The War of the Worlds (1953) (Criterion Collection) Blu-ray Review

Fans have waited for almost 15 years, since the last DVD release, for H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds to come to blu-ray and Criterion has answered that call. Featuring a brand new restoration and some really great special features, Criterion's release is the one to beat.

Studio: Criterion
Release Date: August 26th, 1953 (theatrical) / June 7th, 2020 (blu-ray)
Run Time: 85 mins
Region Code: A (locked)
Picture: 1080p (1.37:1 aspect ratio)
Sound: English LPCM 1.0 (original), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH
Slipcover: No
Digital Copy: No
Starring: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne, Robert Cornthwaite, Sandro Giglio, and Lewis Martin
Written by Barré Lyndon
Directed by Byron Haskin
Rating: Not Rated (sci-fi violence and frightening images)


Scientist Clayton Forrester and Sylvia Van Buren are the first to arrive at the site of a meteorite crash. Soon after, an alien war machine emerges and begins killing at random. The Marines are called in, but they're no match for the aliens' force field. Forrester and Van Buren, however, are able to wound one of the creatures and procure a sample of its blood. They take it to Los Angeles where they hope, through testing, to be able to discover the aliens' weakness.

You have to love films from the 50’s and 60’s. They weren’t trying to build a franchise. They weren’t trying to build a “cinematic universe”. Hell, they weren’t even trying to make sequels. All they wanted to do was to tell a story that audiences would get caught up in for an hour and a half.

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is a film that puts everything into giving us something that we have never seen before. The effects are a wonder to behold. Even in 2020, these effects still hold a bit of power to them. Sure, we have seen just about everything when it comes to special effects, but the effects work here is something very special. The effects are there on the screen with some things added in post. The aliens and there ships are there for the actors to act against and we are still in a state of wonder. The effects work and we buy every minute of them.

The film is one of the best sci-fi films ever made. The film is big and loud and would fit quite nicely into the summer movie season, but it is much more than that. It is about humanity facing a threat that we might not be able to handle. It is about fear that we might not be able to make it through this threat. It is about people doing everything in their power to find out what we are dealing with and how to stop it.

As with most science fiction films, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is about the time the film takes place in. The film was released during the cold war, a war that threatened the very way of life for Americans. World War II had been over for almost a decade at the time when the film was released, but the fear of of the cold war escalating was something that had taken over for the fears of WWII. An alien threat was always on our minds and THE WAR OF THE WORLDS perfectly captures this fear. People are displaced from their homes, cities are emptied, all because of a menace that is foreign to us. This menace was disrupting our very way of life. We are seeing it in the film and that scared audiences in 1953. Just as horror is a mirror to our society now, sci-fi was that mirror back then.

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is a film that aged very well and still holds relevance today. We are living in a world of Covid-19, a foreign threat that has changed our very way of life. It came without warning (as it was in the country long before it was found out) and it kills without malice. It doesn’t care about your feelings, wants, or desires. The aliens in the film are the same way. They come here from a world that is not ours and kill us without malice. The film speaks to us today just as much as it spoke to audiences in 1953. That is the mark of a great film and THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is a great film.


Featuring a brand new 4K restoration, and presented in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is breathtaking. The film is filled with color and every one of those colors pops right of the screen. Skin tones accurate and blacks are very deep. There is a thin layer of film grain that gives the picture definition and the level of detail is amazing. There is even depth to the picture that had not been in any previous release of the film. Simply put: this is one of the best transfers of 2020.

There are two options for the sound: the original mono sound and a remixed 5.1 track. The remixed track is fine, I guess. I don’t like remixed tracks, but it wasn’t terrible. The original mono track is the way to go as it sounds great. Dialogue sounds great and the effects work immerses us in the world the film has built for us.



Commentary by filmmaker Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns, and author Bill Warren

Movie Archaeologists (29m 28s, HD) Visual Effects Supervisor Craig Barron and Sound Designer Bob Burtt discuss the production of The War of the Worlds, including the innovative effects (both visual and sound) with rare footage from the Paramount Pictures archive. Produced exclusively for this release by Criterion.

From the Archive: 2018 Restoration (20m 28s, HD) Senior VP of asset management for Paramount Pictures Andrea King, along with Craig Barron and Bob Burtt, discuss their work on the film’s restoration. Talk includes discussion of both picture and sound, along with the creation of the film’s 5.1 track.

The Sky Is Falling (29m 59s, SD, 1.33:1) Cast and crew discuss the making of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS in this making of featurette from 2005 that was included on the Special Collector’s Edition dvd from Paramount.

Wells and Welles

          -The Mercury Theatre On the Air (57m 28s, SD) The very infamous broadcast
          that Orson Welles and his theatre troop put on in 1939.

          -KTSA Interview (23m 57s, SD) H.G. Wells and Orson Welles sit down to
          have a discussion on the radio broadcast and the book that inspired it.

George Pal (49m 10s, SD) Here we have an audio interview with George Pal, recorded at the AFI, where Pal covers his entire career.

Trailer (2m 23s, HD, 1.33:1)


THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is one of the best, if not the best, sci-fi films out there. The film does a wonderful job of showing us what would happen if we got invaded while scaring the pants off of us. The blu-ray, from Criterion, is the best release of the film with amazing picture and sound, along with some wonderful special features. This release will definitely make it on our “Best of 2020” list.


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