H G Wells and The War Of The Worlds (Delta 2005)
There is clearly a need for a good documentary outlining the history
of The War Of The Worlds and the life and times of H G Wells, but sadly
this production does not do as much as it might to fill that gap. As a
factual endeavour, it may stand light scrutiny as a reasonable outline
of Wells' life but one suspects that budget and copyright problems forced
some less than creative fudges. Most tellingly and given that some
considerable prominence is given to the Orson Wells broadcast, the absence
of any actual clips from the show borders on the perplexing. (Perhaps
with the arrival of the Spielberg/Cruise movie, the cost of material
like this has gone through the roof.) Alas, the terribly dry and earnest
narration cannot come close to plugging that yawning gap. We don't need
a description of events, (and not a very good one at that) we expect to
hear the words of Welles and his cohorts. This documentary would give the
incorrect impression to a layman that a recording of the broadcast simply
no longer exists.
In general, the script does the production very few favours. It plods in
weary fashion from one event to another in such a passionless way that
my attention really began to wander and early on takes a rather odd detour
to explain the historical roots of Halloween. Yes, for sure Orson Welles
broadcast his War Of The Worlds on Halloween eve, but I doubt that anyone
would find this additional historical subtext that interesting. It feels
like padding, and indeed some images are repeated over and over and
there are some desperately lacklustre location shots that looks like
they might have been provided by the local chamber of commerce. A
riveting picture of a wall of flowers brings to mind the words paint and drying.
The complete absence of any extra features is also disappointing. Surely
DVD is a documentary makers dream come true? The broadcast in full would
have been great, and what about book covers, or illustrations and stills
and clips from the 1953 movie? How about the Orson Welles news conference
the day after the broadcast, or his meeting with H G Wells? There really
is a wealth of material out there that could have elevated this production
from the merely worthy-but-dull to something a great deal more essential.
It distresses me to be so negative about this production especially as
I was kindly supplied a review copy, but while I'm sure there were good
intentions, the fact is that it is not particularly well written (the
dialogue is painful to listen to on occasion) and the production values
are less than stellar. The latter could easily be forgiven, but I can't
be so charitable about the way this documentary has been fact checked. I
am for instance a little perturbed at the section on the Welles broadcast.
People most assuredly did not take pot shots at invading Martians at
Grover's Mill as is suggested. The one famous photograph of a resident
armed with a rifle (not reproduced in this documentary) was a fabrication,
set up the following day by the newspapers who were keen to tar and
feather Welles. Equally the comment that Welles admitted to purposefully
engineering the panic in years later is only true in so much that he said
it, but it is not difficult with a minimal amount of research to discover
that Welles was a consummate liar. This vitally important caveat is missing.
I'm not enough of a H G Wells scholar to say if the errors relating to
Orson Welles presage more of the same, but it certainly lays a seed of doubt.
I suspect some students might like this DVD as it will save them a lot
of reading but given the above misgivings, I'd be hesitant about relying
on it for a good grade.
See also in: