The War of the Worlds (1953) Is the Pick of the Week

The 1950s was decade of sheer uncertainty and paranoia due to the threat of the Cold War and imminent doom for the entire human race. Because of this, there were many incredible sci-fi films that emulated that while also taking the themes of impending danger and aliens invading Earth even further into reality, where the stories and plots didn’t seem so far-fetched. Director Bryon Haskin and legendary producer George Pal’s influential 1953 classic, The War of the Worlds, is definitely one of the very best of them.

The film starts off with a strange, mysterious meteor-like object landing in a small Californian town that unleashes a squadron of deadly green UFOs that threaten to destroy the whole world unless Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) and Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson), the niece of the town’s pastor, along with the military, can find a way to stop the invasion and save the world.

Despite some dated elements, including the acting, some unintentionally hilarious moments, and its overall message, the film still remains an unnerving, at times quite creepy depiction of life during the atomic age, complete with transplendent special effects that get better with age.

The good folks at Criterion understood its appeal with a stacked edition that includes supplements such a 2005 audio commentary with filmmaker Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns, and author Bill Warren; Movie Archaeologists, a new program on the film’s visual and sound effects with sound designer Ben Burtt and film historian Craig Barron; From the Archive, a new program about the film’s restoration featuring Barron, Burtt, and Paramount Pictures archivist Andrea Kalas; an audio interview with producer George Pal from 1970; The Sky is Falling, a 2005 documentary about the making of the film; The Mercury Theatre on the Air radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds from 1938, directed and narrated by Orson Welles; a radio program from 1940 featuring a discussion between Welles and H.G. Wells, author of the 1897 novel that inspired the broadcast, the film, and its Steven Spielberg remake, and a trailer. There is also a new essay by film critic J. Hoberman. This is another winner and another recommended must have for any film lover’s collection!

Other releases:

The Day the Earth Caught Fire: Val Guest 1961’s classic about people living Britain suffering a ridiculously dangerous heat wave after the U.S. and Russia unknowingly test atomic bombs at the same time, which causes the axis of Earth to rotate the wrong way.

The Wild Goose Lake: A purple-tinged, modern film noir about a gangster on the run who risks everything for his family and a woman he meets while on the lam.

Black Rainbow: Rosanna Arquette stars a psychic who travels the rural American South with her alcoholic father, promoting her mystical gift to various locals. Her secret is that she is a fraud who is only able to defraud people who are desperate to contact dead loved ones. But one night, she has a vision of a violent crime which has yet to be committed.

The Complete Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection: A box set that includes the collaborations of cult legend Umberto Lenzi and legendary actress Carroll Baker. Includes Orgasmo, So Sweet…So Perserve, A Quiet Place to Kill, and Knife of Ice.


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