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Publisher's Summary

One of the most memorable programs in broadcast history, the Halloween Eve 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds set off a nationwide panic that's almost unimaginable today. Presented by the Mercury Theatre on the Air and its creative genius, Orson Welles, the drama based on H.G. Wells' classic novel tells the story of a Martian invasion of Earth. As written by Howard Koch, the play unfolds in a realistic documentary style, complete with simulated news broadcasts of aliens landing in Grover's Mill, New Jersey.

Whether they weren't quite paying attention, tuned in late, or simply misunderstood what they heard, legions of listeners thought an actual invasion was underway. The front-page headline in the October 31, 1938, New York Times told the whole story: "Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War Drama as Fact/Many Flee Homes to Escape 'Gas Raid From Mars'/Phone Calls Swamp Police at Broadcast of Wells Fantasy".

Hear more collections of radio movie dramatizations, or listen to all of the individual programs by themselves!
(P)2006 Radio Spirits, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Classic

If you are old enough to remember the radio serials, and the shorts at the Saturday Afternoon pictures, and you like classic SciFi, you could enjoy this. Orson Wells no less. Having seen both movies over the years, based on this story, it was good to hear the original radio play that had listeners thinking the Martians had indeed landed (or so the other story goes). Classic or otherwise I suggest spending the few dollars asked rather than use your credit here.It is a good listen for the hour and certainly worth $5.00.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ESK
  • Moscow, Russia
  • 12-30-13

"That was no Martian, it's Halloween"

It's a masterful radio dramatization dating back to 1938. The radio play allegedly "stirred terror through the U.S." and "terrified the nation". The broadcast started with the introduction by Orson Welles: "We know now that in the early years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own." The broadcast went on followed by a weather report and interviews that were meant to make the dramatization sound realistic. Then there was a special news bulletin announcing that an object about 30 yards wide had fallen on a farm at Grovers Mill.
What the news reporter saw next he described as "the most terrifying thing" he had ever witnessed...
I was hooked by this true-to-life radio adaptation. The way the Martian invasion and its aftermath were reported, and the enactment of one of the few survivors were brilliant.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A Clever and Entertaining Dramatization

What a remarkable radio dramatization of H. G. Wells' classic novel The War of the Worlds Orson Welles and company made! They effectively distilled the essential elements from the novel into an American context, producing a concise 59-minute program that made me feel that I was listening to an intense night of terror followed by days of existential wandering and wondering.

After a voice proclaims that we are listening to a Mercury Theater presentation of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, Orson Welles intones a condensed version of the brilliant opening of the novel, and then quickly sets up the conceit of the first part of the broadcast, that we are listening to a radio program of innocuous dance music that is repeatedly interrupted by eye-witness news flashes from this New Jersey farm where a strange meteor has landed. From there Welles and company use a variety of voices (newsmen, astronomers, farmers, crowds, military men, etc.) and sound effects to create the illusion that the attack of the Martians, complete with heat rays, giant mobile tripods, and poison gas, is happening in real time as we listen to the radio.

After an "intermission," the second part of the dramatization changes from the ersatz radio broadcast to the first person narration by Welles of his professor character's journal, depicting his attempts to survive and make sense of the invasion. Welles "out of character" closes the program by saying that the Mercury Theater was just shouting "boo!" at listeners on Halloween Eve and that "we didn't mean it."

Fans of science fiction, of Wells' novel, of vintage radio theater, and of American culture generally should listen to this program; despite (or due to) its savory slightly static-y quality, it's well worth the $5.95 ($3.95 for members) price of admission.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Dave
  • Whittier, CA
  • 09-11-12

The Best Trick or Treat Ever

The story of Orson Welles adapting The War of the Worlds on the radio one Halloween and terrifying a ridiculous amount of the United States is kind of legendary today, but as someone who'd never heard it before, I wasn't sure if it'd live up to the legend or not.

It does, and it's a lot of fun to hear and imagine people listening to it when it originally broadcast. The moments of silence between reporters or military personnel when they go off the air unexpectedly just hangs there, and you can imagine the genuine dread that must've inspired (and still does, for those of us unafraid to use our imaginations).

I recently listened to Wells' original novel (narrated by Simon Vance) and I was impressed how much Orson Welles channeled that here - particularly the scene toward the end with the artillery man. It's a very solid adaptation, and a genuine piece of Americana.

It does sound like an old production, but it's well worth listening to if you've ever been curious about how Welles and Wells created possibly the best Trick or Treat in the world.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Science fiction makes history

Would you consider the audio edition of The War of the Worlds (Dramatized) to be better than the print version?

Classic apples to oranges question. The written story is an amazing piece of vintage science fiction while the audio version is the actual broadcast played over the radio intended as a Halloween prank on the listeners. This prank had scary consequences that made actual history. I feel each version has its own distinct personality and as such for me to pick a favorite would feel unfair.

What other book might you compare The War of the Worlds (Dramatized) to and why?

With the Star Force series by B.V. Larson fresh in my mind some obvious parallels present themselves, however that would be like comparing the 1963 Doctor who series to the present day installment of the good doctor.

Have you listened to any of Orson Welles’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

The only other performance I have heard from Mr. Wells was his portrayal of the Transformer planet in the cartoon movie by the same name. The quality of this recording was poor due to the inferior recording equipment of the time however would you really want a better track to take away from the old radio show feel?

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, I wanted to listen with my kids and explain a couple things as we went along.

Any additional comments?

Great fun for the whole family if this is correctly appreciated for what it is.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • brenty
  • United States
  • 01-07-14

Classic found footage radio

Before Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity there was the Mercury Theatre production of War of the Worlds.

Never mind being startled and scared by things that go bump in the night after watching a horror movie; this broadcast (and others like it) inspired actual widespread panic in those who missed the part at the beginning about it being a work of fiction. Seriously.

Accept no substitutions. Listen to this classic radio drama and then check out the Radiolab show about it (Google is your friend). You'll be glad you did.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

What can one say about such perfection?

Created AND narrated by the late GREAT Orson Welles..I am again stupifed & left in AWE...

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

wow

amazing performance. I can see why people were fooled when this broadcast originally came out.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

The Die Was Cut

Good Audible presentation capturing the original in its purest. At the finish I felt P K Dick standing in the shadows. In a good way. The. sci-fi genre has matured. We need to get man on Mars.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • R. Gordon
  • Bolingbrook, IL United States
  • 07-06-16

Love the Wells, H. G. and Orson!

Loved it. Reminded me of the B & W movie version with Gene Barry as the professor. They both draw upon my imagination to fill in the blanks.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Andyjn
  • 02-27-16

An all time classic

This is an excellent Adaptation of the HG wells story, bringing it into what would was then a modern setting. The sound is a bit crackly at the stray but it gets better as it goes on.