The War of the Worlds (review by Doug Smith)
All you scientologists can rest easy, as I won’t be lampooning your favorite spokesperson, even though Tommy makes much better fodder than anyone in this movie. This is the original classic, based on H.G. Wells’ novel, which is one of my favorite books. This was also the first serious science fiction film I rented when I was but a wee lad. In a nutshell, the inhabitants of Mars are bummed out because their world sucks, so they decide to take over Earth. So much for those micro-organisms they were talking about a few years ago…
Dr. Clayton Forrester is played by Trace Beaulieu…wait, wrong thing. Dr. Clayton Forrester is played by Gene Barry, who’s probably most famous for his role as Bat Masterson, which is just incredibly fun to say. Clay’s love interest, Sylvia Van Buren, is played by Ann Robinson. Ann went on to reprise her role in the short-lived television series of the same name, and in a movie titled “The Naked Monster,” which I think is about when David Duchovny posed naked for Playgirl. Les Tremayne plays Major General Mann. Les is probably most well known for his role as “Additional Voices” in “Challenge of the GoBots.” Robert Cornthwaite, who had a very prestigious role on an episode of “Kate & Allie,” is Dr. Pryor. Finally, Sandro Giglio stars as Dr. Bilderbeck. Sandro also was in “The Big Boodle,” which is yet another fun thing to say.
The film opens with a bunch of stock footage and the narrator talking about various wars. Then the titles rolls by and they look like M*A*S*H titles, only in Technicolor! After that, the narrator goes on to talk about Mars, whose inhabitants are looking for a new world to live on. He goes through all the various planets, but includes Pluto, which as we all now know, is no longer a planet. He also says that they can’t go to Uranus because it’s too gassy. Eventually, he gets to Earth, and, obviously, that seems to be the only planet the Martians can live on. Otherwise we wouldn’t really have a movie, now would we?
DATELINE! SMALL TOWN CALIFORNIA! A meteor crashes into the mountains, with a decidedly unimpressive “thud,” and again I’m confronted with a movie in which the meteors look like Tinkerbell. The locals all point and several “pull my finger” jokes could be made. Then we’re whisked off to some park ranger or military or police station or something. I’m not entirely sure. Whatever it is, there’s a really lumpy guy who looks like an old, worn out pillow and he provides a little comic relief. Well, not really, but I’m pretty sure the filmmakers intended it to be funny. Anyway, they’re concerned because the meteor has started a “blaze,” so they send a bunch of people over there. As it turns out, the blaze is really only a few little grass fires. Hell, Richard Simmons is a bigger flamer than these so-called fires. Also, the meteor looks to be where they got the inspiration for the meteor in “Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster.”
The firemen/police/rangers/whatever eventually manage to put the inferno out using little tools that they have to stroke like Jonah Falcon’s schlong. One of the officials is concerned about the meteor, but it just so happens there’s some guys fishing nearby and they happen to be scientists. How convenient! They send the little comic relief/lumpy pillow/Michelin Man guy over to talk to the scientists. He promptly invites himself to dinner whilst explaining the situation with his mouth full. A laugh a minute, this guy! One of the scientists, Dr. Forrester, decides to go to the crash site the next day.
The next day, people are kibitzing around the meteor and the local minister is there with them. People feel obligated to explain the situation to him because, you know, God saves and all. Just ask George W. Bush and his ultra-conservative Neo-Christian cabinet members. Pompous, bible thumping son of a bitch…
But I digress. Eventually Dr. Forrester shows up and plays mind games with the minister’s daughter, Sylvia. Much melodramatics ensue and Dr. F decides to stick around until the next day, when the meteor will be cool enough to get close to. Just his luck, there’s a square dance in town! Really, the only thing square about the dance is the people who are there.
That night, while people are enjoying the square dance … wow, that just doesn’t sound right. I mean, “enjoying” and “square dance” just don’t go together unless “enjoying” is used in the negative. Like, “I’m really not enjoying this lame-ass piece of shit square dance and why the hell did I come?” At any rate, while most of the townspeople are there, the three guys they left in charge of the meteor talk amongst themselves until they hear a noise and notice the meteor moving. At first they think it’s a bomb, but then they realize it’s unscrewing itself. A regular brain trust, these three.
Eventually, it completely unscrews itself to reveal its Fisher fresh center, out of which comes a metallic phallic symbol with a blinking eye. The three guys decide it’s from Mars and that they should try to communicate with it. Because, you know, the Martians will most certainly speak English. They get about five steps towards the meteor and quickly get vaporized.
Meanwhile, back at the…gag…square dance, the power goes out, hearing aides die, the phones die and all clocks and watches stop. Gee, do you think this could have something to do with the … METEOR!??! Dr. F and a couple cops drive back up the mountains only to discover a blown up car and three body outlines on the ground. One of the cops panics, drives away and promptly gets blown up.
The next scene features a bunch of plot exposition, with a wormy news reporter asking scientists a bunch of questions and the military arriving on the scene. They quickly get their asses kicked, panic, and run away. At this point, I’m only about 20 minutes into the movie, so if I continued to write this way for the entire review, it would be about 5,000 words long. Let me sum it up for you:
The Martians attack, kill a bunch of people, destroy a lot of cities and landmarks and eventually succumb to a cold virus. There you have it. This is actually a classic movie. Like I said earlier, this is the first sci-fi movie I rented, so maybe I’m just a little biased. I have yet to see the new version starring Tommy Boy Cruise (there’s a waste of flesh, if ever I saw one) and probably won’t, unless it rears its ugly head in my “coming soon” list. I give this movie a full five yaks.