score by Hall was well received, reviewers invoked the films of Ed Wood and the worst of Mystery Science Theater 3000. One reviewer, however, suggested the performances were like that in British period melodramas, and favorably likened the work to that of Karel Zeman. But the film as a whole received very mixed reviews by critics, who, while often praising the good intentions behind the project and its faithfulness to the source material, variously described the result as "unendurable" and "terrible in almost every way a movie can be", with "awful" effects.

Hines himself said of his film: "I wanted to make War of the Worlds. But what I made was something that has a macabre cult following, like an Ed Wood movie. [...] I’ve learned a lot since my first outing. My heart is really in the new War of the Worlds – The True Story." (See below).  

 I never saw this one.    

June 28, 2005

The next version moved back to the United States. It was released on, June 28, 2005, however, it was never released to theaters. As with the previous outing in 2005, this one couldn't make up it's mind what it wanted to be called.   

H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, also known as Invasion and H. G. Wells' The Worlds in War internationally, or simply as War of the Worlds, is a direct-to-DVD science fiction horror film produced by The Asylum and directed by David Michael Latt. It starred C. Thomas Howell, Rhett Giles, Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots, Andy Lauer, Peter Greene and Jake Busey, with a score by Ralph Rieckermann.

The DVD was released on June 28, one day before the Spielberg/Dreamworks film, and stars C. Thomas Howell, Peter Greene, and Jake Busey. The alternate title of Invasion is likely for the film's overseas distribution since Paramount claimed to own exclusive film rights to the War of the Worlds title in the European Union. The film is one of The Asylum's most successful, having sold over 100,000 copies from Blockbuster upon its release. 

The film has received mixed audience reception with a 45% on Rotten Tomatoes and also only four known critic reviews which were mixed. I liked this one but wasn't knocked out by it. 

June 29, 2005

War of the Worlds is an American science fiction technology disaster thriller film by Steven Spielberg and a loose adaptation of the novel by Wells. It was actually released a day earlier in Kuwait.  

 2005 movie poster

It is interesting that the poster for this film referenced the original 1953 film poster (see above). It was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Josh Friedman and David Koepp. Filming took place in Virginia, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, and New York. The film shooting lasted an estimated 72 days. Amazing in these days of huge productions. It stars Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto and Tim Robbins (delightfully demented as Harlan Ogilvy, the military man). Morgan Freeman narrated this version and did an excellent job of it. 

Cruz was . . . well, Tom Cruz. The score was by John Williams (ho-hum, his one and only great score was Star Wars). I did love the special effects by Industrial Light & Magic but that was the extent of my enjoyment of the film (but then what do I know!). On June 29, 2005, the film grossed approximately US$81 million worldwide, and earned the thirty-eighth biggest opening week gross with grossing $98,826,764 in 3,908 theatres, averaging $95,288 in each theater. Meanwhile, on Independence Day weekend, War of the Worlds grossed $64,878,725 in 3908 theatres also, giving an average of $16,601. This is the third-biggest film opening on Independence Day weekend. The film earned $200 million in 24 days, ranking thirty-seventh place in the list of fastest films to gross $200 million. The film has grossed $704,745,540 including DVD sales, making it the fourth highest grossing film of 2005, and the 66th highest grossing film worldwide.   

So, there, Charlie the Tuna

November 1, 2005

The Sky Is Falling: Making "War Of The Worlds" is a documentary about the making of the original 1953 film. It was produced by Paramount Home Entertainment. The release dates were: in the USA, November 1, 2005, and in  Finland, November 16, 2005.

The Sky Is Falling: Making "War Of The Worlds"
 2005 movie poster


Three years later, War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave hit the screens, well, the small ones. It also was a direct-to-DVD issue. It starred and was directed by C. Thomas Howell. The film was produced and distributed independently by The Asylum.  

It is a sequel to the 2005 film, H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds (see above). The film is set two years after the extraterrestrial invasion of Earth, where America remains in a state of peaceful anarchy until a wave of aliens attempt another insurrection of the planet. C. Thomas Howell reprises his role of George Herber. Others in the cast are Christopher Reid, Dashiell Howell and Fred Griffith

The film's score was composed by Ralph Reickermann, who also did the 2005 original, a former composer for The Asylum. The film features the single You Came into my Life which featured the vocals of singer John Brown Reese (link to the song on YouTube below).  


Well, just when you thought we'd killed off all the Martians, here they came again! And they had three posters to boot:

War of the Worlds - The True Story is a documentary-style drama that flashes back to the original radio concept of the novel. It is directed by Timothy Hines, which revisits Wells' novel, portraying the events of the book as historical, through the documented recollections of a survivor of the war.

2012 movie poster

The film bases its documentary approach on the 1938 Orson Welles CBS radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, by presenting itself as a true account of actual events. Director Timothy Hines said, in reference to this technique, "When Orson Welles broadcast War of the Worlds on the radio in the 30s, he presented it in such a way as to not clearly identify that it was a work of fiction. He did it for the drama. And many people took the fictional news broadcast as a real news broadcast. People believed they were hearing an actual invasion from Mars that night. We are approaching the story in the same way, as if it were an actual news documentary" (See link below for original broadcast).

Gary Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times described the film as "clever like Wells" and "hugely inventive and ambitious," with an "eye-popping variety of" original and archival footage", matched to the period, adding, "War of the Worlds: The True Story," a mock sci-fi docudrama packed with a truly impressive —and clever —mix of editing (a reported 3 1/2 years' worth), special effects, visual artistry and offbeat storytelling. In closing, he wrote, "It's quite a production."   

Their interpretation of the Martian vehicles are pretty good. There are links to a short from the film as well as the makers of the film talking about this film on YouTube (links to both below).  

I've got to check this one out!


Just when you thought it was safe to go out, here we go again. This time it is a recreation of the novel coupled with actual footage from World War 1 and titled, The Great Martian War.

The Great Martian War 1913 - 1917 is a 2013 mockumentary, in the style of an episode from the History TV Channel, directed by Mike Slee. The film is a fictional account of an alternate history in which the world fought invaders from the planet Mars, rather than the actual historical participants, during World War 1. The film is based on the 1898 science fiction novel The War of the Worlds, by English author H.G. Wells, and includes actual film footage from World War I itself.

The reconstructions of the Martian machines are really quite interesting; there are three types of Martian machine, each of which is given a name by the Allied soldiers at the Martian Front.  

These are the largest of the three. They are up to 300 ft high, slow moving but in the early stages of the war, invulnerable to human weapons. They are armed with an energy shield, a devastating energy cannon, and surrounded by clouds of poisonous gasses that mirror the atmosphere of their pilots’ home world. What is inside each Heron is unknown at first, but it’s clear that they can lay waste to the great cities of Europe in a matter of days, and also that they act as the hub for battalions of smaller tripod war-machines, that the troops have christened 'Spiders'.     

 The Heron
photo from the History Channel
These are the fast moving attack dogs of the Martian Invasion. 20ft high they wield a tentacle like weapon and are merciless close-quarters killing machines. The 'Spiders' appear to be acting under the command of their Heron masters, but as our story unfolds a number of key events point to a very different dynamic.  For contained within the Spider machines is an important secret that will prove pivotal to the course of the war and the future path humanity takes.

The Spider
photo from the History Channel  

These are the third type of machine, and they quickly spread a deep, penetrating terror among the men on the Martian Front. Moving only at night and in vast warming herds, these small, ground-hugging crawlers appear to be harvesting the countless dead bodies left out on the battlefield at the end of each day’s fighting. Like the Spiders, the Lice are absolutely pivotal to the entire Alien strategy - but the exact purpose of their nightly harvest out on No Man’s Land is a gnawing mystery whose eventual unravelling will have devastating effects on the common soldier and expose terrible flaws in the Allied Generals’ leadership.

The Louse
 photo from the History Channel

These Martian 'machines' are woven into actual film footage from World War 1 which really gives the film the atmosphere of vintage newsreels. Very nicely done.    

gifs from the History Channel

Jock McLeod
Joan Gregson
Ian Downie
Thomas Gough

Narrated by Mark Strong
Country of origin: Canada, United Kingdom
Original language(s): English

Production Producer(s):    
Michael Kot
Steve Maher
Mike Slee

Cinematography: Christopher Romeike

Running time 120 minutes

Original channel: History (European TV channel)
Original release: 8 December 2013

Viewfinder links:      
Jerzy Maksymiuk & Józef Skrzek ~ The War of the Worlds: Next Century    
Jeff Wayne ~ The War of the Worlds (rock drama)    
The Wild One                     
Net links:      
IMDb ~  The War of the Worlds: Next Century - full cast       
Asylum ~ H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds official site         
Spielberg ~ War of the Worlds @ Facebook          
War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave official site  
The War of the Worlds ~ The True Story official site     
YouTube links:      
War of the Worlds Orson Wells broadcast         
The War of the Worlds 1953 movie trailer        
Clip from the 1953 War of the Worlds          
Special effects for the 1953 War of the Worlds          
The Night America Trembled 1957               
You Came into my Life (song)        
War of the Worlds - The True Story           
Moviemakers talk about War of the Worlds ~ The True Story    

I can't wait 
to see the next installment 
of this unique classic;  
it seems to have a life of its own!

Styrous© ~ Monday, March 23, 2015

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