Greatest Golden Age Sci-Fi Movies - 1953: War of the worlds
Ah, to think that at the time that this motion picture premiered it was considered a colossal blockbuster. It was shot in Technicolor by Paramount Pictures with a budget of over two million dollars, which during that era of filmmaking would equate to easily two hundred million dollars in today's production budgets. Based on one of the most famous and well-known novels in the history of early science fiction, War of the worlds by Herbert George Wells, and building on the notoriety of the mass nationwide panic sparked of the great Orson Welles' radio broadcast version, it was a sure winner for the studio. Sure enough, it turned out that it became a science fiction standard that has to some extent survived the passing of well over half a century.
As jaded as we are from motion pictures that have essentially the same basic plot of alien invasions but much greater sophistication in the special effects that actually take us vividly and irrevocably into a major metropolis that is being devastated by phenomenal weapons harnessing incredible destructive energies, the modern audience has to acknowledge that for 1953, the scenes of the advancing martian spacecraft is still damned impressive.
The alien nemesis in War of the worlds has never been better characterized in science fiction since then. It doesn't attempt to take on human form, communicate to humans in any way, or engage in any other form of vacuous science fiction plot artifice stupidity. After all, species evolved on different planets will have absolutely nothing in common, no way to communicate to each other, and won't even have the desire to try. The martians are here to take over the planet. That's it. They don't want to talk, or negotiate, or kidnap, or mate, or mess around with us in any way. We're in their way, we have nothing to match their weapons, and we're going to be toast. Let those death rays spark out from those snake-like spacecraft heads: Fried homo sapiens is on the Mars Diner menu tonight!
The purity, realism and beauty of this story could certainly be adopted by modern science fiction screenwriters who have been brought up believing that sapient alien life is actually just your typical homo sapiens plus a wrinkled latex forehead. As much as I can appreciate Star Wars, Star Trek, and all that ilk, the bottom line is that the likelihood of having hominid life on another planet is roughly equivalent to acheiving a personal endorsement by me that Dollhouse is the best science fiction TV series ever, or even worse that the Tom Cruise remake of this classic is anything more than ematogenic garbage.
Humans are on the run and being charred like burgers on a steel smelter when the invading aliens come up against an Earth-borne foe that they have no defense against: the common cold virus. Extremely interesting and relevant at a time when the H1N1 Mexican Swine Flu seems to be on the verge of causing a global pandemic, it is a few microns of inanimate matter that bring down the martians, not the combined nuclear capacity of the United States and the rest of the Fifties great world powers.
Let's just hope that we don't end up like those poor martians!
1953: War of the worlds
H.G. Wells (for the novel)
Barre Lyndon (for the screenplay)
Dr. Clayton Forrester - Gene Barry
Sylvia Van Buren - Ann Robinson
Maj. Gen. Mann - Les Tremayne
Dr. Pryor (as Bob Cornthwaite) - Robert Cornthwaite
Dr. Bilderbeck - Sandro Giglio
Pastor Dr. Matthew Collins - Lewis Martin
Gen. Mann's aide - Houseley Stevenson Jr.
Second Radio Reporter / Opening Announcer - Paul Frees
Wash Perry (as Bill Phipps) - William Phipps
Col. Ralph Heffner - Vernon Rich
Cop at Crash Site - Henry Brandon
Salvatore - Jack Kruschen