Archive for H.G. Wells

War of the Worlds: The True Story (2013)

Posted in Found Footage Film, Sci-Fi with tags , , , on July 27, 2013 by MONSTERMINIONS

WOTW The True Story_Mars

Plenty of genre enthusiasts are going to be calling foul and complaining about being ripped off, but I liked this re-working of Tim Hines’ production of War of the Worlds (2005). My girlfriend also sat content, which in the case of watching low-budget sci-fi is a rare occurrence. You may recall in 2005 that 3 films adapted the H.G. Wells’ story: Spielberg’s visually impressive, but annoying (dumb script, Dakota Fanning and Tim Robbins as a pedophile) tribute, David Michael Latt’s film starring C. Thomas Howell (I’ve never seen), and Tim Hines’ faithful-to-Wells film set in Victorian time.

Fellow film aficionado Mark Leeper pointed out to me that Hines apparently re-worked his 2005 film:

“With a flop on his hands Hines said he was going to modify it or make a new film using the old film for the SPFX [Special Effects]. I think at that time he said it would be called WAR OF THE WORLDS: THE TRUE STORY. The editing could be tighter, but any change beyond that will much disappoint me.”

Mark’s review of the original film is HERE.

WOTW The True Story_Declassified

Hines’ War of the Worlds: The True Story (2013) is garnering a bit of buzz (8.2/10 on IMDb), but the film is not yet widely available. I ordered my DVD copy from the film website. The story proposes that the War of the Worlds actually occurred, and uses the “found footage” gimic where declassified and archival British footage of the 1900 Martian invasion was found in a vault. A 1964 interview of the last living survivor journalist Bertie Wells supplements the story, with bits and pieces of Hines’ 2005 film carrying along the narrative. The film is competently narrated by actor Jim Cissell.

WOTW The True Story_Bertie Wells

Hines is clever in noting in the prologue that the film is padded with historical photos (ala Ken Burns effect) and films to better capture the feel of Victorian England and assist in the story-telling. As a result, we also see snippets of old movies interspersed along the way, including cameos by Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, C. Aubrey Smith (the quintessential British aristocrat), and others. I thought the editing to be tight, although at 97 minutes the film tends to drag (I think 10 minutes could have been trimmed after the second Martian attack wave).

WOTW The True Story_Capsule

Kudos to the special effects team! The visuals reminded me of the great Czech animator Karel Zeman (The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, 1958), who used a distinct wood-cut style that artistically and aesthetically blows any modern computer-rendered distractions out of the water. The visuals in WOTW The True Story use both traditional stop-motion animation, models and puppetry, prosthetics (the Martians are the best since Charlie Gemora’s 1953 tri-ocular alien), and CGI Greenscreen methods. Ezra Hamill handled the Martian tripod and miniature effects, while ULTRAKARL competently handled the creature and makeup effects. Down the road I may opt for the cool moniker of “Ultra-Barry”.

Les Martiens

I particularly like the biological Martian effects which are faithful to Wells’ description of an octopoid creature with eyes and 8 whip-like tentacles. Only the beak-like mouth is missing in ULTRAKARL’s design. The supplemental section of the DVD includes brief footage showing the Martian prosthetic which was fabricated in the style of a vintage Rob Bottin creation.

WOTW The True Story_Martian

Also compare the Martian to the cover of the 1927 re-print of War of the Worlds:

Martians_Cover WOTW 1927 reprint

In flash-back retelling by Bertie Wells, WOTW The True Story effectively depicts the Martian invasion and destruction of London. The tripod effects are impressive, with hydraulic articulation, rivets and steam-pipe conveyances (I detest the term “steam-punk”), and although we only see brief glimpses of the machines they are the highlight of the film. I like the effect of digitally mapping the Martian war machines in a grungy sepia tone. Afterall, the footage is 113 year’s old!

WOTW The True Story_Tripods

These SPFX remind me a lot of early minature effects created by the Skotak brothers (Aliens, 1986; T2, 1991). There is a dream-like quality to these shots reminscent of silent films, which was the intent of the filmmaker.

WOTW The True Story_Death Ray


WOTW The True Story_Walkers

…and look quick for Bill Shatner!

WOTW The True Story_Shatner

War of the Worlds: The True Story is not for all tastes. Portions of the film drag and I got a bit tired of the repetiveness of combining stock footage with other film sources. However, about the time I got bored a cool SPFX shot grabbed my attention. The Bertie Wells’ interview doesn’t work —It is too staged and scripted and doesn’t come off as being an old man reflecting on a tragic past. Overall, I liked the film and recommend it to fans of H.G. Wells and silent fantasy films.

Criterion, Things To Come (1936) Blu-ray

Posted in Criterion Collection, Sci-Fi with tags , , on June 23, 2013 by MONSTERMINIONS


I first read about the Bauhaus design movement after reading Danny Peary’s Cult Movies entry on The Black Cat (1934). Low-budget film maestro Edgar Ulmer was a fan of the minimalistic style; with a paucity of distractions and rectilinear compositions the design of Hjalmar Poelzig’s (Boris Karloff) castle is pure Bauhaus. Peary remarks that the staircase at Poelzig’s domicile seems to belong in a Fred Astaire Ginger Roger’s film rather than in a Universal thriller. The look of The Black Cat is unmistakeable -it is a remarkable movie to look at. Ulmer even names Karloff’s satanic protagonist after real life architect Hans Poelzig.

I appreciate films for different reasons. I have had more than a few comments that Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is not a very good film (Tarantino allegedly hated it). I rank it right up there a notch below Blade Runner and Alien -the cliched characters and dumb portrayals of scientists didn’t bother me. For me, the look and spectacle of the film compensated for the weaknesses. I watch movies for entertainment. I also appreciate the look of a film. I think that is why I love the Toho-Honda-Tsuburaya films of the 50’s and 60’s. Nothing looks like them. Of the modern films I think Guillermo del Toro certainly captures a distinct feel. I consider Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) the finest fantasy film the last 20 years.

Oddly, I am not a huge fan of Alexander Korda’s Things To Come (1936). Wells socialist precepts seem buried under stark and impressive special effects, and typical of British films of this era the characters talk and talk endlessly ad nauseum. To me the film is preachy but doesn’t deliver a message. The look of the film is impressive and the depiction of future devices (e.g. flat screen televisions) is extraordinary.

The new Criterion HD-BR print of the film is the best I have seen. I particularly like film historian David Kalat’s commentary (we’ve heard him before on the Criterion Testament of Dr. Mabuse disc) and Christopher Frayling’s commentary on the look of the film. We learn a bit about the influence of the Bauhaus movement on the film’s design. Also watch the unused special effects (double exposures predominate) developed by László Moholy-Nagy, who taught at the Bauhaus.

This is a disc I picked up as a completist. I recognize that the film is a masterful triumph on the use of miniatures and photo-stacking optical effects. But it is also one where I will use the scan option. For genre purists only. Fans of the Bauhaus should also check out People on Sunday (1930).

Lost Souls Review (2011 Criterion Blue-ray)

Posted in Horror with tags , , , , , , on October 31, 2011 by MONSTERMINIONS

Island of Lost Souls (1932, Paramount) is one of the finest horror films ever made, and for good reason —Bela Lugosi’s performance as The Sayer of the Law; Charles Lawton’s creepy and evil performance as Moreau; unusual and unique makeup; Karl Struss’s expressionist photography; weird and elaborate sets; and one humdinger of a script based on H.G. Wells’ novel. For many years, this was the top requested horror film amongst genre fans, and this new Criterion Blue-ray delivers. For many years the only copy I had was a ripped-off and decent laserdisc print which had a short lifespan. Back in the day those laserdiscs were pressed and released, the fans bought them, and that was the end of them. (Fortunately, I grabbed Criterion’s “Cat People” when I did. It’s a collectable now and a superb print.) Lost Souls deserved the treatment from Criterion, and although the source material was terribly aged, the resultant restored disc is clearly the best available print for home-viewing pleasure. It looks terrific, down to the strands of yak hair on Lugosi’s mug.

I have heard that some angry birds are out there and are complaining about the transfer (I confess I bitched about the Lord of the Rings BR), and some of the footage at Moreau’s plantation does look over-exposed. I can’t tell if it is due to Struss’s use of diffuse lighting or if it is due to the restoration. It’s nothing to quibble about! Go buy this film and keep it in your collection and watch it ever year at Halloween until you die.

Lost Souls offers some grisly material dealing with vivisection of beasts. I can see why it was banned in several countries. In Australia is was tagged as NEN —not for aboriginal eyes. I showed the film to my girlfriend. She lasted until the first moans originating from “The House of Pain”. After that she was off reading a magazine (and it wasn’t Rue Morgue). The makeup and Lugosi’s performance are not to be missed by horror fans (I wonder what animal The Sayer of the Law was?).

The extras include an interview hosted by John Landis with Rick Baker (who seems bored) and the informative Bob Burns. It’s worth watching, especially for comments regarding makeup, Lugosi and Burn’s mentor Charles Gemora (who appears as a gorilla in the film). I also like the interview with DEVO’s Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh (there are horror fans everywhere so watch out!). Also check out the image files, which offers a macro-glimpse of some mighty inspired makeup.

Island of Lost Souls. 5/5. Horror Masterpiece restored by folks at Criterion. Top DVD of 2011.