The War of the Worlds (1953) Color
Starring Ann Robinson, Gene Barry
The War of the Worlds (also known promotionally as H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds) is a 1953 Paramount Pictures science fiction film starring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. It is a loose adaptation of the H. G. Wells classic novel of the same name, and the first of a number of film adaptations based on Wells' novel.
Produced by George Pal and directed by Byron Haskin from a script by Barré Lyndon, it was the first of two adaptations of Wells' work to be filmed by Pal, and is considered to be one of the great science fiction films of the 1950s. It won an Oscar for its special effects and was later selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
Plot & Screenshots
There was World War I and World War II, but there is going to be another kind of war, The War of the Worlds. No one would have believed in the middle of the twentieth century that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely be intelligence greater than Man. Yet, across the gulf of space on the planet Mars, intellect vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded our Earth with envious eyes. Slowly and surely, drawing their plans against us.
Mars is more than one hundred and forty million miles from the sun, and it's in the last last stages of exhaustion. At night, the temperatures drop far below zero, even at its equator. The inhabitants of this dying planet looked across space with instruments and intelligence which we have scarcely dreamed, searching for another world which they could migrate.
We're shown a series of color matte paintings by astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell depicting the planets of our Solar System (except Venus). The narrator (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) offers a tour of the hostile environment of each world. They could not go to Pluto, outer most of all planets, it's so cold, its atmosphere lies frozen on it's surface.
They couldn't go to Neptune or Uranus, twin worlds in eternal night and perpetual cold, both surrounded by an unbreathable atmosphere of methane gas and ammonia vapor. Martians considered Saturn, and attractive world with it's many moons and visible rings of cosmic dust, but its temperature is close to two hundred and seventy degrees below zero and ice lies fifteen thousands miles deep on its surface.
Their nearest world is the giant, Jupiter, where there are titanic cliffs of lava and ice flaming at the tops. The atmospheric pressure is terrible, thousands of pounds to the square inch, they couldn't go there. Nor could they go to Mercury, the nearest planet to the sun. It has no air and the temperature at its equator is that of molten lead.
Of all the worlds the intelligence on Mars could see and study, only our own warm Earth is green with vegetation, rife with water, and possessed a cloudy atmosphere eloquent to fertility. Greedy eyes are watching the blue planet. They envy our water, clean air and plenty of resources.
The Martians find our lush, green and blue Earth the only world worthy of their coming invasion. It did not occur to Mankind the swift fate might be hanging over it, or from the blackness of outer space, we were being scrutinized and studied . . . until the time of our nearest approach to the the orbit of Mars, during a pleasant summer season . . . . .
Wells' novel is updated to early 1950s southern California, near the town of Linda Rosa. Citizens from areas of the town notice something bright in the night sky. A strange fireball streaks across the southern California skies and lands in a gully in the San Gabriel mountains east of Los Angeles.
Firemen quickly extinguish the fire that has broken out, but authorities are puzzled by the long, cylindrical object that fell to Earth and started the fire. The object attracts tourists--and also the attention of Dr. Clayton Forester (Gene Barry) of the Pacific Technical Institute, a scientist with the Manhattan Project, who is fishing with colleagues when the large object crash lands.
At the impact site, he meets Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson) and her uncle, Pastor Matthew Collins (Lewis Martin). While everyone else regards the object as anything from a tourist attraction to a potential treasure trove, Forester knows that something is wrong: the object did not come down like an ordinary meteor, and was much more lightweight than any meteor ever reported.
What's more, the object is not only hot, but his Geiger counter also detects it is radioactive, but the object is still too hot to examine closely. Van Buren says she saw the meteorite came in at a shallow angle. Intrigued by these anomalies, Forrester decides to wait in town overnight for it to cool down. Forester stays at the home of Pastor Collins. They kill time attending a square dance social that evening.
Three men remained at the crash site as night guards. Later that evening, hidden lid on the cylinder or a hatch on top of the object slowly unscrews and falls away; a pulsating, mechanical, long goose-neck emerges, like a cobra-shaped head piece a Martian war machine.
The three men approach the probe, waving a white flag, declaring their friendly intentions and the cobra-head probe blast a heat ray that incinerates the men and starts another fire. At the same time, nearby power and telephone service fails, knocking out the power to Linda Rosa, and everyone at the social discovers that his watch has stopped. Forester determines that the watches have been somehow magnetized, and also notes that the sheriff's pocket compass points not to the north, but to the meteorite.
Forester returns to the site with the sheriff and another deputy. They find the ashes of the three men, and then the probe attacks again, killing the deputy as he tries to drive away. Forester then determines that they are dealing with something from another planet and need to call in the military, especially as another fireball lands nearby as he is talking to the sheriff.
While Marines from El Toro Marine Base surround the original landing site, Forester appears on a radio program and deals with the increasing speculation on the otherworldly origin of the cylinders. A consensus arises that the cylinders come from Mars, now at its closest approach to Earth. Amid reports that other large meteorite-ships are landing throughout the world, an Air Force plane drops a flare on the landing site from above.
Three large, copper-colored, Manta Ray-shaped war machines rise from their gully and begin to slowly advance. The long-necked probe fires its heat ray at the plane, and then sweeps the area, destroying a radio truck. That prompts Marine Colonel Heffner (Vernon Rich) to call for reinforcements, and the 6th Army Command arrives, with artillery and tanks.
Major General Mann (Les Tremayne), the commander, tells Forester that other objects like the one they are surrounding have landed in cities all over the world, and that all communication fails after that. The military form a strategy and position themselves for a counter attack. Then the probe rises again, and we now see that it is part of a swan-like magnetically levitating low-altitude craft.
Another craft rises out of the cylinder to join it and later a third Martian craft appears. The officers give the order to prepare to fire, but Matthew Collins objects, saying that no one has tried to offer them peace before. Disregarding his own safety, Pastor Collins approaches the three metal war machines, reciting Psalm 23, his Bible held up high as a sign of peace and goodwill. Before his niece Sylvia's horrified eyes, the lead war machine disintegrates him instantly.
At once General Mann and Colonel Heffner give the order to fire. The large Marine force immediately unleash everything in their heavy arsenal, a barrage of artillery and missile fire . . . and none of it is effective. Each war machine is protected by an impenetrable magnetic force field, a shield that deflects any bombardment. The shields, when briefly visible, resemble the glass jar placed over mantle clocks: cylindrical and with a hemispherical top.
The war machines quietly take measure of their opponents and then start to return fire, with heat rays and meson-disrupting energy bursts, or "skeleton beams," that disintegrate anything they touch. Forester urges Mann to inform Washington that conventional military forces would be outmatched. Mann leaves, and Heffner fights a holding action before finally ordering a complete retreat. . . then he is disintegrated in mid-order.
Forrester and Van Buren escape the carnage in a small military spotter plane barely avoiding colliding with other Martian war machines now on the move. Flying low to avoid the Air Force jets flying in to try their hand, he clips some trees and crash-lands. He and Sylvia barely have time to escape before a squadron of war machines surround the plane. General Mann returns to the city, where skeptical reporters cannot believe his reassurances.
Alone in the brush, Forester and Sylvia take shelter in an abandoned farmhouse. There Sylvia confesses her fears and her deep sense of loss following her uncle's death. In the middle of this tender conversation, another meteorite-ship cylinder crashes into the side of the house. The collision half-burys the farmhouse and they are trapped inside.
Hours later, Forester wakes up, and a terrified Sylvia tells him that the house is surrounded. Forester works diligently to clear a way out, while also trying to observe as much as he can. The Martians lower a different kind of probe, an electronic eye attached to a long, flexible cable. The probe inspects the ruined farmhouse's interior, but Forester and Sylvia hide from its sight, it closes its lens and retreats.
However, a second camera probe enters a hole in the roof as Forester is clearing debris for an escape. Sylvia turns and it's looking directly at her, causing her to scream. Using an axe, Forester chops the camera head from its extender, which swiftly withdraws. Forester retrieves the camera probe head and returns to clearing debris.
Then a strange shadow glides behind them, a Martian creature enters the house and touches Sylvia on the shoulder. Forester blinds it with a flashlight and then throws an axe at it, putting it to flight as it sounds off a high shrill scream of pain. When Forester realizes that he is holding a scarf now stained with Martian blood, Sylvia loses all control, and Forester has to shout at her to calm down.
The hovering war machine soon blasts the farmhouse, engulfing it in flames, but Van Buren and Forrester have safely made their escape. On a world wide level, as more cylinders come down all over the earth, the Martians' goal becomes painfully clear: to drive all of humanity before them and eventually to kill us all. General Mann, clearly frustrated, orders an evacuation of Los Angeles.
In Washington, the Secretary of Defense prepares to order the dropping of an atomic bomb on the Los Angeles-area nest. Forester and Sylvia arrive at Pacific Tech and turn over the alien camera and the blood-stained scarf. From the blood sample and the electronic eye's optics, the scientists make deductions about Martian eyesight and physiology, in particular that the creatures are physically weak and have anemic blood.
The camera yields little insight other than that the Martians perceive color a lot differently from humans. Forester tells his colleagues that the anemic blood is important, but a Pacific Tech official thinks that is a moot point, because the atom bomb is going to stop them anyway. Later, a United States Air Force Northrop YB-49 Flying Wing bomber takes off to atom bomb the invading Martians.
Scientists estimate the Earth can be conquered in just six days if the atom bomb fails, the same number of Biblical days it took to create it. The scientists and military personnel take cover in a bomb shelter where at a far distance, they can see the Martian ships as the wing bomber reaches their location.
The bomb is dropped, blanketing the surrounding area in a flash of blinding white light, but even the atom bomb proves ineffective against the Martians due to their protective magnetic force fields. The Martians continue to advance and the government orders an immediate evacuation. The Pacific Tech group must now come up with something.
The plan is to take as many lab instruments as possible into the mountains and set up another laboratory. Since they can't beat the Martians' technology, Forester thinks they must beat the Martian creatures using biological weapons. As the evacuation is announced to the public, widespread panic among the populace scatters the Pacific Tech group.
Looters seize the Pacific Tech vehicles and attack the personnel, including Forester, the pathologist who found out about the anaemia, Dr. Dupre (Ann Codee), and Sylvia. The mob wrecks their equipment, and in the chaos Forrester and Van Buren are separated. All seems lost; humanity is helpless against the Martians. Forrester searches for Van Buren in the burning ruins of Los Angeles, now under attack.
As the Martian war machines systematically burn every building in sight, he remembers something she told him. Forester rushes about, going from church to church, hoping to find Sylvia waiting there, as she once waited after running away as a child. He finds church pastors everywhere praying for deliverance, comfort, or both, and at one church he even finds two of his colleagues.
At last he finds Sylvia in a church with other refugees, waiting for the end. As the two rush towards one another, a nearby Martian war machine shatters a stained-glass window, frightening everyone inside. Suddenly, an approaching war machine fires only two more seemingly half-hearted bursts, and then abruptly crashes into a building and falls to the street. Dead silence descends.
Inside the church, Forester leads the people out into the street to see what has happened. They find the downed war machine, a door opens and a Martian arm appears, trying to move out. Another war machine crashes on the other side of the street. The crowd watches the Martian arm turn a mottled gray and falls still. Forester soon discovers that the invaders are dying, he touches it and pronounces it dead.
And in fact, this story is repeating itself everywhere. The Martians have no biological defenses against the Earth's viruses and bacteria. As soon as they breathed Earth air, they became infected with germs that a human barely notices, but which proved uniformly fatal to Martians. The smallest creatures that "God in His wisdom had put upon this Earth" have saved mankind from extinction.