THE WAR OF THE WORLDS: SPECIAL COLLECTOR'S EDITION (PARAMOUNT HOME VIDEO)  

Strange how time can sometimes alter the manner in which one enjoys a favorite film. As a child, George Pal's 1952 version of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS was frequently on television as well constantly reissued in theatres (usually double-billed with Pal's WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE), and I rarely missed an opportunity to be put under its spell, so entranced was I by its state-of-the-art visual and audio effects, as well as its nailbitingly frightening scenes. At the time I considered it one of the most engrossingly entertaining cinematic experiences of all time.

After viewing Paramount's sparkling and pristine dvd rendition of this groundbreaking film I can safely say that my opinion hasn't changed. In point of fact seeing this film again is probably the most exhilarating viewing experience I've had this year and certainly the most fun. But oh how the intervening years have altered the precise way I relish this particular movie! 

What was once suspenseful and terrifying is now just plain hilarious, certainly moreso than Tim Burton's comparatively recent similarly-themed fiasco MARS ATTACKS! There exist so many scenes to savor in this Pal-pic that to itemize them would take an eternity, but I'll list just a precious few. I love the scene where the first three men to witness the saucer go to great lengths to approach it with a white flag--"Everybody knows a white flag means we want to be friends," one of them says. Of course they do. And what about the scene where the priest declares, "Nobody's tried to talk to them," and walks right up to the saucer holding a Bible and reciting the Twenty-Third Psalm? (Perhaps they should have tried a rabbi?) And isn't it comforting to know that at the first confrontation between the Army and the Martians our heroine is ever-present with a tray of steaming coffee and a generous display of donuts and yummy-looking pastries which the supremely overconfident Army personnel devour with great enthusiasm? (Slaying Martians is one hunger-inducing job.) And clearly whoever was President at the time this attack took place missed an important military option: how about invading Iraq? I could go on and on but in no way could I convey the sublime level of enjoyment to be derived from this fanciful cinematic treat.

Distinguished leading performances in science-fiction films of this era are as rare as hen's teeth, but certainly leading man Gene Barry's incredibly level-headed and grounded work as a conscientious scientist deserves (along with Michael Rennie's and Walter Pidgeon's in THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and FORBIDDEN PLANET respectively) inclusion in that very small group and, boy oh boy, those special effects still pack a unique visual punch as do the hypnotically riveting sound effects. (It remains to this day easy to see why three Academy Award nominations were bestowed on this film.) 

Paramount Home Video's treatment on this Special Collector's Edition simply puts the first release in the shade, so much more vibrant and lustrous is the Technicolor full-screen image this time around. My initial disappointment that the audio track was not remastered in 5.1 Dolby Surround was instantly dispelled the moment I heard the enveloping richness and power of the 2.0 Stereo track, which is probably the best I've yet heard. 

Certainly there exist far more distinguished films than this WAR OF THE WORLDS, But more entertaining? Not a chance.

--DICK DINMAN

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