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Byron Haskin
Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne
Writing Credits:
Barré Lyndon

Martians attack a small California community - and then the world!

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Dolby Vision
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
German Dolby 1.0
French Dolby 1.0
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 85 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 9/27/2022

• Audio Commentary with Actors Ann Robinson and Gene Barry
• Audio Commentary with Filmmaker Joe Dante, Film Historian Bob Burns, and Author Bill Warren
• “The Sky Is Falling” Featurette
• “The Father of Science Fiction” Featurette
War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast
• Trailer
When Worlds Collide Feature Film (Blu-ray)


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The War Of The Worlds (Paramount Presents Edition) [4K UHD] (1953)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 25, 2022)

The first film version of the HG Wells tale, 1953’s The War of the Worlds opens with a prologue that tells us about the inhabitants of Mars. Their planet is dying, so they need new digs.

All the other spots in the neighborhood won’t work for them, so they set their sights on Earth. They come to our planet in disguise as a meteor, and the first one hits ground near a small California town.

The inhabitants get all excited at first, and local scientists like Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) also get involved. Although the rock seems destined to turn into little more than a tourist attraction, it soon shows its deadly side and turns some locals into ashes.

From there the military gets involved as everyone finds out the real nature of the new arrival. More of them start to fall from the sky and the battle ensues. The movie follows the titular war between Earth and the Martians, with an emphasis on Forrester’s actions as well as his relationship with sexy student Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson).

Whenever a movie gets remade – or a novel readapted, in this case – folks will come out the woodworks to denounce the new version and acclaim the old. Heck, I did this for the 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory myself.

Plenty of viewers assailed Steven Spielberg’s 2005 War as inferior compared to this 1953 affair from producer George Pal and director Byron Haskin. Hogwash, say I.

I won’t call Spielberg’s take perfect, but in virtually every category, it outdoes Haskin’s version. The 1953 movie seems so impossibly stiff and cheesy that I find it tough to imagine it played well 69 years ago, and it certainly hasn’t aged well.

When I originally reviewed the 1953 War in 2005, I harshly criticized the movie’s visual effects. 17 years later, I feel less strongly that they flop.

They don’t hold up well but I don’t find them as problematic as I did in 2005. That occurs partly because the film’s restoration apparently attempted to hide some of the original flaws.

Even if I excuse the dated effects, other issues occur. Most of the film was shot on soundstages and in studios, and that seems readily apparent. There’s always an artificial look to the presentation that saps any believability from it.

The weak script doesn’t help, as this is one chatty war. The climax improves somewhat, but until then, we hear a lot more than we see.

The movie pours on discussions and interpretations of events but rarely shows them. This makes this short film plod along without much to interest us.

We certainly won’t find entertainment or intrigue from the stock characters. Forrester offers the typical stiff scientist, while Sylvia exists for no reason other than to provide him with someone to tag along during the disaster – and become the inevitable love interest.

As for the other characters, they rarely register. Sylvia’s peacenik uncle Pastor Matthew Collins (Lewis Martin) makes the biggest dent, and he gets one of the film’s best scenes. However, he doesn’t stick onscreen for long, and the other personalities lack much spark.

The only real amusement I get from this War comes from recognition of references to it found it later movies. The 2005 War uses at least one or two very similar depictions, and 1996’s Independence Day clearly pays homage to the segment in which the military drops an A-bomb on the Martians.

I must admit the 1953 The War of the Worlds disappoints me. I didn’t expect the flair and panache of the Spielberg version, but movies don’t need to be shiny-new to be good.

Heck, I liked 1940’s Mark of Zorro although it was much less sophisticated than 1998’s Mask of Zorro. The 1953 War just seems cheesy and dull.

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

The War of the Worlds appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This Dolby Vision image wasn’t a slam dunk but it usually worked fairly well.

Sharpness was largely satisfying. Some effects-heavy elements could look a little tentative, but those instances became inevitable due to the photographic techniques.

In addition, the resolution of 4K meant some naturally soft shots became more obvious. Overall, the image offered pretty nice clarity and accuracy, though.

Both jagged edges and moiré effects remained absent, and I saw no edge haloes. With a light layer of grain, I suspected no noise reduction, and print flaws failed to mar the proceedings.

Colors also looked solid. With a fairly natural palette, the movie’s hues came across as bold and firm, though in an odd choice, a shot of Mars early in the film got changed from the expected orange/red to blue.

I suspect someone thought it was supposed to be Earth and gave it that look. Whatever the case, this was the only instance of incorrect colors I discerned, and the disc’s HDR gave the tones a bit of a boost.

Blacks felt appropriately dense and tight, while low-light shots presented good clarity and delineation. HDR added some impact to whites and contrast. Though not flawless, this felt like a fairly appealing presentation.

The 4K included a recently-remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Created by Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt, this version became a mixed bag.

On the positive side, the soundscape opened matters in a fairly satisfying manner. The track used the five channels to create a reasonably engaging setting, one that became more involving during the action scenes, of course.

Music didn’t hold up especially well in this vein, though. The score offered “semi-stereo” and didn’t show great localization. Effects blended pretty well, though.

Audio quality became an issue, however, mainly because the track appeared to use “non-vintage” stems for some of the material. These didn’t fit well with the original audio, so the combination of old and new failed to mesh in a convincing manner.

Put simply, the new stems didn’t match the old ones. These issues meant the track often just felt wrong.

Overall audio quality seemed fine, though again, the disconnect between old and new meant distractions. Distortion became more obvious in the remix as well. Burtt went a little too crazy with low-end, as the 2020 mix came across as too bass-heavy.

All of this made the 5.1 War a less than positive experience. Burtt tried too hard to make the movie sound modern and it just didn’t succeed, as the updated audio didn’t connect well with the film.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the Criterion Blu-ray from 2020? Both came with identical 5.1 mixes, but the 4K dropped the original monaural audio.

That became a problem for me since I preferred the 1953 track. As noted, I didn’t think the 5.1 remix suited the film, so the 4K’s absence of an alternative turned into a disappointment.

As for visuals, the Dolby Vision 4K improved black and hues – well, except for that aforementioned goof related to the color of Mars at the movie’s start – and sharpness received a minor boost. Grain became more prominent with the 4K vs. the BD, though as far as I could tell, this simply related to the format’s superior resolution. Both the 4K and the BD appeared to display the same grain, but it became more obvious on the 4K.

The 4K felt a little darker than the BD, but I thought this suited the material better. Visually, I preferred the 4K by a small margin, though in truth, the BD and the 4K looked pretty similar.

That meant I liked the BD more as an overall package because it gave us the original audio. If you enjoy the modern 5.1 remix, then you might dig the 4K more, but as noted, I really didn’t enjoy that version, so the inclusion of the 1953 mono made the Blu-ray the one to favor.

Extras largely repeat from the 2005 DVD, and we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from actors Ann Robinson and Gene Barry, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. That fact will probably delight the movie’s fans, but not much else in this dull commentary seems likely make them happy.

Robinson heavily dominates the chat. Barry only pops up a few times; he tells us a little about his life and career early and talks about how great the film is at the end, but otherwise he remains mostly silent. Barry doesn’t seem to remember a whole lot about the movie and he adds almost nothing to the discussion.

Robinson proves much more involved and informed, though I can’t say I feel like she tells us a whole lot of value. She goes into many general production notes and anecdotes.

She tells us little bits like problems with shoes and wigs, and she also talks about the film in general. A fair amount of dead air occurs, though Robinson makes sure the gaps never become too extended.

Too bad she simply doesn’t give us a whole lot of great information. Her notes usually stick with trivia and don’t dig into the film with much depth. We also get many comments of appreciation for the flick, as Robinson remains very impressed with it.

That’s fine, but I’d like more concrete data along with all the praise. This commentary meandered and rarely became particularly engaging.

For the second commentary, we hear from filmmaker Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns, and author Bill Warren. All three sit together for their own running, screen-specific chat.

This one works much better than its predecessor, as it covers many useful subjects. We get basic biographical notes about the actors and filmmakers, and we also learn a lot of tidbits related to the flick’s creation.

These largely focus on technical areas, as we find out how the visuals, effects and sound were created. We also get some very good notes about producer George Pal, with nice personal recollections.

Some of the best parts look into prior attempts to make a film of War. We get info about a 1925 script and hear about others who considered taking on the project; for instance, Alfred Hitchcock once nearly took the reins.

The participants all maintain enthusiasm for War; I may not agree with their feelings, but I respect their attitudes and think they bring a spark to the track. This comes through when they chat about their personal experiences with the film and how it impacted on them. Overall, this commentary offers a nice level of detail about the movie and becomes consistently entertaining and enjoyable.

Next we get a featurette entitled The Sky Is Falling: The Making of War of the Worlds. In this 29-minute, 59-second piece, we get remarks from Robinson, Barry, Burns, the Paramount art department’s Jack Senter, art director Al Nozaki, first assistant director Micky Moore, visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, George Pal: Man of Tomorrow author Justin Humphreys, visual effects supervisor Robert Skotak, costume designer’s daughter Diana Gemora, and actor Robert Cornthwaite.

“Falling” covers the atmosphere at Paramount in the early Fifties, the slow path War took to the screen and the impact of the Orson Welles radio show, producer George Pal’s prior work, casting, locations, sets and various aspects of the shoot, visual design and Martian elements, other effects like miniatures, cut sequences, and the film’s success and legacy.

Inevitably, some of the material from the commentaries repeats here. However, “Falling” keeps those elements to a minimum and brings out a lot of new information.

Even better, we get some fine behind the scenes footage. I love the test animation created by Harryhausen, and we also find many interesting raw clips. This is a tight and enjoyable little show.

HG Wells: The Father of Science Fiction runs 10 minutes, 29 seconds. We hear from filmmaker Nicholas Meyer, the HG Wells Society’s The Wellsian editor Dr. John S. Partington, and “Mr. Sci-Fi” Forrest J. Ackerman.

We get some basics of Wells’ life, the comparisons between Wells and Jules Verne, Wells’ prophecies and his politics, and how the War movie connected with its era.

“Father” is enjoyable and moderately informative, but it really needs to be longer. A life and career like Wells’ deserves more than 10 minutes of discussion.

At least we get a decent basic overview and some fun elements like Ackerman’s spot-on impression of Wells’ squeaky little speaking voice. The program follows this impersonation with actual footage of Wells, so we can acknowledge what a good job Ackerman does.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a very fun addition via the infamous October 30, 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast. This lasts 59 minutes, 30 seconds. The faux newscast format continues to work really well.

I can see why it freaked out audiences so much back in the day, and it still seems chilling; the attack on Manhattan is particularly effective. It's a very good listen and a nice addition to this set.

On a separate Blu-ray disc, we find 1951’s When Worlds Collide. I felt it deserved its own review, so click here for a full overview.

To summarize, though: Collide delivers a much more satisfying film than does World. The Blu-ray presents it pretty well, too.

While I try to view vintage movies through “old eyes”, 1953’s The War of the Worlds made this difficult, as almost everything about War dates it. I know that it maintains a prominent status in the history of science-fiction flicks, but nearly 70 years down the road, it doesn’t offer much entertainment for modern audiences. The 4K UHD boasts good visuals as well as a nice selection of bonus materials, but the inclusion of a 5.1 remix without the superior original audio becomes a drawback. While this 4K has some positives, the Criterion Blu-ray becomes the preferred version due to the auditory choices.

To rate this film visit the original review of WAR OF THE WORLDS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main