Thursday, January 26, 2012

Terror Thursday - George Pal's War Of The World

File:Film poster The War of the Worlds 1953.jpg
If there's movie I love this is one of them! 
If you don't know the plot its based on the HG Wells novel sort of: 

Following the opening credits, the film begins with a preamble of illustrations by space artist Chesley Bonestell showing the planets of ourSolar System, over which the film's narrator explains why the Martians find Earth the only world worthy of invasion (not much was known at the time about the habitability of Venus, due to its dense cloud cover, so the planet was omitted from the choices considered by the Martians).
Wells' novel is updated to the early 1950s and the setting moved from the environs of London to southern CaliforniaDr. Clayton Forrester, a scientist and veteran of the Manhattan Project, is fishing with colleagues when a large meteor comes crashing to earth, near the town of Linda Rosa. At the impact site, he meets Sylvia Van Buren and her uncle, Pastor Dr. Matthew Collins. The meteor appears to have slid in and seems curiously lighter than normal for its large size; it is also slightly radioactive and still too hot to examine closely. Forrester ponders these anomalies and decides to wait in town overnight for it to cool down.
Later that evening, a round hatch on top of the meteor slowly begins to unscrew; a pulsing mechanical cobra-shaped head emerges, supported by the long neck of a Martian war machine. When the three men who remained at the site to keep guard approach in friendly greeting, waving a white flag, the cobra head fires on them without provocation with a heat-ray, vaporizing them and destroying a large electrical tower nearby, which knocks out the power in Linda Rosa. In town, with the power out, Dr. Forrester discovers that his and other people's wrist watches have stopped running at the same time; his compass also points away from magnetic north and toward the location of the fallen meteor. Forrester and the sheriff go to investigate and are attacked by the heat-ray. Both manage to survive and raise the alarm.
Amid reports that other meteor-ships are landing throughout the world, the Marines surround the original landing site. Three large copper-colored, Manta Ray-shaped war machines rise from their ground fog shrouded gully and begin to slowly advance. Pastor Collins approaches them, reciting the seventh psalm, his Bible held up high as a sign of peace and goodwill; the Martians spot him and fire, disintegrating him instantly with their heat-ray. The Marine force immediately opens fire with everything in their arsenal, but each war machine is protected by an impenetrable force field. The Martians then use their heat- and disintegrator rays to send the rest of the military force into full retreat.
Forrester and Van Buren escape the carnage in a small military spotter plane, but later crash land, just barely avoiding colliding with other Martian war machines now on the move. They eventually hide in an abandoned farmhouse, but are trapped inside when another meteor-ship comes crashing down nearby. Later, a Martian electronic eye on a long, flexible cable from a hovering war machine inspects the ruined house's interior, but fails to initially spot them. When a lone Martian later confronts them, Forrester wounds it with an axe; Forrester takes a sample of Martian blood and then smashes the returned electronic eye with the axe, taking its undamaged three-lensed camera housing. The hovering war machine blasts the farmhouse after Van Buren and Forrester have made their escape. They eventually are able to rejoin Forrester's co-workers at Pacific Tech in Los Angeles. From the blood sample and the electronic eye's optics, the scientists make deductions about Martian eyesight and physiology, in particular that they are physically weak and have anemic blood.
In a desperate bid to stop the invaders, a United States Air Force Northrop YB-49 Flying Wing bomber drops an atomic bomb on three war machines, but it has no effect, due to their protective force fields; the Martians continue their advance and the government orders an immediate evacuation. The Pacific Tech group must now come up with something, because they estimate the Earth can now be conquered in just six days. As they evacuate, widespread panic among the general populace scatters the Pacific Tech group personnel; a mob steals their trucks and wrecks their equipment, and in the chaos Forrester and Van Buren are separated.

All seems lost; humanity is helpless against the advancing Martians. Forrester searches for Van Buren in the burning ruins of Los Angeles, now under attack. He remembers something she told him, and he eventually finds her in a church with other refugees, awaiting the end. An approaching war machine suddenly crashes into a building down the street. Then another one falls nearby. Forrester soon discovers that the seemingly all-powerful invaders are dying. As in H. G. Wells' novel, the Martians have no biological defenses against the Earth's viruses and bacteria. The smallest creatures that "God in His wisdom had put upon this Earth" has saved mankind from extinction.
There was a television series Pal had in mind after the novel. 

Ultimately this didn't come to pass but for me this would have been a very interesting what if.. 

This is what we got in the 90s & it was a very
 . good solid show for its time. George Pal was a very unappreciated genius. War of World won an Oscar for its special effects and was later selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.


  1. Pal's movie was and remains a classic--we were able to see it on a large screen at one of the local theaters as part of a Sci-Fi Special they did last summer. That was a lot of fun!
    The TV series seemed to have some potential, but got kind of bogged down, and it only ran late at night around here. It seemed more of a pastiche of the old Quin-Martin show The Invaders, but with 'martians' in place of the original evaporating alien bad-guys.

  2. The Pal movie is a classic & I was able to catch it on an Imax theater locally here. The film remains one of those things doable only once!
    The television show had lots of potential but I think it was plagued with way too many issues. There were some really well written shows though in there.
    I'd like to see something done with an updated show. There will be more to come! Stay tuned!


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