H.G. Wells' 1898 classic alien invasion novel, The War of the Worlds, has been adapted several times for the big screen, most recently by Steven Spielberg five years ago (my first "Scenes We Love" entry for Cinematical), two low-budget entries, one set in Victorian times and the other in the present released to coincide with Spielberg's adaptation, and most memorably, fifty-seven years ago by producer George Pal (The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, The Time Machine, Conquest of Space, When Worlds Collide, Destination Moon) for Paramount Pictures. Pal's adaptation, directed by Byron Haskin (The Power, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, From the Earth to the Moon, Conquest of Space) from a screenplay by Barré Lyndon, created the template for every alien invasion film that followed. The War of the Worlds won an Academy Award for its groundbreaking visual effects. It was nominated, but surprisingly didn't win, the Academy Award for the equally innovative sound design.

An unseen, unnamed, omniscient narrator (Sir Cedric Hardwicke, at his most stentorian) guides us through the prologue. He explains the Martians' decision to escape their dying world and conquer our relatively unspoiled one. Chesley Bonestell, an illustrator who specialized in science fiction, provided the full-color art for the prologue. When, finally, The War of the Worlds leaves the prologue behind, we're in the fictional town of Linda Rosa. A meteor falls from the sky. The local authorities turn to Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry), a celebrity astrophysics and nuclear science professor at the (fictional) Pacific Tech, and two fellow academics, Dr. Pryor (Robert Cornthwaite), and Dr. Bilderbeck (Sandro Giglio), vacationing in the nearby mountains, for help.
categories Cinematical