The War of the Worlds in Film & Television, part 3
1994 saw the broadcast of the made for television film Without Warning. The film was made as a hommage to the Orson Welles broadcast of 1938, but only pays lip service to the general concept of an alien invasion told through the eyes of news reporters. In the film the Earth is attacked by aliens using meteors as an offensive weapon. Real reporters Bree Walker Lampley and Sander Vanocur were drafted in to lend veracity to the film, and apparently people (though only a small number) were fooled into believing it was real. I have to admit channel hopping into a trailer for this film many years ago which for a few seconds raised the hairs on the back of my neck. Such was the upset caused that CNN banned their reporters from appearing in such productions.
The biggest War Of The Worlds movie yet made was released in 1996, though you may not have realised it. Independence Day was a huge worldwide hit for the movie making team of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, but while it never appears to have been officially acknowledged, the movie has every appearance of being a sly remake of The War Of The Worlds, most notably because the implacable aliens are finally laid low by a virus, though the idea was updated to be a computer virus.
In 1997 the HBO channel broadcast a short-lived series called Perversions of Science, a spin-off from their series Tales from the Crypt. The episodes are based on the brilliant EC Weird Science comic book series of the 1950's and though there was not an actual War Of The Worlds adapatation in the original EC comics, the November 1950 (number 15) issue did run a story called Panic that was inspired by the radio broadcast. Perversions Of Science also did a story connected to the broadcast called Panic, but other than the shared titles, there seems to be no direct connection between the Weird Science comic and the episode of the television series. In this episode, (directed by horror mystro Tobe Hooper) two Martians living undercover on Earth are fooled into thinking a planned invasion has begun when they hear the broadcast.
2005 was of course the year of The War Of The Worlds, dominated by director Steven Spielberg, but with several other productions vying for public attention and a slice of the box office. Spielberg's War Of The Worlds naturally blew the competition away with a combination of awesome special effects and the directors usual deft touch, but then the other films never really stood a chance.
Director Timothy Hines turned out a well intentioned but truly awful War Of The Worlds film whose only redeeming feature was that he attempted to make a period piece set in England, while the low budget Asylum studio knocked out a modern day reinterpretation that tried hard, but in the final analysis was simply unable to rise above its B movie credentials. There is however hope for at least one more extraordinary film of The War Of Worlds, as Jeff Wayne, the genius behind the musical version is planning a computer-animated epic for 2007.
The very latest War Of The Worlds story to appear on Television is the oddest yet, but you can't help but think that an appearance on The Simpsons is a well deserved honour. The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XVII was broadcast in October 2006, and one of the three short stories making up the program was an affectionate spoof of the 1938 broadcast.
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