My love affair with H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds began in my youth when the TBS Superstation aired George Pal’s 1953 film one Saturday afternoon. While it would be a bit later before I was able to experience Well’s 1898 story of an invasion from Mars – this extermination of mankind by the inhabitants of the Red Planet is something I immediately was attracted to. Although I will share that it was my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Pennington that was kind enough to let me know that the Martians in Well’s The War of the Worlds did not assault the Earth in the flying vehicles as shown in the 1953 movie – but by traversing the English countryside in three-legged machines of conquest. In fact, Mrs. Pennington actually gifted me a copy of the book upon graduation along with another Wells masterpiece – The Time Machine. However I feel that for an introduction to the more popular works of H.G. Wells it is hard to top the 1953 film – although there have of course been a few adaptations of The War of the Worlds over the years!
Naturally it was another Welles altogether that managed to thrill and perhaps terrorize the country when the Mercury Theatre produced their 1938 radio production of The War of the Worlds. Orson Welles certainly made his mark with that historic broadcast… and got himself and the Mercury Theatre in a bit of hot water at the same time. While the 1898 story was updated and condensed to fit into an hour running time, all the basic elements of the classic story were still there.
Throughout the years since both the legendary radio presentation and the iconic 1953 film – there have been even more adaptations. Jeff Wayne turned Well’s story into an incredibly successful musical album in 1978 – one that featured the narration of Richard Burton as well as David Essex (Rock On). If you’ve not listened to Jeff Wayne’s album or perhaps been lucky enough to catch his touring show for the album, in my personal opinion you are really missing out.
It was in 1988 that the War of the Worlds television series debuted, running for two seasons – it starred Jared Martin (The Fantastic Journey), Richard Chaves (Predator), and Adrian Paul (Highlander: The Series). Of course there was also the big budget War of the Worlds from Director Steven Spielberg back in 2005, starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Miranda Otto, Justin Chatwin, and Tim Robbins. It was in 2013 that The Great Martian War 1913-1917 was released and presented an alternative history, one where the World has to come together to fight off the Martian invasion!
That is only a few of the adaptations that have come from Well’s source material – but an upcoming one by the BBC has me incredibly excited. The trailer for the BBC network’s The War of the Worlds shows a lot of promise – for one thing it is a period piece so it will surely hew closer to the source material. In addition it isn’t hurting from the talented cast that have been assembled, you have Rafe Spall (Shaun of the Dead), Rupert Graves (Sherlock), Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark), and Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting).
While we know that BBC One will be premiering the mini-series this Autumn – I only hope that for those of us in the States, it will be shown on either BBC America or maybe even BritBox. What do you think though – does this trailer make you excited for this new adaptation of The War of the Worlds?