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DonRocks

"The War of the Worlds" (1953) - Science-Fiction Apocalypse Horror Film, Directed by Byron Haskin, Produced by George Pal, and Starring Gene Barry

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Fifteen years before "The War of the Worlds" was released, on Oct 30, 1938, Orson Welles scared the pants off of people with his now-infamous radio broadcast of H.G. Wells 1898 novel of the same name. How many of you knew that this book was actually written in the 19th century? I did not, and that makes me want to read it even more. The movie is available on Amazon Prime, as well as several other sources.

Filmed in Technicolor, the film starred Gene Barry (Bat Masterson) and Ann Robinson (the film "Dragnet") as Dr. Clayton Forrester and Sylvia van Buren. The film was narrated by Sir Cedric Hardwicke whom we just saw in "The Lodger."

Cecil B. DeMille's first choice to produce this film was Alfred Hitchcock, who declined, so he recruited George Pal ("The Time Machine") as Producer, who chose Byron Haskin ("Treasure Island") as Director, much to DeMille's approval.

Hardwicke's opening commentary makes me want to do two things: it makes me want to re-memorize the ordering of our planets (it's ridiculous not to have this mentally available as instant recall (Remember: Outside of Mars, you have - in order of distance from the Sun - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, the #1, 2, 3, and 4 planets in diameter, and the only 4 planets bigger than Earth - if you remember that, everything else will fall into place), and it makes me appreciate how lucky we are to exist on planet Earth, with its optimal conditions for human beings. The fact that we're fucking everything up is a side issue which we can discuss in another thread. See this? One day, it isn't going to mean squat.

Fifteen minutes into the movie, at the point where the "meteor" crashed, and its lid began unscrewing, revealing a cobra-shaped probe, the special effects of The War of the Worlds are believable and well-done - very impressive for a 1953 work. I guess we're going to see a lot more of them in the near future, so we'll see how that goes.

*** SPOILERS FOLLOW ***

Well, so much for the three Earthlings' initial overtures of friendship. Mars draws first blood. And I *love* the juxtaposition of 1950's America with Martian technology when a local looked at the deadly Martian heat ray and exclaimed, "What *is* that gizmo?!"

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At 29:20, the town of Saint Julien is wiped out! No more Super Seconds! Léoville-Las Cases - gone! Ducru-Beaucaillou - gone! Gruaud Larose - gone! And I've invested so much time and money figuring out that Léoville-Poyferré is better than all of them. Oh, God! No Léoville-Barton, no Talbot, no Beychevelle, no Branaire-Ducru, no, no, no. Oh, God, I finally understand how Dustin Hoffman felt. No Saint Julien! Oh, Jesus God, NO!

This is also how I feel after waiting for two hours at Lucky Strike, when one of the parties hogging the alleys finally leaves: A lane! A lane!

37 minutes into this 85-minute film, I remain impressed, almost dazzled with its 63-year-old special effects - I just now found out that, out of its $2 million budget, $1.4 million was spent on special effects - and it shows, too: They are outstanding.

(I reiterate this is a *** SPOILERS *** section.)

Boy, how many movies do you see, especially just eight years after it actually happened, when the U.S. President orders the use of the A-Bomb? And I had absolutely no idea there was even a concept of a "flying wing" in 1953, but the Northrup YB-35 began to be developed during World War II.

Screenshot 2016-12-25 at 17.20.48.png <--- This is a picture from the movie.

And the A-Bomb sequence is very, very well done. I'll tell you what: "Five" may have been the first-ever post-apocalyptic movie ever made, but considering that "The War of the Worlds" came only *two years* after that? Well, let's just say the progress made was remarkable: I'm no expert, but I cannot name an earlier film that I've ever seen that has better special effects than this. 

Today, special effects are generally to a film's detriment, but 63 years ago? They were SPECIAL effects, and these are magnificently done - I cannot think of a single film before "2001: A Space Odyssey" that has *better* special effects - and that came fifteen years later. 

Wow, what a surprise ending. I will only say that this *excellent* film was very much ahead of its time, and also very much a *product* of its time.

Watch it - you'll not be disappointed unless you're an *extreme* cynic, in which case you *might* be disappointed at the ending, but only if you are, well, an extreme cynic.

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This movie has such a '50s feel to it. The special effects are impressive, particularly given that it was filmed in 1953. I love the Technicolor, and the early scene where the three men discover that what they think is a meteor is not, is fantastic. After a strong start, I thought I might love this film, but I did not. I liked it, but the overacting by the leads, Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, drove me nuts.

Sylvia van Buren, the female lead, is a college professor with a master's degree. But the Martians reduce her to a hysterical, inconsolable, screaming woman with quivering lips and eyes the size of saucers. I realize this was released in 1953 and women in films were often portrayed this way, but Robinson takes it to the extreme. Watching her, I kept thinking of the scene from "Airplane" where passengers take turns slapping a female passenger who is having a panic attack. I wanted such a line to form for van Buren.

This stereotypical portrayal of a female lead adds to the overall '50s feel of the film. It is kind of campy and fun, but it still drove me batty.  

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On 12/25/2016 at 5:55 PM, DonRocks said:

Watch it - you'll not be disappointed unless you're an *extreme* cynic, in which case you *might* be disappointed at the ending, but only if you are, well, an extreme cynic.

45 minutes ago, DIShGo said:

I liked it, but the overacting by the leads, Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, drove me nuts.

Sylvia van Buren, the female lead, is a college professor with a master's degree. But the Martians reduce her to a hysterical, inconsolable, screaming woman with quivering lips and eyes the size of saucers.

Guy walks into a bar with a ship's captain's wheel attached to him, seemingly centered near his pelvic region.

Bartender says, "I ... I ... can't help but notice ...."

Guy says, "Oh, this thing? It's drivin' me' nuts."

Two points:

* Go back and carefully re-read my post: I didn't say one word about the acting (or lack thereof), and upon first reading of *your* post, I didn't see anything to disagree with - this may be a simple matter of emphasis: I was *so* enraptured by the special effects that the acting didn't drill as deeply into me as it did into you - it hit you pretty hard. What I find fascinating is that, even though I saw this film just *two nights ago*, I remember virtually nothing about Ann Robinson - and I mean, I'm sitting here right now trying to think of *anything* about her in the film, and I can't remember one, single thing! I'm sure if I pieced things together, they'd come back to me, but even Gene Barry - whose face is very familiar to me - I remember almost nothing about. You know my tastes in film as well as anyone, and it is striking (to me, anyway) that, in re-reading my post, I didn't say one, single word about the acting - I didn't even realize it at the time, but it speaks volumes that I didn't - both about the acting, and about the fundamental differences between men and women. Speaking of which ...

* This is 1953, and the lead actress has an MS, when most women at the time were going for their MRS - sad, but true.

Your viewpoint of this movie is fascinating to me (both about the film, and perhaps even more about myself), and I suspect if I watched "The War of the Worlds" again, I would probably say that what you wrote is entirely correct (not just "a valid opinion," but entirely correct) - a supposition bolstered by the fact that I'd need to watch the film a second time, just two-days later, in order to merely form a reliable opinion about the acting.

Oh, and one other thing: You're an extreme cynic. :)

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I noticed right away when I read your post that you didn't comment on the actors. I got the impression you enjoyed the special effects so much the quality of the acting didn't matter all that much to you. This is a big, bright, science fiction film with wonderful special effects, so there is nothing wrong with that.

I am not a fan of special-effects-driven films (of today or yesterday) and when a movie doesn't have a lot of dialogue and character development, I tend to fall asleep. This film was no exception. I was dozing off half way though. Character-driven films, like "The End of the Tour," which some would find boring because there is nothing in it but two people talking, frequently captivate me.

Sylvia van Buren comes across as a caricature rather than a character. The women in "Peyton Place," for example, filmed four years later, are much more fleshed out. Yes, there are stereotypes there, too, but the acting and the dialogue are so much better, making these women far more interesting to me.

I wholeheartedly agree that this is a much better film than "Five." This was fun to watch, and I can see why it is considered a classic. It simply isn't my favorite type of movie.

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