Antonio Margheriti’s Battle of the Worlds. A Throwback to 60s Sci Fi on Home Video

14 Aug

Release Date: August 9.

The science fiction movies made nearly a half century ago are very different from what we find today. When Battle of the Worlds was released 1961, it wasn’t well received. But when we flash forward to today and look at it from a film historian’s perspective, it has a place in the lexicon worth noting.

The Film Detective was able to make a 4k scan of the original 35mm archival print, and release it as a Bluray. The transfer is only as good as the source material, and therein lies a problem. Watching is is no different from watching it on the big screen back then. There’s a lot of noticable film grain depending on the lighting situation. But as for giving new life to the story, it’s a tough sell.

This movie by Antonio Margheriti isn’t a blip in the radar. Although the direction and tale is very oblique, to watch it from a modern perspective suggests we’ve been spoiled. We get lots of glamour and glitz, and often forget that a solid plot matters a lot more. When compared to other movies made a decade or two later, like Battle Beyond the Stars instead of Battle of the Planets (a completely different genre), budgets matter. And as for where that money is spent by indie filmmakers determines how well their works are remembered.

With this film, it’s to invest in some good sets and decent actors. Here, Dr. Fred Steele (Umberto Orsini) and Eve Barnett (Maya Brent) are the stars. They are ready to get married and get reassigned, but when a rogue planet is on a collision course to Earth, all plans are on hold. Their adversary is Professor Benson (Claude Rains) who thinks it’ll skim the planet, but to prove it means rocketing to space and making landfall in this alien world–and figuring out what’s happening! 

I can’t say the climax is very exciting, but as for learning about the legacy, I was intrigued. This movie is worth watching to understand Margheriti’s world, and the bonus features are a lot more fun to watch. It also includes an original essay by author Don Stradley, a commentary track by film historian Justin Humphreys and A Cinematic Outsider: The Fantastical Worlds of Antonio Margheriti by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures. I highly recommend watching the latter first before attempting the movie. Newcomers will appreciate it instead of diving headfirst.

Battle of the Worlds Trailer

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