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War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own…"

And so begins one of the best loved Science Fiction tales ever created. H.G. Wells' original novella has gone down in history as one of the formative stories that helped invent modern science fiction. Interestingly, the basic plot has been reformatted many times in a number of audio guises.

Most famously adapted by Howard Koch and broadcast by Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre in 1938, Wells' tale of earth’s confrontation with a hostile alien race has gone on to be turned into stage productions, a musical, and not one, but now two major motion pictures. Truly, "War of the Worlds" has proven itself so durable that it has been able to fit itself into any historical context. With interest in H.G. Wells' story at an all time high, I want to briefly go over some of the notable audio versions of "War of the Worlds" and make note of the must-haves that everyone should hear.

First of all, any discussion of this science fiction classic on audio would be remiss without mentioning Orson Welles' 1938 broadcast of "War of the Worlds". Welles and company filter the book's plot through the format of a special-report newscast and as a result, the tale gets an entirely new spin. Looking back now, one can't understate how inspired Welles was that October evening. He timed the best part of the broadcast to coincide with other radio station's commercial breaks. When restless listeners switched channels, they found themselves right in the middle of a Martian Invasion that was already taking casualties in rural New Jersey. The result was real-life mass hysteria, as most people listening in took the broadcast as the genuine article. It was so bad that there were reports of suicide and panic in the streets!

The Welles' adaptation (which was actually written for the radio by Howard Koch), was redone in 1971 by WKBK in Buffalo New York. This "War of the Worlds" broadcast brings events depicted in the 1938 version up to the speed of the 1970s, and has generally been regarded as one of the better "War of the Worlds" adaptations in the modern era. A good downloadable version of this adaptation is available from ReelRadio, and is well worth listening to, if only to see how well it compares to what the Mercury Theatre troop did.

There is also a "War of the Worlds: 50th Anniversary Production" put out by Lodestone Media. This is a professional reproduction of the Mercury broadcast featuring Jason Robards in the lead, with notable celebrity talent like Steve Allen and NPR’s Terry Gross in supporting roles. It commemorates fifty years since Welle's original radio product and this version is updated as though it is taking place on Public Radio in the present day.

Of course, one must always remember that there was an actual book before there was a radio broadcast, and thankfully there are many audio book versions of the actual text for you to choose from. For instance, this Unabridged Version of "War of the Worlds", put out by Blackstone Audio is great for those that want a quick listen of the full text.

For those that want to hear "War of the Worlds" in an absolutely different light, there’s "Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds Musical Version". This version endeavors to retell the basic story through musical numbers and features Richard Burton in one of the more interesting roles of his later career.

The original "War of the Worlds" novella is only 104 pages long, but it has managed to grip the imagination of some of the greatest artistic minds of the 20th and now the 21st century. Whether it be a reporter watching Martian’s land on farmland in New Jersey, or a father in Maryland protecting his children from annihilation, somehow every "War of the Worlds" adaptation is wildly different from the original book. Nevertheless, the basic premise is the same: what happens when the human race is humbled by a technologically superior alien force, bent on all-out conquest? Thankfully many of the different "War of the Worlds" versions are well represented on audio, waiting for you to discover. Just remember, what you are hearing isn’t real, at least not yet.

Titles on this Topic

H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds
H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds
by H.G. Wells

This classic chiller, when adapted for radio in 1938 by Orson Wells, was realistic enough to cause widespread panic throughout the United States....
Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds
 
Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds
by H.G. Wells

Jeff Ward's Musical Version of H.G. Wells' Classic Science Fiction tale.
Time Machine & The War of the Worlds
 
Time Machine & The War of the Worlds
by H.G. Wells

"The Time Machine," Wells' first novel (published in 1895) and "The War Of The Worlds" (1898), comprise two great firsts in the history of science fiction.
The War Of The Worlds
The War Of The Worlds
by H.G. Wells

This spellbinding tale describes the Martian invasion of earth.
The War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds
by H.G. Wells

Orson Welles' 1938 radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds has done much to obscure the original work.
War of the Worlds
War of the Worlds
by H.G. Wells

Join actors from television's Star Trek as they recreate this classic radio thriller.
The War of the Worlds (1938 Radio Broadcast)
 
The War of the Worlds (1938 Radio Broadcast)
by H.G. Wells

On October 30, 1938, fear and panic gripped America as regular radio programming was seemingly interrupted by reports of a Martian invasion in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey.
The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine
The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine
by H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells's renowned novel of alien invasion panicked the entire country when Orson Welles read it aloud on the radio in 1938.