Battle of the Worlds (1961)

aka Il Pianeta degli uomini spenti
Article 1817 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-6-2006
Posting Date: 8-3-2006
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Featuring Claude Rains, Bill Carter, Umberto Orsini

A stray planet enters the solar system and gives every indication of colliding with the Earth. When the planet goes into orbit around the Earth instead, a scientist begins to fear that the planet is controlled by outside forces and that an attack is imminent.

This is perhaps the best known of Antonio Margheriti’s Italian science fiction epics. It’s also probably his best foray into the genre, though I don’t think this is necessarily due to Margheriti’s direction. I’m still annoyed by his poor use of sound, especially when he tries for a montage sequence, and for some reason, despite the fact that most of the cast seems to be actually speaking English, the movie still sounds as if it were badly dubbed. No, this one’s strength lies in the fact that he actually got a distinguished actor for the lead: Claude Rains. Granted, it’s far from his best performance; in my humble opinion, Rains didn’t age well acting-wise (and he doesn’t really look well, either), and his performance is quite uneven here, as he occasionally seems to be having trouble with his lines and he overacts on more than one occasion. However, he still had that ability to command attention, and his presence gives the movie a solid center and an anchor which I find to be missing in Margheriti’s other science fiction movies. This is also the one I’ve seen the most often, and the plot has actually sorted itself out to the point that I can follow it easily. These factors go a long ways towards making up for the less successful parts of the movie. The first time around it’s confusing and finally boring, but if you keep focused on Rains, you’ll come through all right.

1 Comment

  1. Having previously watched Battle in Outer space, this one came as a bit of relief. First the character development was much better and the plot was too. Rains did overact a bit, but he is always watchable. The effects, though did pale in comparison to the Japanese movie. I liked the set design when they venture inside the rogue planet, or was it a giant ship, they never do explain it. This was unique in that the scientist Rains, wanted to destroy the aliens while the military wanted to explore the planet that ventured into our solar system even though it was hostile and set out ships to destroy ours. It also caused severe weather on Earth, via stock footage of volcanoes, hurricanes and tidal waves. It seems the aliens have been traveling thru space looking for a suitable planet to inhabit. The aliens came in the form of lights in a cave and controlled the vehicles by mental power. The ending finds Rains remaining on the planet to learn their secrets as the military blow up the planet.

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