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"The War of the Worlds"

by H. G. Wells
Adapted for the Mercury Theater by Howard Koch
Performed by the Mercury Theatre on the Air
Broadcast on the Columbia Broadcasting System
Sunday, October 30, 1938, from 8:00 to 9:00 PM, EST

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Welles and company at work, October 30, 1938

1898: 16 years before World War I (AKA: “the war to end all wars”), historian and grandfather of “speculative fiction,” now better know as “science fiction,” H. G. (Herbert George) Wells writes a disturbing “invasion novel” (very popular in the jittery last days of the 19th century) called The War of the Worlds. The story of an invasion of the Earth (but mostly just England), it satirizes European colonialism (especially English colonialism) and the then-popular notion of Social Darwinism (unfortunately, still popular everywhere despite being a load of rubbish).

1938: on the evening of Sunday, October 30, 1938, with Europe fewer than 11 months away from a war that would, eventually, become a global conflict ( “World War II,” and a fairly substantial slap in the face of whoever it was who called WWI “the war to end all wars”), theatrical wunderkind Orson Welles presents a modern-day, radio-centric version of The War of the Worlds. Panic ensues, Welles become a household name, and his radio show gets a sponsor and that’s a “Mmm, mmm, good” thing for Welles, the CBS, and radio theater.

1953: at the height of the Commie scares in the post “yet another wars to end all wars” (World War II, of course, but also The Korean “Conflict” had ended weeks before this one was released into the theaters) and the Cold War was just heating up, came the glorious color motion picture version of The War of the Worlds that played off of the fears all Americans (well, some, but especially noted by reactionary politicians and hack writers) had about invasion of the free world (well, mostly America) by Communists. As the location of this version is Southern California, it also played on the fears of locals about invasions of people from the Midwest. In the movie, the Martians first land in Pomona, CA. If that were to happen today, their space ship would be stolen and stripped thus neutralizing their nefarious plot.

2005: into the post-9/11 paranoia came Steven Spielberg with yet another version of War of the Worlds (he no doubt dropped the “The” for added scare value on the advice of his marketing team) that makes oh, so subtle references to the invading aliens being, in fact, akin to sleeper cells of Islamofacists (or, I dunno, paramilitary skin heads or lawyers from Universal Studios, or Amy Irving, or something). His Martians are big, nasty, incredibly blood-thirsty, but still less creepy than its stars Tom Cruise or preteen Dakota Fanning.

And the list goes on, and on, and on, and on . . .

But now, for your enjoyment, the annihilation of the world before your very ears.

Click here for the full radio script of "The War of the Worlds"

More Wars, Other Worlds

H.G. Wells
(Click to listen)
780 days after Orson Welles brought The War of the Worlds to radio, he and H.G. Wells met in the radio studios of KTSA (550 on your AM dial), San Antonio, TX.

Jeff Wayne's "The War of the Worlds"
(Click to listen)
In 1978, Jeff Wayne brought "The Moody Blues" singer Justin Hayward, Richard Burton, star of Hammersmith is Out and lots of musicians into a studio to record a concept album version ofThe War of the Worlds.

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