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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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It is, of course, the most famous radio program of all time; I daresay many members of future generations would have no idea that their ancestors actually sat around a radio once upon a time listening to dramatic presentations were it not for the unique acclaim this show continues to enjoy today. The broadcast was a seminal event in broadcasting history - not for its content, which was indeed very good - but for the dramatic reaction by untold listeners who were convinced that Earth was under attack from invaders from Mars. Callers deluged local newspapers and radio stations, men volunteered to step up and fight the terrible enemy, families rushed out of their homes to flee from the invaders. Some folks in the New Jersey area actually claimed they could see the fires of the destruction, one man insisted he heard the President order an evacuation over the air, prominent Princeton scientists actually went out in search of the meteor that reportedly fell nearby, and some individuals supposedly committed suicide. In the aftermath of the panic, there were calls for tougher broadcasting standards and a formal investigation into the broadcast. The FCC called in the big three radio network presidents to redefine the usage of the word "flash" over the radio, and the whole situation led the government to seek closer cooperation among radio networks in the months leading up to America's entry into World War II. It sounds silly today, and I'm sure many of the panic details have grown in stature over decades of exaggeration, but still, you can't help but be amazed at the thoroughly unpredicted reaction of so many to an mere dramatization of a pretty familiar story (indeed, Orson Welles said he feared such an outlandish story for the program might actually bore people). After all, it's not as if the show weren't advertised on radio and print, and there were no less than three announcements about the fictional nature of the story made during the broadcast itself. On the other hand, 1938 was a tense time in a world already witnessing the outbreak of a terrible war in Europe, and the format of the presentation did simulate a news broadcast - complete with program interruptions.
But what of the show itself? The broadcast took place on October 30, 1938, the 14th broadcast of The Mercury Theatre on the Air series led by director and star Orson Welles. It consisted of Welles' own adaptation of H.G. Wells' classic science fiction novel The War of the Worlds. The decision was made to present the story in the form of breaking news items on the air, and so it was that listeners were whisked away from live music at some New York ballroom for quick news flashes on strange eruptions on the Martian surface, the crash of a large meteorite some eleven miles outside of Princeton, mobile reports from the site, and the scientific speculations of a learned Princeton professor. The mobile reporter did a fantastic job of realistically dramatizing the extraordinary happenings taking place at the Grover's Mill farm site after the "meteorite" opened up and began firing its death ray at the milling crowds around it - until he was cut off, for rather obvious reasons, as the crisis quickly accelerated. At that point, military bulletins formed the presentation's material until such time that the learned professor, in the final twenty minutes or so, described the aftermath of the terrible invasion.
It's a real treat to be able to go back and listen to this most impressive and infamous of radio broadcasts and to witness the extraordinary power of Orson Welles' presentation. As impressive and entertaining as the show itself is, it's even more of a learning experience. The modern-day listener gains insight on the early days of mass communications, finds inspiration in the power of dramatic presentation, gets a good feel for the popular culture of that era, finds a ready-made source of information on mass psychology, and - perhaps most importantly - enjoys a unique look at the history and societal framework of that jumpy era, a time when so many Americans were still struggling to survive economically while trepidation grew daily over the dark events taking place across the Atlantic Ocean.
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on 18 December 2007
I came to this disk already aware of the famous 1938 Orson Welles and Mercury Theater broadcast, and of the effect it had on the listening audience. I have found it necessary to listen to this performance a number of times. The dramatization is well done, and the characters, particularly Carl Philips (a reporter, played by Orson Welles) and Professor Pearson are played rather convincingly. It is obvious to see why it had such an effect when first broadcast. Although there are inevitable pops and crackles in the recording, these did not detract from my enjoyment of this famous presentation.
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on 16 January 2016
Exactly what I was looking for, the original broadcast of this iconic broadcast. It was very nice to actually get the MP3 version to listen to before the CD arrived.

If you have never heard the War of The Worlds, or indeed have but never heard the original that scared people when it was originally broadcast, get this. However that said there are other CD's with this and extra radio broadcasts that make them good value.
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The 'realism' of this broadcast, that's said to have had genuine American listeners fleeing in fear believing it to be truth, is, with seventy years' hindsight, a little bit hit and miss. Only parts of the show are played as radio broadcasts, with the occasional "you are listening to a dramatisation of..." announcement punctuating the action. However as a radio dramatisation it is very powerful, with clever use of dramatic and sudden silences. The second act, the latter part of the broadcast, based on Pearson's "diary", is perhaps the weakest part, and is simply a traditional radio drama.

It's not too faithful to HG Wells, mostly in forgivable ways such as transplanting the action to the USA but sometimes in ways that make HG Wells' drama stronger than Orson's. It's a very powerful radio drama though and when you listen to it while bearing in mind the context of the broadcast, in the shadow of the imminent Second World War, it deserves its reputation as one of the most famous piece of radio ever.
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This is probably the most iconic and notorious radio broadcast of all time, alarming many Americans when it came out, who awaited either an alien invasion or, apparently, an invasion by the Germans. The broadcast is fascinating and full of melodrama and tension, but as you can imagine, it creaks due to its age. I was pleased to hear it at long last, but probably won't revisit it for many years. Historically interesting.
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on 16 August 2013
The Orsen Welles radio broadcast that many thought was real news.

Even ignoring its notorious effect on the listeners, this remains a masterpiece of storytelling, updating the H G Wells original to what was then the present day.
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on 24 May 2013
Half way through the story and the recording repeats itself. It was the CHEAP version that I purchased. so little point in complaining.
It would have been nice to have a copy of the complete recording but once bitten twice shy.
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on 10 February 2009
I've recorded it from radio in 1985 in Portugal in one old magnavox tape recorder. Never heard the cd, but if sounds like shortwave radio go ahead and turn of all stereo gizmos, play it hard ball.
It give my the creeps... Orson was a genius. A bit of advice: pull yourself back in time, shut up the TV, grab a paper and read, and just hear... In a strange sense you must hear as Satie's concept of musique d'Ameublement. It's great.
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on 23 January 2008
While other reviewers are not educated enough to appreciate the timeline of the various War of The Worlds productions, those who do know that this represents the amazing Orson Welles radio play will truly see that this was an amazing production ... and when considering that listeners tuned in part way through this programme, it is easy to see why so much panic was caused.

A masterpiece.
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on 7 July 2014
the original recording with all the hisses and scratches brilliant i guess if you missed the first few minutes out you would see why it caused so much panic at the time
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