Film: The War of the Worlds
Note: This is about the 1953 adaptation. For the 2005 one, see War of the Worlds.The first of several film adaptations of H.G. Wells' seminal alien invasion novel, directed by Byron Haskin and produced by George Pal. It stars Gene Barry as the scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester and Ann Robinson as Sylvia Van Buren, as they must survive a full-scale invasion of Earth by Martian forces.The film is a Pragmatic Adaptation of the novel, taking only the premise and ending with little else from the source material. Nonetheless in an age of alien invasion films such as Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Invaders From Mars and The Thing from Another World this film is regarded as one of the best of that category.Many years later the film would get a sequel in the form of a television series. Due to Science Marches On, the series RetConned several aspects from the original film, namely the aliens coming from the planet Mor-Tax instead of Mars. Elements of the film would also inspire future science-fiction media, such as Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Iron Giant and Independence Day.
This film contains examples of:
- A Wizard Did It: Rather well put in-universe, actually. Dr. Forrester acknowledges that it doesn't matter if it's possible or not if it's happening right in front of you.Major General Mann: Pattern-wise, one lands, then two, making groups of threes joined magnetically. Is that possible?Dr Clayton Forrester: If they do it, it is.
- Behind the Black: When the police and Dr. Forrester arrive at the landing site to find the deputies have been vaporized, they fail to notice the eye stalk looming over them, which should have been in full view.
- Biological Weapons Solve Everything: Zig Zagged Trope. The film maintains the original ending where the Martians die from regular Earth germs that humanity is immune to, but the emphasis here is that it's regular Earth germs. When nuking them does nothing, the military asks the scientist at Cal Tech to figure out a bio-warfare method to kill the Martians out of desperation... and the trucks carrying the equipment are robbed by desperate Angelenos trying to evacuate, destroying all of the equipment (in Forrester's words, "they sliced their own throats!"). The implication being that the bio-warfare attack would have worked, had the story not decided to stick to the original's ending and letting God do the job.
- Chekhov's Gun: When Dr. Forrester brings a Martian probe with blood samples to a group of scientists, they see that the blood is highly anemic. This foreshadows how they were eventually killed by terrestrial bacteria.
- Darkest Hour: The film's final act. It's probably among the darkest and bleakest atmospheres put into a 50's alien invasion film; there's absolutely nothing left to hold on to and the protagonist's last remaining goal is to spend the next few minutes of his life with his loved one.
- Deflector Shields: The Martian war machines generate these and it makes them Immune to Bullets as well as artillery and explosives.
- Funny Background Event: As one police officer phones in a report the companion peeks at his playing cards.
- Fire watchers, actually. Pre-satellite observation, many areas had fire watch towers manned by Federal or state personnel to keep an eye out for forest fires. They also assisted in search-and-rescue operations.
- Hell Is That Noise: The sounds of the Martian fighting machines moving and the sound of the heat ray firing-a sound that is now oft-copied as a generic "energy weapon" noise in homage.
- Idiot Ball: Uncle Matthew approaches the war machines in a misguided attempt to communicate with them. He says that no real attempt has been made to communicate with the Martians, even though they've fired unprovoked on people who come near the cylinder and there are reports of them leaving a path of destruction in their wake.
- Nuclear Candle: When the lights go out at the square dance, one of these is lit - lighting the room far brighter than a candle should.
- Nuke 'em: The military tries to kill one of the tripods using a nuke, when all other weapons have been exhausted. When the shields of the Martians turns that into a No Sell, Forrester says that attacking the machines is of no use, and they need to focus on trying to kill the Martians themselves (through biological warfare).
- Money Is Not Power: As Los Angeles is being evacuated, people are rioting in the streets. One guy tries to buy his way onto a truck, only to be thrown off while being told "Money's no good anymore!"
- Monumental Damage: The Eiffel Tower and The Taj Mahal. Oddly enough Washington went untouched.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The original novel took place in late 1800's England and the aliens piloted towering tripod walkers. This film takes place in 1950's California, and the aliens pilot hovering manta-ray/scorpion spacecraft.
- Originally the spacecrafts were meant to be tripods, but since a tripod effect was difficult to achieve the film instead states that the spacecraft hover via invisible tripod "stilts". In a few shots you can see vague outlines of the "stilts" along with sparks on the ground.
- Religion Is Wrong: Averted in a strange way. The source material (at least the second half) is a firm criticism of religion, and there are religious characters who eventually turn out unhinged and dangerous in the wake of the invasion. The film is almost the complete opposite - the main religious character is kind and righteous and is given a meaningful death, and the closing narration comments on how the smallest creatures of God's kingdom defeated the invaders.
- War Room: We're treated to a war room in the Pentagon, including a map of the world with small black triangles indicating areas that have been wiped out by the Martians.
- Watch the World Die: When it's clear nothing can stop the Martians from destroying the cities, a lot of people can be seen camping out in the hills just outside Los Angeles.
- X-Ray Sparks: One unfortunate Marine gets hit by a Martian Disintegrator Ray right in front of the camera. As the ray takes effect, his skeleton shows through his glowing silhouette before he vanishes into nothingness.