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Review: The War of the Worlds 4K UHD + When Worlds Collide Blu-ray – A George Pal Double Feature

1953’s The War of the Worlds and 1951’s When Worlds Collide, two Technicolor sci-fi movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood come together in this out-of-this-world double feature from producer George Pal. Both films won Oscars for their visual effects.

I got sent the box-set, which features a lovely pop-up of The War of the Worlds title in the middle of the box, and while watching the films it brought back some lovely childhood memories. Now I am not old enough to have seen them when they first came out, but I remember seeing them many times when I was growing up. Sometimes with my parents and grandparents or sometimes by myself. Sitting in a caravan, with the rain pouring down, but with the heater on and cups of tea and hot buttered toast as we all sat watching the Martian spacecraft appear and do that cool noise as their heat rays vaporised everything.

Good times and I love how films can bring back those moments. I share all of this as my review is brought to you with a whole heap of nostalgia.

The War of the Worlds makes its 4K UHD debut with this release. The adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel stars Gene Barry and Ann Robinson and I do love the design of the Martian ships. Sure, they are not the Tripods from the book, but they look so cool and retro that I can dig it.

Being in 4K everything pops especially the Martian spaceships and laserbeams. Everything looks great. The contrast is fantastic with deep colours, excellent black levels and just the right amount of film grain to make it all look cinematic, which is just what you want with this type of film.

Fine details such as the texture of clothes can be seen clearly. The wires used to hold up the Martian machines have been digitally removed and on the whole, the visual effects look better than ever. There were a couple of shonky greenscreen moments, but I personally felt that just added to the whole charm of the film and didn’t spoil my viewing experience.

The audio is also excellent. It turns out sound designer Ben Burtt (from a little film called Star Wars) was involved in the restoration, with those Martian Heat Rays sounding better than ever. Vocals are clear and the bass is good and deep. You get to hear conversations and screams coming from the surrounding area. The sounds of fireballs flying around, wind blowing and all the other atmospheric effects really added to the immersion.

It is a fantastic sound mix and is probably the best I have heard it.

I’ve always enjoyed the film and this new version is well worth getting. The fact it is part of a double feature is just an added bonus.

The War of the Worlds 4K disc comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary with Gene Barry and Ann Robinson
  • Audio Commentary with Joe Dante, Bob Burns, and Bill Warren
  • The Sky is Falling: Making The War of the Worlds
  • H.G. Wells: The Father of Science Fiction
  • The Mercury Theater on the Air Presets: The War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast from 1938
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

When Worlds Collide is on Blu-ray only. While it doesn’t look quite as good as The War of the Worlds it is still a classic piece of sci-fi although it did feel a little more ponderous in places than I remembered.

Based on a 1933 science fiction novel of the same name by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie, the plot sees a rogue star being discovered, that is on a collision course with Earth. Scientists also find a planet, Zyra, circling the star which can support life. Earth will be destroyed in a few months. Plans are made to build spaceships to take people to Zyra but those in power don’t believe the Earth will be destroyed (yes, 2021’s Don’t Look Up treads a very similar path), but a few scientists and engineers work on building an Ark to ensure the human race is not totally wiped out.

The restoration is, on the whole excellent. My memory of the film had everything looking quite dull, but it all looks bright and clean with good film grain.  Great colours and I noticed lots of background details that I did not remember. Black levels are fine, but there were a few moments that very briefly had that weird pixelated look that some restorations can have.

The audio is perfectly serviceable, just not as good as that of The War of the Worlds. As the film does not feature aliens blowing stuff up then you don’t get any of those big explosions and screams so it is be expected. The dialogue is clean and crisp and I have no complaints. There is just nothing outstanding about it.

The Blu-ray also features the Original Theatrical Trailer.

As well as the two films, the box includes 8 photo cards, 5 art cards and 2 magnets.

All in all, I can recommend this new double feature. They really took me back and it was great to revisit them. They look fantastic with The War of the Worlds being the standout. I hope we get a few more double features like this.

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