Story: A quiet, small town founds itself in quite a state of excitement, when a calm night is interrupted by what appears to be a meteor that crash lands in the area. Professor Forrester (George Barry) happens to be fishing at the time and as soon as he sees the night sky light up, he heads out to try to trace where the space objects touched down. As it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to see the meteor and the site is filled with curious onlookers. The object doesn’t seem to be like any other meteor or space object, but the town more or less continues on with their business soon after. But when the object begins to open up and a few townspeople approach to see what could be inside, they’re vaporized by some kind of weapon from whatever is inside. There are also power outages and what appear to be UFOs showing up, not to mention more of the meteor like objects. Is this a full scale alien invasion and if so, how can the human race stand up to these advanced invaders?
Entertainment Value: This is a true cinematic classic, not just in the sci/fi genre, but film in general and one that is still a fun ride even well over six decades after release. I always picture the spaceships and death ray when I think of this movie, but The War of the Worlds has much more to offer than its special effects. The narrative is always interesting and while some stretches can feel a little slow, with a lot of dialogue driven moments, I wouldn’t call the pace slow at all, especially since there usually isn’t much time between sci/fi set pieces. I like the dialogue driven scenes in most cases as well, as they’re soaked in those magical 50s sci/fi vibes and I appreciate that. But I do think the special effects and visual design elements steal the show here, the ominous spacecraft and the wild death ray, and of course, the outer space visitor all stand out as memorable. I have to think anyone who seen this will always remember that iconic death ray sound, it remains an eerie touch. I suppose the conclusion leaves a little to be desired, but it seems suitable for a 50s sci/fi movie, so there’s that. I highly recommend this to anyone with even a minor interest in sci/fi cinema, b movies, or alien cinema.
While this movie was a clear inspiration on countless sci/fi b movies that followed The War of the Worlds has some solid performances involved. So while this was one of the blueprints of sorts for many sci/fi b movies, this isn’t as hokey or wooden as you might expect. This is due in part to the script, which boasts some good writing that lets characters come off as natural. One area this is especially true is the story around the characters of George Barry and Ann Robinson. The two have a romantic thread, but it is never forced and feels organic, which is impressive to pull off in the middle of all of this alien chaos. The chemistry is quite good and while it isn’t a main focus, the romance does add to the movie and never feels tacked on. Barry is good in the lead and does what a sci/fi good guy needs to do, while Les Tremayne is also memorable as the general in charge of the military response. The cast also includes Lewis Martin, Vernon Rich, and Robert Cornthwaite.