The War of the Worlds! An epic sci-fi masterpiece, that to this day the sheer thought that aliens could invade Earth and wipe us all out, terrifies people. Not knowing what's out there.
For those of you who haven't done your homework, I'm going to sum this up in the simplest way possible. H.G. Wells, author turned radio playwright turned film director - wrote The War of the Worlds in 1898. The book fascinated, yet scared people. That's not all Mr. Wells wrote, just the only one we need to talk about. In the early 20th Century not everyone had the luxury of having a TV, because well...they weren't 100% around yet. A lot of people had radios. Pretty much everyone during the 1920's and 30's owned a radio. Well here's where H.G. Wells decided to do something absolutely brilliant. 1938, October 3th, H.G. Wells decided to write a radio play to broadcast to the United States as a way to celebrate Halloween. It consisted of fake radio broadcasts from news stations talking about an alien invasion, freaking out saying the aliens were releasing poisonous gas and burning cities to the ground. People everywhere in the United States took this completely serious and tried to evacuate and hide in bomb shelters. Some even committed suicide. Now, in Wells' defense, at the beginning of the show and even cut in during the show, an announcer said "Tonight's Show, H.G. Wells presents War of the Worlds". This just goes to show how easily convinced people are. So which was more effective?
There have been two film adaptations of The War of the Worlds since Wells' horrifically brilliant radio broadcast. My personal opinion, I don't really care for either of these movies. I'm not really huge into the whole alien invasion thing (though Men in Black and Mars Attacks! are amazing). Both films successfully show how little we could be in the universe, as well as a bunch of pissed off aliens coming to kill us all. We follow one character though all the traumatic events dealing with these aliens and seeing it get resolved when the alien invaders are exposed to our blood and that's what inevitably kills them. The film gives us a glimpse into what that could look like, let's us see the aliens, so we know it's not real. Someone created it.
THE RADIO PLAY
To me, the radio play is the best adaptation. It started out with some narration, followed by countless fake radio broadcasts from major cities in the United States. Talking about an alien invasion, cities on fire, and the end of the world. A news report from New York claimed Times Square was engulfed in flames. Which caused people listening to the broadcast who lived in New York jump from their apartment windows. There was sheer horror as the nation listened to H.G. Wells' radio broadcast, not knowing it was fake. The play as well as the film described aliens from Mars and spaceships. How the aliens were releasing poisonous gas into the air.
However, when you go to compare a radio play to a movie, it's simple really. One's a radio play. It's only played on the radio, not on a screen. It leaves a lot up to the imagination. Film is played in front of you with actors and sets and special effects to show you what you need to see. This is why I feel that in a way the radio play was way more effective than the movie attempts. The radio play actually had people believing this was happening. Yes it was tragic, but honestly it was brilliant that one man terrified an entire nation all from a fake radio broadcast. The radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds may be an abomination to some, but to many it is a masterpiece that will never be lost. It did what no film could ever do. Sure there have been attempts, such as The Blair Witch Project and countless found footage films, but they could never be as affective as this was back in 1938.