THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Adapted from the H.G. Wells novel of the same name, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS ($15) is one the great science fiction movies of the 1950s. Taking liberties with Wells’ original story, this version of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, made the Technicolor production more cost effective by transplanting the action from Victorian Era to the 1950's… and the results remain impressive. Certainly, the film's nearly fifty-year-old special effects are generations away from the digital era, but one has to remember that they were state of the art at the time, with THE WAR OF THE WORLDS winning an Academy Award for Best Special Effects. Sure, the resolution of DVD now makes the wires holding up the alien crafts visible, but the design of the Martian war machines remains a standout; their sleek and ominous design keeps them as imposing today as they were in 1953.
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS opens with what appears to be a large meteor crashing into the California countryside. After cooling, the "meteor" opens up and unleashes three indestructible Martian war machines that obliterate everything in their paths. In the wake of the destruction of California, we quickly learn that other "meteors" have begun landing all over the planet, bringing devastation to every corner of the globe. As one might suspect, the special effects are the real stars of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, however the cast features Gene Barry as Clayton Forrester, the first scientist to encounter the Martian crafts in California, as well as Ann Robinson as Sylvia Van Buren- a typical fifties era heroine, who becomes a hysterical at the first sign of trouble. The cast of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS also features Les Tremayne, Lewis Martin, Robert Cornthwaite and Paul Frees. Keep an ear out for the unmistakable voice of Sir Cedric Hardwicke, who provides the film’s narration.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made THE WAR OF THE WORLDS available on DVD in a transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. This new release improves on the previous movie only edition, by providing a somewhat sharper and better-defined image. Colors are fairly bright, have good saturation and offer a reasonable approximation of Technicolor, while creating nice looking flesh tones. Blacks are suitably inky, whites are stable and picture produces smooth contrast. The film elements used for the transfer appear very clean, and display little appreciable grain. Digital compression artifacts are also well contained.
For this release, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS comes with a Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack, as well as a remixed 2.0 stereo surround track, which I believed was originally created for the film’s Laserdisc release of about a decade ago. The remixed soundtrack is more spacious than the monaural track and provides some directionality to the proceedings, which are certainly effective when the Martian war machines are on an all out attack. Fidelity is decidedly limited, but it’s not bad for a movie that has passed the half-century mark. Most of the background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the episodes with a generally smooth sonic quality. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. A French language tracks is also provided, in addition to English subtitles.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice body of supplemental materials. The disc includes two separate running audio commentaries; the first is with actors Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, while the second "movie expert" commentary features latter day director Joe Dante, Bob Burns and Bill Warren, who provide a more on the technical aspects of the film, than do the actors that actually appeared in the movie.
The Sky is Falling: Making The War of the Worlds is a nearly thirty minute program that features surviving member of the cast and crew, as well as others, who reflect back on the production and history of this classic science fiction film. H.G. Wells: The Father Of Science Fiction runs ten minutes and provides a brief biography of the author, as well as examining his contributions to the science fiction literature. The Mercury Theater On The Air Presents The War Of The Worlds Radio Broadcast is the sixty minute radio program featuring Orson Welles from Halloween eve in 1938 that panicked many Americans and had them believing that an actual Martian invasion was taking place. A theatrical trailer closes out the supplements.
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is a sci-fi classic that belongs in every movie collector’s library, especially now that Paramount has made the film available in an edition worthy of the film’s status… and at a bargain price to boot. Recommended.
reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied
or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.