Old Horror Movies: The War of the Worlds

Being a big fan of horror films, combined with having plenty of time on my hands, (as a recent graduate!) and my amazing superhuman ability to stay awake until 6am, analysing the good ol’ horrors seems like a perfect plan.

I see green in there…

The first of this series of blog posts will focus on the 1953 adaptation of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds. How can I call myself a horror fan, particularly of sci-fi horror, if I had never seen H. G. Wells’s mutant take-over? I was certainly ashamed of myself, but as of now, I can face the world of horror with my head held high… (for the time being).

The War of the Worlds was published in 1898 and tells the remarkable tale of a strange, alien force landing in Surrey, southwest London. The most striking part of this novel is how Wells imagined the appearance of the Martians:

‘I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks–like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me–and then another.’ – Wells, Chapter 4, The War of the Worlds

For me, Wells is clearly signposting Freudian theories, with his phallic-like Martians ‘coiled up’ as a child in the womb, grey instead of stereotypical green, ‘writhing’ as a new-born snake getting ready to feed. I wouldn’t like to see one of these down a dark alley, that’s for sure!

Ahead of its time for the early 50s, the film adaptation was a big success, though didn’t have audience viewers running to pack their bags as the radio version. Of course, watching the film in 2011 is certainly an experience in itself; embodying laughter instead of fear, The War of the Worlds, is now shown for comedic effect, in the middle of the day, on Film4.

Awkward Moment: Caught in an Undress

Though the special effects are dated, and the wires holding up the martian hovercrafts are clearly evident, the film adaptation holds its own. With the exception of the hysterical Ann Robinson (the weakest link came later for her… *wink, wink*), playing Sylvia, actor Gene Barry is fantastic as the screwed-on miracle man Dr. Forrester. Often giving glances of pure desperation in his strange madness towards the film’s finale, he manages to survive a full night sprinting through the city of destruction – how he doesn’t get laser-beamed by the hovercrafts completely astounds me! But of course, the protagonist never dies in Hollywood. Instead, the protagonist has nine lives, like our Bruce in the Die Hard series.

So, did this old horror movie best its 2005 brother War of the Worlds?
Certainly. I could laugh over and over again at that martian-screaming, big-lipped, Mick Jagger look-a-like any day.

What strange big lips you have my dear!

The War of the Worlds is a timeless classic, providing a laughs-a-lot service for contemporary audiences, but a considerably wonderful sci-fi horror for the generations of the past.

Posted on July 30, 2011, in Film Takes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Is that the 2005 version of the War Of The Worlds martian? It looks like the Simon Says game embedded in a turd.

    I’ve not seen either version of the film, or read the book, but perhaps I could have a look at the original film if I happen to be around when it’s on TV

    • No that’s the 1953 version martian at the bottom, thank goodness. I think I’d have a laugh attack if it was the 2005 one!
      ‘Simon Says game embedded in a turd’ – I think that’s got to be one of my favourite phrases from you pie! XD

      I’ve not managed to read the book as of yet, but I’ve seen both versions of the film. They’re both good in their own ways, and they are usually shown on Film4 every couple of months or so.

  2. A good article, Shadow. I write horror and scifi and I’ve neither seen the film or read the book. However, I did see Well’s “Time Machine” film and enjoyed it very much. It wasn’t the latest, but it was good. You wrote a very good piece. Yes, some scifi is funny. I think horror is also, but not all readers agree. I find it humorous when a reader takes a part in one of my horror stories so seriously that they become angry and rant at me about it, when it’s obvious it’s fiction. But, look at how many took the radio version of “War of the Worlds” so seriously. Hard to imagine. But, for a writer it’s good to have true believers.


    • Certainly! And the journalistic style added to the belief that aliens really were attacking the world. The radio version read like headlines and conveyed the truth with so much vigour that it had many people running a mile!
      I should really watch/read Time Machine as well, I’ll add it to my must watch and must read lists. 🙂
      Oh I’d love to read some of your horror fiction – is it posted on your blog? I’ll certainly take a gander.

  3. Hi Shadow. The link to the story below is, “Things Less Human.” It’s a fairly tame horror tale, told in a classic way. I wrote it to target the TV movie market specifically and will soon write a treatment and try to get a taker. This is a high concept work because it can be re-ran every year, just as the “Wizard of Oz” is, and will make new generations continue to enjoy it. We have Christmas classics, Easter classics, etc.. But, we don’t have a Halloween classic, and that is what this story was written to become. I think you’ll enjoy it.



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