War of the Worlds (1953)

The second movie I watched as part of the [Martian Movie Marathon](/2003/08/27/martian-movie-marathon/) was **War of the Worlds**. Yup, the 1953 movie that put H.G. Well’s classic on the big screen. If you do not know the story, or the outcome, then you have been living under an (earth) rock for way too long. Go and watch the movie. Or better yet, go and read the book, then watch the movie.

I never quite liked the movie adaptation of the novel. The problem is, I had forgotten why. When I started watching the movie, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was that I disliked. It started off well enough, if you ignore the disintegration effect as the Martians attack – I mean, this is 1952 we’re talking about so you really can not pay attention to it. When the main protagonists – that is the science guy and his female scream-babe – are locked in the abandoned farm, confronted by real life Martians, I was really enjoying myself. The fleeing Martian – actually nice puppetry for 1953 – caused a huge deal of laughter. It had something very comical about it. I know it’s unfair. This was probably as scary 1952 as the first time I watched ALIEN was for me.

Anyway, once the Martians begin to really lay waste to Earth, I remembered why I disliked the movie. There’s endless scenes of chaos and mayhem. Normally, that’s a good thing; nothing like kicking civilisation in the groin area. But they’re all stock scenes. Endless, endless stock scenes. And I never really liked the flying saucers of the Martians either. They’re supposed to be land juggernauts on three legs – Tripods – damn it. Olav said that the makers of the movie wanted to be “innovative”. Okay, I’ll grant them that… but the endless stock scenes with superimposed flying saucers are still very annoying. And all the time the female lead does one thing and one thing only: scream and cower in fear. Yeah, back then, that was the acceptable role for women – but after a while, it really got on my nerves. The movie runs 82 minutes, according to the dust jacket; it felt easily twice that.

The DVD is reasonably well done, but there is no bonus material. The exception to this is the theatrical trailer that was shown back when the movie was released. It’s quite interesting to see how these things have changed in the past 50 years, yet still retain the same basic makeup. It’s a little sad that the makers of the DVD did not produce any kind of bonus material – I am sure something could have been found, about this movie or about the genre. Then again, I realise that the audience of this DVD is likely limited. That would also explain the last positive thing about the DVD: it includes a goodly thirteen languages.

I guess in summary I have to say that I am undecided about the movie. It starts of very fun, but really lets you down in the end. Still, it’s a classic in the genre of Invasion science fiction, and as such it’s definitely worth seeing.

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