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Monday, February 2, 2015

There are plenty of remakes, in my opinion, that were completely unnecessary because there was nothing wrong with the original. For example, the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street was unnecessary because the original was so damn good. The same goes for The War of the Worlds that was done in 2005 with everyone’s favorite psycho, Tom Cruise. The movie was unnecessary because the 1953 original is so absolutely flawless.

You only need to watch the original The War of the Worlds once to realize how much was stolen from it to make Independence Day and other alien invasion flicks. The same people that made The War of the Worlds in 1953 also went on to adapt H.G. Wells’ story The Time Machine into a movie as well. Why? Because the estate of H.G. Wells was so impressed with the 1953 movie that it gave the producers the choice of any other H.G. Wells story to adapt into a film. The producers chose The Time Machine. When the author’s family is so impressed with your movie that it gives you free reign of the author’s work, then you know you have done something right.

I really want to find a version of The War of the Worlds that sticks to the way that H.G. Wells wrote it with the story happening in 1898 England. The book is so well-written that it just screams for a direct adaptation, but the story we get in the 1953 movie is so good that we can ignore the changes made to the story to make it more appealing to a 1953 audience.

Instead of taking place in 1898 England, the movie The War of the Worlds takes place in 1953 America. The producers wanted to use elements from the book in their story, such as having the Martian ships be walking tripods, but their technology was too limited. You can actually see how the movie makers tried to make the Martian ships into walking tripods when the ships first appear in the movie. But those wispy legs are abandoned and we get the flying machines that we see throughout the movie.

Gene Barry plays our lead character and he was famous for his chiseled good looks and over-acting. But in The War of the Worlds, he manages to temper his over-acting and focus it into the scenes that really need it. It is hard to explain, but Barry utilizes his tendency for over-acting to perfection in this movie and it really does help to make it a classic.

Some of the tendencies of 1953 society shine through in the movie, which helps to date it a little. For example, when Barry’s character finally finds his female lead (played by Ann Robinson) wandering around in a church after the bus she was driving was attacked by an angry mob, her clothes are not ripped, her hair is perfect, and her make-up looks great. But we can get past all of that because of the amazing special effects in this movie.

The War of the Worlds stands up today because the story is presented in a terrifying manner that still scares audiences, and the effects were done in such a way as to make them timeless. Director Byron Haskin had the option of using stop-motion animation for the Martians and the Martian ships, but he instead chose to use suits and large models. The result is an almost realistic looking movie that has some of the most vivid visual effects you will ever see. The scene where the Martian ship emerges from the atomic cloud is extremely effective and has been copied dozens of times since.

The shame of The War of the Worlds is that Paramount Pictures really did not realize how much of a classic it had on its hands and allowed all of the movie’s props to be lost or scrapped. There is nothing left of the movie for movie fans to gawk at in a museum, but the movie does enjoy a regular rotation on cable television.

The War of the Worlds started with a who’s who of Hollywood epics with names such as Cecil B. DeMille and George Pal attached to it. Paramount secured the rights for the movie in 1924 and took 29 years to finally put together a classic. Since its initial release, The War of the Worlds has gone on to inspire filmmakers and artists from many generations and all over the world. It is the ideal telling of the H.G. Wells classic and it is a movie that will continue to pass the test of time.

+George N Root III is a drive-in fanatic who loves classic movies. His reviews appear every week and will continue to be classic movie reviews until the drive-in finally opens in spring.

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