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War of the Worlds Movies and TV

Updated on November 8, 2016
War of the Worlds 1953 movie poster
War of the Worlds 1953 movie poster | Source

The first time I saw War of the Worlds, the classic 1953 version by George Pal, it was the second half of a drive-in double feature that my parents had taken me too when I was maybe 7 or 8. I have no idea what the first movie was because War of the Worlds blew that right out of my mind. I was completely gripped by it and pretty much have been ever since.

Being a very impressionable kid, that movie was just the kind of thing to get into my brain and really bother me. Right outside my bedroom window the streetlight looked exactly like the head of one of the Martian's machines to me and it was years before I could sleep with the curtain open. If I couldn't see the Martian, hey, it couldn't see me!

But it was the start of a bit of an obsession, one shared by millions. H.G. Wells' classic story has been adapted often. There's the Orson Welles' radio play, the original George Pal movie, the Spielberg movie, at least two other movies I've seen as well, and then there was a tv series and a progressive rock musical album (and three different video games based upon the album).

My favorite version of War of the Worlds is in fact the progressive rock album, the Jeff Wayne Musical of War of the Worlds, featuring Richard Burton doing the narration. It is a fantastic piece of progressive rock and I think one of the best concept albums ever conceived. I listen to it a LOT. :)

War of the Worlds - Martian Machines
War of the Worlds - Martian Machines | Source

War of the Worlds on DVD

The War of the Worlds (Special Collector's Edition)
The War of the Worlds (Special Collector's Edition)

A Collector's Edition of the 1953 original movie that was produced by George Pal and directed by Byron Haskin. Starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. Despite all the remakes, I think this movie really holds up well and is a good add for your collection if you enjoy this storyline.

 

Clip from War of Worlds 1988 tv series pilot

The War of the Worlds TV series is a fun little scifi show that kind of reminds me somewhat of the original mini-series V. WOTW ran for two seasons, starting in 1988, for a total of 43 episodes. It's strongly influenced by the 1950s movie, but there are also elements of both the radio play and the original novel in here as well.

While it hasn't been on TV in years, you may occasionally see reruns on Syfy network and you can also buy the complete series on DVD. I feel like this series is ripe for a remake in our remake happy TV era so maybe if we cross our fingers someone at SyFy will discover it during its late night reruns and realize they have a gem in the making.

One important difference between the TV series and other versions of War of the Worlds, in the TV series, the "Martians" are not from Mars at all. They are from a completely different planet. There is also another alien race as well. It really does remind me quite a bit of V -- which was also remade recently. So come on, SyFy, get cracking on this!

Jeff Wayne's Musical

This is the opening number of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds Musical. I just love Richard Burton's narration. It's so chilling. And the opening music sets the stage for what's to come.

Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues plays the singing voice of the narrator (The Journalist) and other famous cast members on the album are Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, David Essex and Julie Covington and Chris Thompson.

There has been talk for years of adapting Jeff Wayne's musical version of War of the Worlds into an animated movie and there is tons of concept art for it online, but I have no idea if or when we will ever actually see a completed film.

In the meantime, however, Jeff Wayne produced a live performance of the album which he has toured with, joined by some original cast members, including Justin Hayward. You can find tour dates for the show on the official website.

Included here is a clip of the song Thunderchild performed at the live stage show by Chris Thompson (the voice of humanity) and Justin Hayward's performance of Forever Autumn during the 2006 tour. (Actually, if you want to watch them in the correct order, watch Forever Autumn first, then Thunderchild.)

Wanting to have a fresh new update of the Musical for a new millennium, Jeff Wayne has now created a completely new production of it using Liam Neeson as the narrator.

Liam Neeson as the Narrator
Liam Neeson as the Narrator
Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds
Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds

For some crazy reason, Amazon has this classified under "Disco", when it is clearly Prog Rock. But never mind that, just buy it already.

 

Justin Hayward sings Forever Autumn

Tom Cruise in the 2005 Spielberg movie War of the Worlds
Tom Cruise in the 2005 Spielberg movie War of the Worlds

Other War of the Worlds Movies

  • War of the Worlds (2005) - Of the different remakes of War of the Worlds, the Spielberg movie starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning is probably the most well known. This movie really isn't that bad, but I really hate the ending. It feels too cheap and easy.
  • H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds (2005) - This is another contemporary remake that came out around the same time as the Spielberg film. It stars C. Thomas Howell and Jake Busey. And with that I feel like I've told you all you need to know about it. Okay, here's a bit more: Super Aliens invade earth! This version of the story is set in Washington D.C.
  • War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave (2008) - There's also a 2008 sequel directed by C. Thomas Howell. Who greenlit this??
  • The Classic War of the Worlds (2005) - You may notice a theme with all these movies being released in 2005. This movie is a little different however as it is actually set at the turn of the century in Britain. Probably the closest thing there is to a period-accurate film of this story. It's not completely horrible, but it isn't particularly good. It's very low budget. I would love for someone to do a period appropriate version with a much bigger budget and better actors.

The 1938 Radio Broadcast of War of the Worlds

Would it surprise you to know that the original story is actually set in Britain? Someday someone will make a big budget movie that is actually set in Britain and hopefully it won't suck because I would really like to enjoy martians marching through London, destroying everything in their path. H.G. Wells really relished his opportunity to tear England apart!

But until that movie materializes, I will continue to enjoy listening to Jeff Wayne's album.

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