Saturday, August 02, 2008

Movie of the Week: War of the Worlds!


OK, so I've decided not to start on any series of movies forthe MotW... not yet! Instead, we'll look at a few George Pal movies the first three weeks of the month, beginning with 1953's War of the Worlds!



As is my habit lately, plot summary from the Wikipedia Entry:

The story is updated to the 1950s for this film, and the setting is moved from the environs of London to southern California. Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry), a world renowned physicist, is on a fishing vacation in Pine Summit when a giant meteorite lands in the hills above the small town. Along with the residents, he goes to investigate. At the impact site, he meets Sylvia van Buren (Ann Robinson) and her uncle, Pastor Dr. Matthew Collins (Lewis Martin). Finding the meteorite too hot to examine closely, he decides to wait in town for the meteorite to cool down.


Later, after most of the people have gone home, the meteorite unscrews and opens, disgorging a Heat-Ray device from Mars. When the three men who remained behind approach in friendly greeting, it kills them without warning. Forrester and the sheriff are also attacked when they return, but survive.


The meteorite deploys three of the floating war machines, as the military is summoned. Pastor Collins approaches the Martians in peace, but they kill him with their Heat-Ray without attempting to communicate.


The full force of the United States armed forces, up to and including an A-bomb dropped by a "Flying Wing", is unleashed against the invaders, but, even more so than in Wells' book, human weapons prove to be totally ineffective; the Martians are protected by an impenetrable force-field. Meanwhile, there are reports of other landings all over the world.



Forrester and Sylvia flee, along with the rest of the civilians. Their plane crashes and they take shelter in a nearby abandoned farmhouse. They are trapped in the basement when another meteorite crashes into the house.



The couple comes in contact with an actual Martian, when the creature leaves its war-machine to look around. They manage to fight it off and escape to Los Angeles, eventually linking up with Forrester's co-workers, who are trying to find a way to defeat the aliens.

However, widespread panic among the general populace scatters the research group and their equipment is wrecked. In the confusion, Forrester and Sylvia become separated.


All seems lost, with humanity helpless before the onslaught. Forrester frantically searches for Sylvia in the burning ruins of a Los Angeles under attack. He finally finds her with other survivors awaiting the end in a church.


Then, suddenly, they see an approaching Martian war machine crash. Upon investigating, Forrester realizes that the seemingly all-powerful invaders are dying – they have no defenses against the "smallest and humblest of Earth's living creatures": viruses and bacteria.


OK, I'm writing again... and while I realize that the plot summary there is pretty sparse, the movie is an acknowledged classic, and one it's been too long since I've had a chance to see it.


But it's not my favorite George Pal movie... that one is still yet to come!

Next week... When Worlds Collide!



  1. Problem is, this version has 3 weak points but also has one very strong point.

    Weak points first:
    1) It isn't that close to H.G. Well's Book 'War of the Worlds' and after listerning to the great musical Jeff Wayne did, it seams even less good.

    2) I don't care what they said about the Tripods not looking right, I have seen them in things around this time and they were good enought!

    3) The Church.. H.G. Wells would not have wanted all that reglion they keep forcing into the story..

    of course, i could add a four being the TV Series from the.. late 80s year 90s.. something like that which followed THIS film version.. Not too bad but it doesn't help with it being War of the Worlds..

    the Very Strong Point? If you have seen the c##p new version, this seams like Pure Heaven for Wells Fans!

    Gee, i hated in this version when they changed how the martian's were beaten.. It was meant to be from the Blood they drank not the air -_-;

  2. To me, the strong point of this movie is the fact that Dr. Clayton Forrester was the name used for the owner of Deep 13 in Mystery Science Theater 3000 (the greatest series known to man)! And this was indeed the movie they took the name from.

  3. Manic Man -- Under the circumstances, I can forgive the embellishments made to H.G. Wells' original novel (heck, Orson Welles played fast and loose with it, too). War of the Worlds remains one of my favorite SF movies of all time, despite whatever flaws it may have.

    Brian -- That is a very cool factoid about Dr. Clayton Forester and MST3K! I'd never picked up on that before! Thanks.


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