I watched the SciFi special on the Mercury Theater
's 1938 presentation of War of the Worlds
last evening. The most interesting part was the recollections of some of those people who actually heard the broadcast when it initially aired and were part of the nationwide panic.
Listening to the snippets of the broadcast that were sprinkled through the episode, I was struck by just how good the story was and can see why it set off a national panic. Part of that is that radio is so much a theater of the mind, limited only in special effects by what our imagination can come up with. I'd argue that most old radio shows are, by far, scarier than most of the gruesome things that pass off as horror and suspense today. (Indeed, I think one of the things that made The X-Files
so good was that it knew how to make judicious use of shadows).
I learned a few things I didn't previously know about the broadcast. One was that the writer who adapted Welles' story went on to write a little screenplay for a movie called Casablanca
. Also, the music and sound effects were done by Bernard Hermann, who composed some of the great and memorable musical scores for Alfred Hitchcock--including Psycho
All of this just made me yearn to hear the show again. And luckily, there's a web site out there that has it available for download
(the copyrights on it ran out years ago, so no worries). I'm also intrigued to hear the Bergan and McCarthy
show that ran opposite it as well. I am not sure if I've heard that or not.
If you've not ever heard the broadcast, I can't recommend it enough. And if you have heard it, it's worth hearing again as you get ready to go see the new version in theaters.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/29/2005 02:58:00 PM