I have to admit, I'm pretty intrigued by the opening of the Spielberg/Cruise War of the Worlds
tomorrow. I like how the previews (so far) have kept hidden what the alien machines and the aliens themselves look like. One thing I've come to dislike about trailers of late is their ability to give away some of the twists and turns of a film or to take away the spectacle and awe of seeing things for the first time on the big-screen.
Of course, I expect there to be some scary moments in the new film. But as I ponder the new movie, I wonder if any of the scares will equal those that freaked out all of America back in 1938 when Orson Welles aired his infamous radio version of The War of the Worlds
I'm an old-radio buff, so I've heard the original broadcast of War of the Worlds.
Many times, actually. It's always trotted out around Halloween for sale and will sometimes be rebroadcast. (In fact, they did an updated version a few years ago with actors from Star Trek, but it just wasn't as good IMHO). I am sure with the movie coming out, it will be available somewhere to listen to or download on-line. Even SciFi is getting into the swing of things tonight with a one-hour special
that examines why this show scared America so much. (It airs at 10 p.m. EST).
So, what was it that made this show so darn scary? Cause if you hear it now, you might be like me and go--yeah, it's chilling but surely you'd know it wasn't real.
To understand why many panicked you have to understand something of when the show aired. Not just that it was 1938 and radio was in it hey-dey. You have to understand what aired opposite this show--namely the Edgar Bergan and Charlie McCarthy show. Bergan and McCarthy were the popular radio ventroloquist act (you never saw his lip moves, let me tell you!) of the time. It was a hit show, esp. during this time as McCarthy had a feud going on with W.C. Fields. The show would start out with an opening set of jokes and then go to a musical number--think of tuning in for the Letterman monologue as a modern equivalent.
So, Bergan and McCarthy did the opening routine and then went to a longish muscial number. And people being people channel surfed. Over to War of the Worlds. Which was presented like a news broadcast actually unfolding. Listen to it..it sounds real. The actors are all taking it seriously. It sounded real and it was done with such sincerity that people took it as real. Not having heard from the beginning that--oh, by the way, this is fiction, they panicked.
And one of the most famous incidents in radio history was born.
And as good as the shocks may be in this new movie, I doubt they will live up to that shock from almost 60 years ago.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/28/2005 03:15:00 PM