cast: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson
Unlike the classic murky novel and gloomy doomy Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise reboot, this 1950’s film based on the H.G. Wells tale about vicious Martians invading Earth has a constant light at the end of the tunnel. That’s thanks to our hero, Dr. Forrester, played by the square-jawed Gene Barry, remaining stern and stalwart enough to remind the audience that, despite the odds, the good guys will eventually triumph. Ingénue Ann Robinson, as Sylvia, provides the right amount of breathy starry-eyed reaction. The best scene involves the duo hiding in a cottage while a metallic tentacle with multi-colored eyes enters like a serpent. Director Bryon Haskin wields spooky shadows to make up for what Spielberg over-saturated with overblown computer effects. But that doesn’t mean the monstrous aliens destroying towns with laser beams don’t look cool here, effectively establishing a world about to be pummeled to oblivion. Through use of expository narration and makeshift scientific dialog, suspense builds with a “Six days they will have taken over the world” warning – but our story quickly ends with a memorable shot of Barry and Robinson clutching each other within a dusty church. This is an exciting and fun disaster flick that Spielberg grew up adoring – he’s used the character name “Sylvia” several times in homage of his favorite scream queen Robinson – but he could have learned something from it. No matter how bad things get, the audience should have at least a little hope. What’s the purpose of an inevitable victory if you don’t enjoy the struggle to get there?