The War of the Worlds (1953)

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Released 8-May-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 81:58
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Byron Haskin

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Gene Barry
Ann Robinson
Les Tremayne
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Leith Stevens

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (64Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Released in 1953, this film version of HG Wells' novel of the same name broke new ground and rightly belongs in the league of classic SF films. Originally published circa 1896, in response to world events at the time, particularly the militarisation of Germany and the proximity of Mars, the novel caused widespread panic in 1938 when Orson Welles famous broadcast of the novel was mistaken for a real newscast. The film was directed by Byron Haskin, who after a decade of  roles as special effects maestro during the forties, had recently turned to directing. Not only notable for the innovative (for the time) special effects, which earned it an Oscar, the film is special for a variety of reasons. Now nearly fifty years old, the film has inspired numerous SF films, recently including Mars Attacks and Independence Day. On a more subtle note of interest to Trekkies, the Martian attack machines bear an uncanny resemblance to the Klingon's 'Bird of Prey' and the first example of the use of phasers, photon torpedoes (although described here generically as 'death rays') and shields can be seen in this movie! 

    The plot is simple and will be familiar to most. A night time comet and subsequent explosion are found to be due to a flaming meteorite which lands outside a quiet mid-west American town. Investigated initially by the locals, including the pastor, help is soon sought from a group of Pacific Tech scientists camped nearby on a fishing trip. Notable scientist Dr Clayton Forrester, played by Gene Barry, soon discovers the meteorite is radioactive and having made sure it is properly secured by a trio of local yokels adjourns to the evening square dance accompanied by the local sweetheart and Science Teacher, Sylvia van Buren played by Ann Robinson. The evening's entertainment is brought to a premature halt when the power fails, watches stop at the same time and the night-time darkness is lit only by an eerie glow coming from the location of the fallen meteorite. Investigation of the crash site the following day reveals the powdered outlines of the three men left to guard the site and the first sighting of the Martian machine and invincible Heat-Ray leads to a hasty call to the military and rapid deployment of America's finest to surround and quash the invaders.

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Transfer Quality


    Considering the age of this film, the overall quality of the film is very good and obviously comes from a near-pristine film master.

    The film was shot in 1:33:1 and is presented in the same full-screen aspect ratio.

    The transfer is surprisingly clean and presented in a slightly soft focus characteristic of films of this era. This has a rather pleasing pastel effect on the colours, especially skin tones. Much of the film is shot in low-light and there is a good level of shadow detail. Low level noise is infrequent and hard to spot - one example is in the lamp at 25:57.

    Colours were slightly muted with a tinge of sepia probably as a result of aging of the film stock. The transfer was good with no evident chroma noise or blurring.

    There were very few MPEG artefacts. There was mild pixelization, only visible on the large screen, on the buildings at 38:55 and aliasing was almost non-existent (mildly seen around the alien search probe at 16:20). As would be expected in a film of this age, film artefacts are common with very fine black flecks throughout the film. These seem to have been largely cleaned up and weren't obtrusive apart from inset archival footage of aerial shots at 37:19 and 37:49. There was a hair seen at 41:00 and reel change markings were evident throughout the film - examples are at 38:35, 57:20 and 74:38.

    There are no less than 12 languages available in subtitles. The English subtitles were mostly accurate but occasionally were a little on the abbreviated side.

    The disc was single layered and thus no layer transition was evident.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are six audio tracks on this film, two in English and the rest foreign language versions. The default track is Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and the other English audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. In keeping with the original analogue recording, there was significant wow and flutter evident during the opening music.

    The dialogue was very clear and in both audio versions directed principally to the centre speaker. There was some lag in the audio synch although this did not detract from the film.

    The musical accompaniment to the film is credited to Leith Stevens and as the film is dialogue-heavy, this is mostly supportive of the action sequences, sounding similar to many Westerns' scores.

    The front main and surrounds were mostly very quiet and sprang to life in a limited though worthwhile fashion only during the action sequences. It took some time of careful listening to be able to distinguish between the surround and mono versions. The first major confrontation with the aliens starting at 37:19 demonstrates nice panning effects of alien shots and some background explosions of the assembled artillery.

    The subwoofer was not supported throughout the film and unless you have it hard wired into your front mains or LFE ported from your processor it will remain silent.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Apart from an original theatrical trailer there are no extras which is a great pity considering the place in cinema history that this film holds and considering how most of the players are unknown to present day audiences.


   The menu is static and displayed in non 16x9 enhanced full-screen 1.33:1.

Theatrical Trailer

    Original theatre trailer of 2:13 presented in 1.33:1. Similar style to the old Newsreel cinema presentations.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 version of this film seems to be identical to the R4 version apart from R1 encoding and NTSC presentation.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:


    An obvious low-budget release of a classic film and a 'must-have' for any Sci-Fi addict. In some ways, the lack of whizz-bang soundtrack and heaps of extras lends added focus to what is a very fine movie although a little more background information about the production of the original and DVD would have been welcome.

    The video quality is good considering the age of the film.

    The audio quality is satisfactory with the surround encoded Dolby Digital 2.0 track being a worthwhile enhancement. For the purists, the original (restored) mono track makes for interesting (though lacklustre) listening and illustrates how far movie soundtracks have come.

    Aside from the storyline, fans of military history and hardware will undoubtedly find much of interest in the field artillery and World War archival footage as well as a glimpse of life in LA in the early Fifties.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Lancaster (read my bio)
Friday, April 19, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-900E, using RGB output
DisplayPioneer SD-T50W1 (127cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon ACV-A1SE. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTheta Digital Intrepid
SpeakersML Aeon front. B&W LRC6 Centre. ML Script rear. REL Strata III SW.

Other Reviews NONE
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