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The War of the Worlds Details


H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds had been on the Paramount Pictures docket since the silent era, when it was optioned as a potential Cecil B. DeMille production. When Paramount finally got around to a filming the Wells novel, the property was firmly in the hands of special-effects maestro George Pal. Like Orson Welles's infamous 1938 radio adaptation, the film eschews Wells's original Victorian England setting for a contemporary American locale, in this case Southern California. A meteorlike object crash-lands near the small town of Linda Rosa. Among the crowd of curious onlookers is Pacific Tech scientist Gene Barry, who strikes up a friendship with Ann Robinson, the niece of local minister Lewis Martin. Because the meteor is too hot to approach at present, Barry decides to wait a few days to investigate, leaving three townsmen to guard the strange, glowing object. Left alone, the three men decide to approach the meterorite, and are evaporated for their trouble. It turns out that this is no meteorite, but an invading spaceship from the planet Mars. The hideous-looking Martians utilize huge, mushroomlike flying ships, equipped with heat rays, to pursue the helpless earthlings. When the military is called in, the Martians demonstrate their ruthlessness by "zapping" Ann's minister uncle, who'd hoped to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the standoff. As Barry and Ann seek shelter, the Martians go on a destructive rampage. Nothing-not even an atom-bomb blast-can halt the Martian death machines. The film's climax occurs in a besieged Los Angeles, where Barry fights through a crowd of refugees and looters so that he may be reunited with Ann in Earth's last moments of existence. In the end, the Martians are defeated not by science or the military, but by bacteria germs-or, to quote H.G. Wells, "the humblest things that God in his wisdom has put upon the earth." Forty years' worth of progressively improving special effects have not dimmed the brilliance of George Pal's War of the Worlds. Even on television, Pal's Oscar-winning camera trickery is awesome to behold. So indelible an impression has this film made on modern-day sci-fi mavens that, when a 1988 TV version of War of the Worlds was put together, it was conceived as a direct sequel to the 1953 film, rather than a derivation of the Wells novel or the Welles radio production. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

  • Release date:August 13, 1953


Awarded by
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Everett Douglas Best Editing 1953 Nominee


Gene Barry
as Dr. Clayton Forrester
Ann Robinson
as Sylvia Van Buren
Les Tremayne
as Gen. Mann
Robert Cornthwaite
as Dr. Pryor
Sandro Giglio
as Dr. Bilderbeck
Henry Brandon
as Cop
Jack Kruschen
as Salvatore
Paul H. Frees
as Radio Announcer
Vernon Rich
as Col. Ralph Heffner
Cedric Hardwicke
as Commentary
David Sharpe
as Looter
George Pal
as Bum #1 listening to radio
Robert Rockwell
as Ranger
Edgar Barrier
as Prof. McPherson
Eric Alden
as Man
Charles Gemora
as Martian
Nancy Hale
as Young Wife
Ralph Montgomery
as Red Cross Leader
Sydney Mason
as Fire Chief
Al Ferguson
as Police Chief
Ted Hecht
as KGEB Reporter
Mike Mahoney
as Young Man
Walter Sande
as Sheriff Bogany
Joel Marston
as MP
Fred Zendar
as Marine Lieutenant
Ivan Lebedeff
as Dr. Gratzman
Douglas Henderson
as Staff Sergeant
Jerry James
as Reporter
Hazel Boyne
as Screaming Woman
Russ Bender
as Dr. Carmichael
Carolyn Jones
as Bird-Brained Blonde
Teru Shimada
as Japanese Diplomat
Don Kohler
as Colonel
Pierre Cressoy
as Man
Jimmie Dundee
as Civil Defense Official
Ned Glass
as Well-dressed Man During Looting
Frank Kreig
as Fiddler Hawkins
Bill Meader
as P.E. Official
Cora Shannon
as Old Woman
Fred Graham
as Looter
Stanley Orr
as Marine Major
Anthony Warde
as M.P. Officer
Alvy Moore
as Zippy
Ralph Dumke
as Buck Monahan
Cliff Clark
as Australian Policeman
Rudy Lee
Freeman Lusk
as Secretary of Defense
Bud Wolfe
as Big Man
Alex Frazer
as Dr. James
Russ Conway
as Rev. Bethany
Paul Birch
as Alonzo Hogue
Edward Colmans
as Spanish Priest
Dale Van Sickel
as Looter
Ann Codee
as Dr. DuPrey


Byron Haskin
George Pal
George Barnes
Leith Stevens
Composer (Music Score)
Everett Douglas
Hal Pereira
Art Director
Emile Kuri
Set Designer
Sam Comer
Set Designer
Edith Head
Costume Designer
Gordon Jennings
Special Effects
Chesley Bonestell
Special Effects
Ivyl Burks
Special Effects
Irmin Roberts
Special Effects
Mushy Callahan
Dale Van Sickel
Fred Graham
David Sharpe
Wally Westmore