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WOTWWar of the Worlds on DVD

They're here! Or at least, They were!

George Pal's War of the Worlds is one of the grand old Hollywood sci fi flicks, a genre classic from the man who's in great deal responsible for creating the genre.

Pal also made such flicks as Destination Moon and The Time Machine, but he's probably best known for WOTW. His version of H.G. Wells' Victorian novel is updated and moved to California from Britain, but it still works.

And this DVD really does the film justice. It features a razor sharp image that, other than the fact it's more than 50 years old, looks like it could've been shot this year, except that you just can't get that great old Technicolor look any more.

Gene Barry stars as a scientist who just happens to be on a fishing trip when the first Martian cylinder lands nearby. He's the mountain of strength and reason while everything else starts falling apart around him.

Chief among the things falling apart is co star Ann Robinson, who spends far too much of the movie screaming and being terrorized. This is made humorous at one point when Barry tells her she won't fall apart because she's too strong - then almost immediately she goes to pieces.

The storyline has been loosely adapted from Wells, but there's a lot to like. The Martian machines are really neat, their death rays equally nifty. Heck, even if you think the story's a silly piece of fluff it's great to watch the wonderful color images and the marvelous - for their day - special effects.

So we get to see the evil aliens destroy lots of military ordnance (and personnel) and wreaking havoc on Los Angeles (and wouldn't we all love to do that?).

Oh, yeah, we even get some neat shots of the old Northrop Flying Wing bomber jet.

For what more could anyone ask?

Well, a quieter female costar perhaps. But she was fairly decorative, which was undoubtedly her primary function anyway.

This disc looks great, and sounds as great as something from 1952 can. But that's only part of the story: it also features some great extras that sci fi fans will want in their collection.

Perhaps the most important of these is the entire 1938 Orson Welles' radio version, the one that supposedly panicked America when it was broadcast as a Halloween "boo!". Listening to it from the beginning - or all the way through - you may wonder why people could have been panicked. But on the other hand, if you joined it in progress and only heard some of the faux news reports, well, one can see how it could have happened.

You also get a running commentary from actors Ann (Yearrrgh!!!) Robinson and Gene Barry, and another one featuring cinefantastique director Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns and Bill Warren (author of "Keep Watching the Skies"). The only thing missing is Forrest J. Ackerman (though if you keep watching the supplements you may notice Mr. Sci-fi).

There's also a "Making of" featurette that's pretty interesting and a short feature on H.G. Wells, who started the whole thing.

A marvelous disc!

War of the Worlds, from Paramount Home Entertainment
85 min. full frame (1.33:1, not 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital mono
Starring Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne
Produced by George Pal
Written by Bare Lyndon, directed by Byron Haskins


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Updated May 13, 2006