Monster of the Day #22

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, and slowly and surely joined their plans against us.

  • Ericb

    Is that the first nonhumanoid movie alien?

  • Sorta yes, sorta no. War of the Worlds had a February 1953 premiere in Hollywood, but wasn’t officially released until August. Invaders from Mars was released in April of that year. So it depends whether you count the premiere as an official launch or not.

    The Twonky was a device from the future, not an alien, so it doesn’t count.

  • BeckoningChasm

    I love this movie, and I love this alien. The film does so many things absolutely right (and a number of things wrong, too).

    Invaders from Mars was still pretty humanoid, particularly the face. (I assume you’re talking about the High Commander or whatever the thing in the globe was called.)

  • Gamera

    Another film that diverged a great distance from the original novel but damn what a great movie!Maybe the war machines are a far cry from being ‘tripods’ but they have to be some of the most menacing ‘ships’ in any SF film or TV. The hissing sound of the machines and the throbbing drone of the heat ray being powered up never fail to send a chill up my spine. And the aliens themselvies were pretty cool too ;).

    BTW: is there a good, even decent film or TV adaption that sticks close to the novel, pre-World War One etc time period etc? I heard the Pendragon production was horrible.

  • Yes, the commander alien was definitely non-humanoid.

    Gamera: I wouldn’t think so. I think it would be too expensive, and given the recent Spielberg film, they may feel it’s been done. Actually, given the advances in f/x, you might think the BBC would take a crack at a mini-series or something.

  • Gamera

    Thanks Ken, yeah I’d think a period piece would only appeal to a small handful of people like me.

  • TongoRad

    I would hope that the BBC would at least have the decency to finally finish the ‘Tripods’ series before embarking on a similar project :) It’s only been like 25 years…

    I’m not too crazy about the added religious voiceovers/subtext to the story, but I tend to agree that this movie does so many things right that I can overlook something like that.

  • A movie based on the right time period with terrible CGI effects came out at the same time as the Spielberg production.

    I don’t think the movie requires a 1910 mentality or setting – Wells set the story in what was, to him, the modern era, and it works just fine there.

    I also don’t think that the George Pal production played fast and loose with the book – the point of the book isn’t that the Martians used tripods, it was that they used nigh-unstoppable war machines to destroy us, and the Pal WotW has that aplenty.

  • Ericb

    Technically speaking those ships were tripods. The ships weren’t flying, they were held up by antigravity beams of which each ship had three.

  • Eric’s right, you can see them sparking on the undercarriage of the ships.

  • Rock Baker

    Great film! Gorgeous Technicolor, Ann Robinson, Cool Martian ships/heat rays/miniatures, Army vs Monster action, Ann Robinson, commanding musical score, a fine cast, and Ann Robinson! One of the first films I saw as a kid, just love it!

    I guess how intrusive you find the religious overtones to be depends on where you’re coming from. I know they’re absent from the book, but I always felt they added something extra to the film. Where I come from you appreciate that sort of thing whenever it shows up, it helps to counter the more anti-religious attitudes you find in more modern films (but that’s a whole other issue and I doubt anyone wants to get into that debate!!).

    Apart from the Wells radio version, this has to be the best retelling of the story I’ve seen. Seems like there were about six new versions that popped up in Speilberg’s wake. His film was the most impressive visually, but the major complaint I hear on that one was that he left the actual WAR out of the movie. If he hadn’t done it earlier, I think he should’ve shot War of the Worlds in black and white (the colors are so muted anyway, seems like a waste of color stock) and had the red weeds (an element that didn’t really go as far as it could’ve) be in color. The period piece film was a good idea, but was awful! It looked WORSE than those computer graphics the History Channel uses to demonstrate battlefield tactics and ancient construction. I’d been looking forward to the battle with the ironclad since I read the book, and it was probably the worst sequence in the film.

    On a fun side note (that I’m sure we all already know), Harryhausen toyed with idea of doing a War of the Worlds movie and even shot some test footage of the Martians. I imagine a project of such scope might’ve taxed even Ray’s patience!

  • Plissken79

    This movie was already over 25 years old when I was born, but it still scared the heck out of me when I was a kid.

    The film still holds up very well, it is ironic that Spielberg’s dreadful remake from a few years back is not only nowhere near as good but less believable as well.

  • Gamera

    Sorry the Pendragon film I refered to was the same period film you have in mind Sandy and Rock. And Sandy I’m in no way knocking the Pal film. I love it and note there’s a lot of TLC Pal and company took in updating the film. The scene where the USAF nukes the Martians and when the smoke clears to reveal them to be completly untouched is one of the most effective scenes I’ve ever seen in any movie. I just think it would be interesting to do a period version. Well I can read the novel and use my imagination- no skin off my teeth!

    And yeah Eric I guess the Pal version would still be tripods- good catch! I need to go back and watch my DVD again.

  • BeckoningChasm

    By the way, I recently saw (via Netflix) the 1980’s “War of the Worlds” series. It’s not terribly good–it’s 1980s cheese–but one of the episode does show one of the Pal war machines as an actual tripod, with actual legs.

  • Rock Baker

    The War of the Worlds TV series had its moments, the first seaon anyway -before they changed the whole format. However, the main thing I remembered as a kid was how gory the show was, probably the first gore I was really exposed to. I think it was the episode “To us a Child is Born” that actually showed a woman’s leg getting ripped off in loving close-up, and this was still the 80s! I avoided the show for a long time because of that, but recently saw the show again and its not a total dud. At times, its really pretty good (again, I’m talking about the first season here). If nothing else, the pilot movie is worth a watch. And as it turns out, the episode I mentioned was really the roughest and meanest of the bunch. I’m still not sure how they were able to air it at the time.

  • BeckoningChasm

    The makers of the TV show sometimes seemed to know just how silly the material was–there was an episode in which a subliminal message was slipped into a song, and the lead scientist guy was totally entranced by it. And the song? The music from the end credits! They even had the composer killed in the opening minutes.

    They frequently referenced the Pal film–they even had Ann Robinson playing Sylvia Van Buren.

    I never saw the second season–so far as I know, it isn’t available–but the producers did manage one “What?” move in the first. Turns out the aliens weren’t from Mars (despite a show set in Grover’s Mill) but from some planet called “Moretax.” (I would make a political comment here, but…)

  • The Rev. D.D.

    Man, those ships spooked me as a kid. The noises, the ashy outlines of the victims of the heat rays, the chap up above…and it was a good movie, too. It still holds up pretty well to this day.

    Rock–Yeah, that show was surprisingly high-grue. I VIVIDLY remember, to this day, that episode with the forced leg removal…yeek! My whole family was shocked by it, and this was a show that regularly featured people melting into puddles of goo.

    Then they brought in the new aliens and it just kind of fell apart.

    I think I saw the edited broadcast of “Alien before this, so that was probably my first gore experience (even edited that chestburster scene was intense), but this was likely second.

  • I love this movie. It scared the bejeepers out of me as a kid.

    WotW TV show – Cheese, Grade A cheese. It’s funny, I hadn’t even thought about the TV show in years, then it came up in conversation while Ken and I were driving to Tween-Fest. We were joking that we probably had 66% of the total audience in the van.

    I was floored when The New Gladiators hit the screen and half the audience said, “Hey, that’s the guy from the War of the Worlds show!”

  • Marsden

    My Mom had some end tables with a kind of floral design in a cut out between the top surface and the main table. Why am I mentioning this? It was basically three eyeshapes in a pattern, It looked like about a dozen of those aliens staring at me.

    It’s amazing sometimes what we saw as kids compared to what we want our kids to see now. (At least, for those of us that have kids.}

    Re: the TV show, I thought it was cool. It stuck faithfully to the movie and I think the aliens used Mars as a staging area to assault Earth which is why they were believed to be Martians. Don’t forget in 1900 there were scientist types that actually thought those mark on Mars were “canals” so Martians could actually be considerd plausable and not pure fantasy. 1950s when the movie came out, I don’t think they cared as much about plausible or not, it was very effective as it was, but in the 80s I think it’s safe to say calling them Martians is somewhat silly, plausability wise.

    One thing I did like about the book a bit better is that even though we were losing the war but we did manage to kill a couple of the tripods, mostly when the ship rammed them when they were wading into the water.

    The voice over didn’t make much difference to me, but it does seem to depart from the book. Also, the movie martians seem to depend on only one type of weapon, beam rays (red and green) but don’t have their black smoke or red weeds.

    I didn’t bother to see the scientologist version a few years back, it looked like crap.

  • Marsden

    Sorry, one last note on the TV show. All that only applied to the 1 and only season, the alleged 2nd season was Shit.

    I really liked the first season episode where John Calicos was the only alien from the first invasion that didn’t succumb to the bacteria and has been running around since then.

  • BeckoningChasm

    I hated the Tom Cruise version–it was a celebration of defeatism, and the aliens were the usual Patrick Tatopolis ecch–but it did bring in the red weed. Of course, it never said anything about the weeds, so folks I spoke to were all, “Yeah, what was that about?”