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The War of the Worlds: Criterion Collection (1953) - Blu-ray Review

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The War of the Worlds (1953)

“No one would have believed, in the middle of the 20th century, that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by Intelligences greater than man's. Yet, across the gulf of space on the planet Mars, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our Earth with envious eyes, slowly and surely drawing their plans against us.“ 

"Everything in this film became staples for the alien invasion movies that followed in its wake"


With those opening lines, our narrator, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, welcomes viewers to the otherworldly canvas that fans of H.G. Welles know so well, The War of the Worlds.  The loose adaptation might change the location of Welles’ Victorian age novel from England to a small town in Southern California, but the threat of invaders from Mars remains the same.  

And what a threat it is!  Electronic eyeballs attached to articulated tentacles, spaceships that look like threatening manta rays, the skeleton beam, the distinctive laser sound (which would be the go-to sound for lasers for over a decade), and three-fingered aliens that would later serve as the basis for E.T.’s design.  They are all here as extraterrestrials decide that Earth would be the perfect stomping ground for their new home away from home.

The hills are alive with the sound of . . . the Atomic Age!!! {googleads}

Cautionary tales do not get anymore pronounced than they do in 1953’s The War of the Worlds.  After all, this film, now a part of National Film Registry in the Library of Congress, completes producer George Pal’s trilogy of Cold War-era alien invasion flicks - following When Worlds Collide and Destination Moon - so the message to the masses is firmly in place as the threat of Russia was increasing.  Invasion was already on the minds of most moviegoers, but that gets overlooked thanks to the glorious special effects, which remain a triumph of the imagination.

How on Earth could the Christian themes stuffed into this alien invasion compete with epic-looking flying saucers, complete with bold reds, streaming greens, and blistering yellows?  They can’t.  From the crisp model work to the vivid technicolor elements, there’s no chance for humanity as these flying saucers - looking nothing like previously seen in films - make their way through farmlands and cities while vaporizing all the humans who they come in contact with.The War of the Worlds (1953)

But, let’s be honest here, The War of Worlds - while it did win the Oscar for best Special Effects - went over the heads of most adults who saw it when it comes to themes of survival in the face of communist (I mean, alien)  invaders.  The film survives because of the kids and teenagers who saw it and LOVED it.  Those bright, neon lights; the sound of the lasers being fired; the ravaging through cities; the glimpse at the alien piloting the ships; all of it worked to fuel imaginations and nightmares for future writers and filmmakers alike.

Directed by Byron Haskin with a screenplay by Barre Lyndon, The War of the Worlds wears its Cold War influences proudly as Gene Barry as Dr. Clayton Forrester and Ann Robinson as Sylvia van Buren find themselves in a fight for their and the world’s lives against invaders from Mars in the Atomic Age.  Everything in this film became staples for the alien invasion movies that followed in its wake.  From the small towns to the farmers who discover the crash sites, it’s all here and, thanks to the work of Criterion and Paramount Pictures, can be seen and heard in an entirely new way!

This is what happens when Mars attacks!

5/5 stars

The War of the Worlds (1953)

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- July 7, 2020
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: LPCM Mono; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

A mysterious, meteor-like object has landed in a small California town. All clocks have stopped. A fleet of glowing green UFOs hovers menacingly over the entire globe. The Martian invasion of Earth has begun, and it seems that nothing—neither military might nor the scientific know-how of nuclear physicist Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry)—can stop it. In the expert hands of genre specialists George Pal and Byron Haskin, H. G. Wells’s end-of-civilization classic receives a chilling Cold War–era update, complete with hallucinatory Technicolor and visionary, Oscar-winning special effects. Emblazoned with iconographic images of 1950s science fiction, The War of the Worlds is both an influential triumph of visual imagination and a still-disquieting document of the wonder and terror of the atomic age.  The Criterion Collection presents this NEW transfer with a 4K digital restoration and a new 5.1 surround soundtrack, created by sound designer Ben Burtt and presented in DTS-HD Master Audio!

Video:

The new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, is pure genius as new depths are discovered and colors trumped up left and right.  The 3-strip technicolor, thanks to some grade-A remastering, hits all the right notes as the aspect ratio of 1.37:1 remains the original.  Fine details are present throughout and colors are gorgeous.  Black levels are deep, textured, and never waver.  Remaining true to the glowing color palette of its original run, the crisp 1080p results are positively luminous.  Criterion delivers another fantastic restoration.  The film looks clean and clear throughout with little grain, a stable image and a minimum of dust and scratches. Most of the film takes place at night but thanks to good contrast and shadow detail the picture is very watchable. The saturated colors are particularly vivid; the white levels are strong without blooming.  

Audio:

The new alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, created by sound designer Ben Burtt and presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray, is a relative goldmine of sounds, explosions, and alien attacks!  Turn it up and prepare to be fascinated!

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There was no reason to change or improve the Joe Dante commentary, featuring film historian Bob Burns, and author Bill Warren, and so they didn’t.  It is awesome.

Special Features:

If the new artwork from Patrick Leger isn’t enough to inspire a purchase, I am not sure anything else I have to say about this inspired release will help pull the trigger.  This release is pure gold, made complete with the 4K digital restoration, the new soundtrack, the commentary, two NEW supplemental items on the special effects and restoration, and audio interviews.  Plus, the full broadcast of Orson Welles' radio play!  Scoop this up soon!

  • Audio commentary from 2005 featuring filmmaker Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns, and author Bill Warren
  • Movie Archaeologists, a new program on the visual and sound effects in the film featuring Burtt and film historian Craig Barron
  • From the Archive, a new program about the film’s restoration featuring Barron, Burtt, and Paramount Pictures archivist Andrea Kalas
  • Audio interview with producer George Pal from 1970
  • The Sky Is Falling, a 2005 documentary about the making of the film
  • The Mercury Theatre on the Air radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds from 1938, directed and narrated by Orson Welles
  • Radio program from 1940 featuring a discussion between Welles and H. G. Wells, author of the 1897 novel The War of the Worlds
  • Trailer

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

5/5 stars

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The Hustle (2019)

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
85 mins
Director
: Byron Haskin
Writer:
Barré Lyndon
Cast:
Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne
Genre
: Sci-fi
Tagline:
A mighty panorama of earth-shaking fury!
Memorable Movie Quote: "All radio is dead, which means that these tape recordings I'm making are for the sake of future history - If any."
Theatrical Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
August 26, 1953
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 7, 2020.
Synopsis: A mysterious, meteorlike object has landed in a small California town. All clocks have stopped. A fleet of glowing green UFOs hovers menacingly over the entire globe. The Martian invasion of Earth has begun, and it seems that nothing—neither military might nor the scientific know-how of nuclear physicist Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry)—can stop it.

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The Hustle (2019)

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