War of the Worlds (1953)
Location, location, location. Any good real estate agent knows that is the most important consideration when looking for a new home. And the advice must be universal because it is the number one criteria the Martians use to decide where next to park their spaceships. After looking around the solar system, they conclude Earth's proximity to the sun is perfect: Not too hot, and not too cold. The blue and green color scheme will also be a welcome change from their present red monotony. The only obvious problem with the planet is its infestation of pesky humans--but that's easy enough to fix.
Unaware their plot of ground is in question, the aforementioned humans go about their regular routines, completely oblivious to anything above them until a meteor falls from the sky. Even then, they simply regard the unusual piece of space debris as a possible tourist attraction. Just for good measure though, the good people of the small Californian town ask the opinion of a celebrated scientist, who coincidentally is vacationing in the area.
Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) is happy to examine the still-smoldering, extra-terrestrial rock. Using a Geiger counter (which he just happens to have packed along with his fishing tackle), the atomic energy expert appears merely bemused by the machine's crescendo of beeps when it is pointed toward the unidentified, once-flying object. Then, the mound begins to move.
Slowly and gracefully extending a probe-like head above its shroud of rubble, a glowing red eye examines the astonished crowd of looky-loos. Suddenly it opens fire, shooting a ray capable of reducing flesh to ash.
Horrified, the frightened civilians call the military for help, and learn similar experiences are occurring around the globe. Responding to the attack, the army sends in a troop of their best men. As they engage in battle with the alien invaders, and The War of the Worlds begins.
Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, this 1953 movie adaptation has become a cult classic. Like other films similarly revered, it possesses a definite cheesiness, despite winning a Best Special Effects Oscar. Looking like it belongs to the Neanderthal period of the science fiction evolution, contemporary audiences are apt to find a few unintentional chuckles in this serious script. Some examples of these are the "duck and cover" protection measures (welder's goggles and a sandbag barrier) used when witnessing an atomic bomb detonation, a helpless leading lady (played by Ann Robinson) who either screams or faints as a cue to every scary scene, and Dr. Forrester's wild speculations (based on no scientific data) which provide the only plot explanations.
Nevertheless, the story manages to build some suspense, especially for younger or less-seasoned viewers, when a being from Mars gets his suction-cupped fingertips on one of the protagonists. Other concerns for families are the depictions of death and destruction. Although brief and not very gory, they include soldiers with their uniforms on fire, bloody wounds from fighting with rioting mobs, and the bludgeoning of an alien machine/creature.
For those who enjoy a feature with a little corn (popped or otherwise), director George Pal's The War of the Worlds delivers everything the 1950s could throw at the intruders--and the production. Dated as it may be, this buyer-beware tale still delivers one eternal truth: It's the little things that prove to be the biggest obstacles.