Man, did “The War of the Worlds” rock my world as a little kid. When this movie made the rounds on 1980’s television, it was arguably a bigger reason to celebrate than a “Godzilla” movie.
I’m a little puzzled to realize that neither the trailer or the original film poster below show the Martian ships, which were pretty damned nifty for a 50’s movie. I’m not sure why that is. (Maybe up to certain point the filmmakers wanted to save that as a surprise for people who bought a ticket?)
This isn’t the only adaptation of the classic 1898 H. G. Wells novel that I would come to love. A few years later, I wound up getting the famous 1939 radio play on cassette tape. And as an adult, I’ll always enjoy Steven Spielberg’s genuinely frightening big-budget 2005 version. I haven’t quite warmed to the new BBC series yet, but maybe that will change.
“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”
— opening paragraph from H. G. Wells’ the War of the Worlds, 1898
What a find! A poet I admire passed this along to me, and it was too good not to share — 47 hours of science fiction radio classics that Open Culture recently added to its Spotify page. You’ve got to be a Spotify member to hear these, but signing up is free and easy. (Spotify also makes it easy to reset your password if you’ve forgotten it, as I did.)
Right at the top of the list is Orson Welles’ famous/infamous 1938 broadcast of his radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.” (Yes, this the show that made people believe that martians were actually invading. How’s that for “fake news?”)
Welles’ broadcast was actually the first classic radio I’d ever heard, when I was a kid in the 1980’s. I’d gotten it on a pair of cassette tapes for either Christmas or my birthday, along with an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” If those strike you as weird presents, I was a weird kid.
I loved those tapes — the Poe recording was so good it genuinely scared me. (The narrator really nailed it.) If I happen across that online, I’ll be sure to post it here.
The cover illustrates “The Crystal Egg,” by H. G. Wells.