If you want to get your hands on both the original H.G. Wells novel and the script to the
Orson Welles radio broadcast in one go, then is certainly worth considering.
The book opens with an introduction by Ray Bradbury then launches into the Orson Welles
broadcast. There is a particularly impressive array of photographs in this section, more
I think than I have seen assembled before in one place. There are numerous photographs
of Welles both behind the microphone and directing the Mercury Theatre players, as well
as pictures of Grover's Mill, newspaper articles, cartoons and several rare images of
John Houseman and Howard Koch, Welles producer and chief writer respectively. The
accompanying text is pretty good as well, detailing the build up to the broadcast and
its aftermath. It is certainly nice to see Howard Koch receiving proper credit for his
role as writer (which Welles tried to suppress) and a decent reflection of the events
in the studio that night. Plenty of accounts of the panic on the streets spice up the
article, though the author can't help but include a few of the more sensational reports,
including the very likely false one that local Grover's Mill residents shot up their
water tower thinking it was a Martian Tripod.
The full script to the broadcast follows then another short article focusing on The
Mercury Theatre and more material on the making of the War of the Worlds. A third
article looks at other panic broadcasts, including those in Santiago, Chile (just
a brief paragraph unfortunately) and Quito in Ecuador. The book is rounded off by
the full text of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. The accompanying CD contains as
mentioned previously, the full Mercury Theatre broadcast, plus the classic encounter
years later between Orson Welles and H.G. Wells (in which Wells buried the hatchet
having apparently forgiven his young namesake for rewriting his book to such
unfortunate effect) and a short extract from a 1968 re-interpretation of the broadcast
by a Buffalo radio station.
All in all his is a very handsome production and while by its nature it can never
get especially in-depth in its analysis and detail, the sheer range of the book is
extremely impressive. If you want a book that covers all the bases, you would be
hard pressed to find better, though of course I would be remiss in not recommending my
own book, Waging the War of the Worlds, which covers the 1938 broadcast in considerably
greater detail, as well as 9 other extraordinary radio War of the Worlds panics that occurred later.
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See also in:
The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles. The infamous radio broadcast that panicked America on Halloween night.