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The War of the Worlds

Year: 1953
Studio: Paramount
Director: Byron Haskin
Producer: George Pal
Writer: Barré Lyndon/H G Wells
Cast: Gene Barry

It's hard to remember all the details of the first big film adaptation of H G Wells seminal work, but anyone who's ever read a science fiction magazine will recognise the manta ray-shaped UFOs with their death rays.

In true Hollywood fashion (and based in part on Orson Welles' infamous 1938 radio broadcast), the action is transposed from the Surrey town of Woking to New Jersey as the Martian ships land and start attacking humanity.

Director Haskin abandoned Wells' tripods (taken up again in both Jeff Wayne's 1978 musical and Steven Spielberg's 2005 remake) to create the iconic green ray-like craft.

As scientists and the stoic hero (Barry) struggle the understand the invasion and fight back, the communist metaphors fly thick and fast from the screen - paranoia about the godless hordes overrunning us, pillaging our resources and destroying our way of life.

It's a very old script that has spoken to the cultural concerns of the human race since we crawled out of the swamp, and it won't die in a hurry. Attach the flashy special effects technology of the day and you have a guaranteed hit.

I'd be interested to read the book to see if Wells tacked a religious ending on the way Haskin and screenwriter Lyndon did.

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