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Antonio Margheriti
Claude Rains, Bill Carter, Maya Brent
Writing Credits:
Ennio De Concini

A runaway asteroid mysteriously begins to orbit the Earth and threatens it with lethal flying saucers.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 82 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 8/9/2022

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Justin Humphreys
• “A Cinematic Outsider” Featurette
• Booklet


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Battle of the Worlds [Blu-Ray] (1961)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 7, 2022)

Across a long and illustrious career, Claude Rains appeared in a slew classics. With films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Casablanca and Lawrence of Arabia under his belt, he will always be regarded as a legend.

But a man’s gotta eat, so Rains occasionally found himself in movies remembered ever so slightly less well than those cited above. In this category falls 1961’s Battle of the Worlds, a low-budget Italian sci-fi flick.

As an asteroid approaches the Earth, it appears to threaten the existence of humanity. However, it turns out that something unusual comes along for the ride.

Rather than just another space rock on a collision course, the asteroid takes up orbit around the Earth. It turns out to be inhabited, and these aliens eventually make their less than benign motives apparent.

Given that I suspect Battle cost about $27, I doubt Rains pulled in a major paycheck for the film. One also assumes Rains really needed the money, as I can find no creative reasons he’d get involved in a terrible flick like this one otherwise.

One can’t view the sci-fi of the late 1950s or early 1960s by today’s standards, but even if I “grade on a curve”, Battle becomes a dud. This wasn’t inevitable, as the basic plot shows promise.

No, the concept of “humans vs. aliens” isn’t fresh – and it wasn’t new 60 years ago, either – but it still offers basic potential for drama. We’re talking the possible end of all human life, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to churn some tension and excitement from this scenario.

Instead, Battle becomes a total snoozer, partly due to the aforementioned low budget. With funds so scarce, the filmmakers clearly lacked the ability to do much with visual effects.

This leads to space shots that seem crude even by 1961 standards – and not very many of them to boot. We get the occasional view of various ships and whatnot, but the vast majority of Battle sticks with simple sets.

Again, this doesn’t become a fatal flaw in and of itself. Plenty of movies with low budgets manage to make the most of what they have.

Unfortunately, Battle doesn’t join that club, largely due to the painfully flat screenplay. The story evolves in a jerky, erratic manner that feels like it goes out of its way to crush any possible drama.

Battle spends a lot of time with prologue, and little of this seems impactful. We get some stabs at character development – such as the generic romantic scenes – and these all feel jumbled and incoherent.

Once the “action” finally occurs, it feels both too little/too late and also too cheesy. As noted, I understand that a film with low funds comes with limitations, but the complete absence of tension or thrills nonetheless seems surprising.

The actors don’t help, as the vast majority sleepwalk through their underwritten parts. Rains offers an exception, as he chews scenery with abandon.

To my surprise, I get the impression Rains actually gave his all here. I assumed he’d just punch the clock and collect his pay, but he really seems to attempt to add some life to this moribund production.

Granted, this results in a hammy performance, but at least it comes across that Rains tried to contribute a bit of punch to the tale.

He fails, as even the most talented actor can’t redeem a movie as dull and draggy as Battle of the Worlds. Not silly enough to work for camp value and not interesting to succeed as a straight sci-fi flick, this winds up as a justifibly forgotten dud.

The Disc Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C-/ Bonus C+

Battle of the Worlds appears in an aspect ratio of :1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Brain offered passable but erratic visuals.

Sharpness became a weakness, as the movie lacked impressive delineation. While never truly fuzzy, the film tended to seem less than precise. At best, it veered toward the soft side.

The apparent use of noise reduction created some concerns in this domain. Though some light grain materialized, the image gave off a smeared, scrubbed feel that left it as awfully soft.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws like specks or marks failed to appear, but occasional instances of missing frames occurred.

Colors looked bland as a rule. The image took on a dull brown/pink impression that infected much of the movie, so hues wound up as faded and flat.

Blacks seemed reasonably deep and dark, while low-light shots offered reasonable clarity. Given the movie’s age, this didn’t become a terrible image, but it deserved nothing above “C-“, and I easily could’ve dropped into “D” territory.

Don’t expect much from the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, as it felt like a lackluster effort, even for its era. Speech was intelligible but somewhat brittle and rough.

Music lacked much range and could seem shrill. Effects appeared adequate but without much range, and they suffered from a little distortion at times. This worked as a passable track given its age but not a good one.

A few extras appear here, and we open with an audio commentary from film historian Justin Humphreys. He offers a running, screen-specific view of cast and crew, genre domains, and his thoughts about the film.

Humphreys doesn’t seem to know many specifics about the shoot, so we learn little in that area. Instead, he spends much of his time on a defense of the movie, as he thinks it’s pretty good.

Some of this goes a long way. Humphreys gives us enough data connected to the flick to make the commentary listenable, but he devotes far too much time to his own feelings about the flick, so we don’t learn as much as one might hope.

A Cinematic Outsider runs 30 minutes, 38 seconds and delivers notes from film historian Tim Lucas. He discusses aspects of the sci-fi genre, the life/career of filmmaker Antonio Margheriti, and elements of Battle.

Inevitably, some of this repeats from Humphreys’ commentary. Still, Lucas covers a fair amount of new territory and makes this a useful chat.

The package concludes with a booklet that mixes photos and an essay from film historian Don Stradley. It completes the set well.

No one expects much from bargain basement 1960s sci-fi, but even by those low standards, Battle of the Worlds seems like a clunker. Slow, cheap and dull, the movie goes nowhere. The Blu-ray comes with problematic picture and audio as well as a few bonus features. Leave this one to diehard Claude Rains fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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