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The War of the Worlds (1953) Review

Review; Feb. 15, 2012; Channels: Movies; By Charles Rector

The War of the Worlds is the best alien invasion movie ever made. This film looks better and better in comparison to most of the over-produced, digital drivel released today. Unlike today’s filmmakers, the folks who made this movie realized it takes more than gore, ear-splitting soundtracks, and drooling aliens to truly scare and thrill an audience.

The War of the Worlds Stills

The War of the Worlds entertains because producer George Pal and his crew were able to make the most out of the technology they had available. Despite the fact that this movie was made in 1953, the special effects clearly out-class those in most movies made even in the following several decades.

One of the all-time best scenes in a science fiction movie was when the Martian crept up behind Ann Robinson and clamped its fingers on her shoulder. She paused, reacted to the touch, slowly turned her head, and stared at the alien limb. The entire moment of horror and violation took about four to six seconds. Her mind -- finally -- comprehended it. Then she let out one of the most memorable screams in film history.

As with Hollywood productions in general, there are certain differences between the movie and the book. The movie takes place in America instead of England, the ships flew instead of moving, and the aliens look different. Yet, through all that, this is a rare occurrence in Hollywood: the film is superior to its original work.

The movie eschewed Wells’ animated tripods. When this movie was in pre-production, the tripod concept was discarded as unworkable and visually unimpressive, even comical. The most famous “tripod” in film history is the pirate Long John Silver. Think about his gait and then transpose the image on the alien war machines. The movement and scanning swan necks of the Martian war machines in the movie are both impressive and menacing.

In H.G. Wells’ original work, the Martians are basically bodyless heads, which make and use mechanical substitutes as needed. In place of arms and hands, they have tentacles. Essentially, Wells’ Martians were giant brains without a supporting suite of organs. However, advanced research shows that notion to be nonsensical. The movie Martians are both alien and quite plausible with their functional bodies, three-fingered hands, and their triple-lensed eyes.

So many scenes in this film are quite memorable: the army fighting the Martian space ship while a man of God tries to make peace with the strangers, the old farmhouse, and the ending as the aliens attack Los Angeles. The minister shows a remarkable curiosity about the alien invaders -- an unexpected and refreshing take on the clergy considering the usual Hollywood stereotype. The movie also has a most memorable ending: The suggestion that divine intervention has spared Earth from the Martian hordes.

This movie clearly leaves the likes of Independence Day and Mars Attacks in the dust. The Martian warships are a lot more scary than the CGI fleet of Independence Day. The War of the Worlds works because it treats its subject matter deadly serious. There’s no cheesy cornball speeches by the president launching a counter attack and, best of all, no Will Smith jiving his way through all of this with a swift kick to a stinky alien hide.

If there is ever a science fiction movie that deserves to be in the collection of movie fans everywhere, then The War of the Worlds is the one.

Editor's Note: This review originally appeared on OMGN's former sister site FlickZone on Feb. 11, 2005.

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Review Score
9.4

Not Rated by MPAA

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