KLAATU YOU (35)
August 26, 2020
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.
WAR OF THE WORLDS | d. BYRON HASKIN | 1953
When I like things, I really like them. The way a stalker likes things — too much.
This is certainly true when it comes to this old movie. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. Sometimes I watch it a couple of times a week. It’s almost unhealthy.
Some of this is due is nostalgia, of course. I loved it as a child because it is a very intense and scary film. I waited desperately each year for it to show up randomly in the TV Guide or on late-night TV. More importantly, it might be because I saw it for the first time with my father and that’s a rare memory for me. I can hardly recall anything we sat down and watched together on our old black-and-white. He let me stay up to see it and stuck around without wandering off to bed. I think he enjoyed it. I know what I felt. Riveted. Terrified. Certainly, I will never forget just how intensely frightened I was when that Martian eye first appeared from the meteor and disintegrated those deputies. The throbbing sound of the heat ray as it warms up… ZUM ZUM ZUM… I still feel a visceral shiver just typing this out.
All this doesn’t explain why I watch War of the Worlds so much, though. Lots of films scared me as a kid — certainly the Wizard of Oz scared me more — and if I wished to recreate times with my dad, it wouldn’t be old TV that I’d look to. No, It’s something else that draws me back. Something within the movie itself. Somehow this old end-of-the-world movie gives me comfort — it makes me feel safe. When you strip away the genre elements of the film (Martians, spaceships, heat rays), you are left with other tropes that are more essential. It’s really a small-town bucolic mixed with a meet-cute romance. And it’s a war picture, too — but I’ll get to that in a minute. For such a special-effects extravaganza it’s surprisingly a rather small film. Square dances and farm houses and many scenes of just-folks glued to the radio. There is a lot of talk about family. In fact, the romance between Silvia and Dr. Forester is actually more about establishing a new family than about romantic love. He never kisses her, not even once.
The other essential element (the war picture stuff) is that this movie was made in that short era after WWII when the military were still seen as the good guys. And even though the army isn’t up to the task of stopping the Martians, all those confident men in uniforms (soldiers, generals, police, firemen, Civil Defense, etc.) create a safe and protected feeling for the viewer that everything will be all right. The idea that civil society will handle everything responsibly may be a postwar thing that has entirely ceased to exist for us. Kind of like when you were a kid, how you thought your dad could do anything. Only later, when you started to grow up, did you find out about those feet of clay.
KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Brian Berger on THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
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