The War Of The Worlds (1953)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/28/20
Producer: George Pal
Cast: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne, Paul Frees

"Guns, tanks, bombs - they're like toys against them!"

H.G. Wells's classic tale of alien invasion is realized in brilliant Technicolor by the wizardry of George Pal. Strange meteors are coming down all over the planet, which house Martian war machines. Their intentions don't seem friendly, and they destroy anything in their path. The military is helpless against them, and the Martians' advance becomes more bold as more ships arrive. Even atomic weapons have no affect. Scientists predict that they'll take over the world in a mere six days, so they attempt to work on a biological approach instead. Mother Nature eventually takes care of the problem, but will that be enough to stop future attacks?

It's definitely a science fiction classic with cutting edge visual effects, but the film hasn't aged well. The iconic Martian machines look great and are appropriately otherworldly, but their movement is disappointingly sluggish. Apart from Les Tremayne and Paul Frees, the acting is poor and the romantic development between Gene Barry and Ann Robinson is weak and uninteresting. Robinson also falls victim to the "hysterical female" trope, which I find grating. Naturally, the dialog and political climate are dated and the characters are more comical than they should be. The peoples' attempts to communicate with the Martians are laughable and illogical, like waving a white flag, saying "Welcome to California," and reciting religious scripture. While the film is mostly scientific in nature, it becomes oppressively religious towards the end, which seriously derails the narrative. Unfortunately, the book's original commentaries on British Imperialism and Social Darwinism seem to get lost in the shuffle and are treated as a footnote. What's interesting is that when I saw this movie as a child, I remember the Martians getting wiped out by the common cold, but that's never actually stated. However, the common cold is explicitly mentioned in "First Men In The Moon" (1964) as the cause of death for Lunar civilization.