Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne, Bob Cornthwaite, Sandro Giglio, Lewis Martin, Houseley Stevenson Jr., Paul Frees, Bill Phipps, Vernon Rich, Henry Brandon, Jack Kruschen, Cedric Hardwicke (voice), Vittorio Cramer (narrator)
Written by: by Barré Lyndon, based on the novel by H.G. Wells
Directed by: Byron Haskin
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 85
Date: 07/29/1953

The War of the Worlds (1953)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Our Favorite Martians

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sci-fi classics such as The Thing from Another World, Invaders from Marsor Them! are part of the great tradition of early 1950s matinee treatsthat tickled and inspired many a young boy. Byron Haskin's The War ofthe Worlds occupies a special place, though, because of itsgreat-looking color photography and its Oscar-winning visual effects (byGordon Jennings). Gene Barry (Forty Guns) stars as the handsome,bespectacled Dr. Clayton Forrester, who is camping when the firstMartian pods plummet from the sky. Together with Sylvia Van Buren (AnnRobinson), they attempt to study the pods before their screeching,spraying laser beams wipe out every city on earth. Whereas StevenSpielberg's 2005 remake focused entirely on civilians, Haskin's versionfollows H.G. Wells' book and tells the story from the point of view ofscientists and the military. The ending is the same, but it has areligious tone. It's all a bit nerdy, and the film can drag a bit forthose used to modern-day jolts, but this version has more soul than theremake.

DVD Details: Paramount's new DVD comes with the original stereo soundtrack, which apparently was lost shortly after its release; a mono version is also available for those who prefer it. The picture and colors are likewise vividly re-mastered. There are two commentary tracks, one by actors Robinson and Barry, and an excellent one by three fans: film director Joe Dante (Gremlins), and historians Bob Burns and Bill Warren. One great bonus is the complete, original Orson Welles radio broadcast. Otherwise, we get a couple of featurettes and a trailer.

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