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The Complete War of the Worlds (2001)

The Complete War of the Worlds

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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The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles

The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles. The infamous radio broadcast that panicked America on Halloween night.

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