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(1953), G [PG-G*] (1hr 17min)

Analysis Date
CAP Final Score
CAP Influence Density
June 19, 2005
77 out of 100

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Christian Long Distance

(This section may be and sometimes is somewhat subjective.)

If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary.

(1953), G [PG-G*] -- ... a cold war era adaptation of the 1898 H. G Wells novel.

Production (US): Paramount Pictures
Distribution (US): Paramount Pictures
Director(s): Byron Haskin
Producer(s): Frank Freeman Jr., George Pal, Cecil B. DeMille
Novel: H. G. Wells
Screenplay: Barré Lyndon
Cinematography/Camera: George Barnes
Music: Leith Stevens
Film Editing: Everett Douglas
Art Direction: Albert Nozaki, Hal Pereira
Viewed on: Paramount Home Video

If the Internet Movie database is correct, the only country of seven that gave a G-rating to The War of the Worlds (1953) film was the US. Australia gave it a PG. Sweden gave it a 15. Norway: 16. Finland: 16. The UK: PG. And West Germany gave it a 12. This film earned a score of 77 which places this film squarely dead-center in the range of scores earned by PG films (86 to 68 out of 100) in the comparative baseline database. So, everybody else is out of step but the MPAA, right? I never expected foreign film boards to corroborate the CAP analysis model over the US MPAA.

The War of the Worlds (1953) is equivalent to many PG films in the comparative baseline database due mainly to violence, most notably action violence in the form of alien attacks and murder by alien weapon fire. Indeed, the level of violence was equivalent to some R-rated films, but no gore was present as is frequent in modern R-rated films. No blood was splattered on the wall behind the victims and pounds of flesh were not ripped from any characters.

While three of the six CAP investigation areas revealed programming equivalent to G-rated movies in the comparative baseline database, three revealed PG-equivalent programming. But because of the violence score being so low, the final score was dragged down to the PG-equivalent scoring range (86 to 68 out of 100). [Prov. 13:2, Prov. 3:31]

The War of the Worlds (1953) is a cold war era adaptation of the 1898 H. G Wells novel by the same name narrated on CBS Radio by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater Group on October 30, 1938. So effective was the delivery that the nation was brought to panic. National Geographic reports that the radio show The War of the Worlds also revealed how "the power of mass communications could be used to create theatrical illusions and manipulate the public." "Manipulate the public?" That was in 1938 folks. And so many still don't believe it.

One warm July Saturday evening near Linda Rosa in southern California, a meteor crash landed in the hills. In bewilderment and shock the small town stirs at seeing the sight after exiting a movie theater. A few proceed to the crash sight.

Noting smoke coming from the meteor crash site near Pine Summit, the US Forestry dispatched firefighters to extinguish the brush fires. Remembering that some scientists from the Pacific Institute of Science and Technology in Los Angeles are fishing and camping near Pine Summit, the US Forestry sent a man to ask the scientists to investigate the meteor site. Dr. Clayton Forester (Gene Barry) volunteers to do so as the others report back to Pacific Tech.

Onlookers and town officials gather around the meteor and plan to make a tourist attraction of it. As Buck from Buck's Service probes at and bangs on the super hot meteor with a spade shovel a chunk falls off, making the scene even hotter. Among those at the meteor site are Sheriff Bogany (Walter Sande), a newspaper man and Pastor Dr. Matthew Collins (Lewis Martin) of the community church with his niece Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson). Sylvia, who teaches Library Science at USC, is about to become deeply entangled in the affair. And so is Dr. Martin ... fatally.

Shortly, Dr. Forester arrives and anonymously strikes up a conversation with Sylvia since she is the first person he meets at the site. Sylvia has no idea who it is with whom she is speaking. Reciprocating the strange man's friendliness under the excitement of the most significant moment of the century and with a schoolgirl grin on her face, Sylvia says that Dr. Clayton Forester, the top man in astro and nuclear physics at Pacific Tech is on his way and he will have all the answers. The strange man offers that Forester is "not that good" to which Sylvia argues that she earned her master's degree with a thesis on modern scientists, of which Forester was one, so she knew all about him. "Do you know him" Sylvia asks the strange man? Then Sylvia searched a moment or two to compose her embarrassment as Forester revealed himself to her. Since her thesis was on Forester, it is understandable why Sylvia was attracted to him, not a fatal attraction but one she might have been better off discarding.

Since the meteor was still too hot to examine, Dr. Forester elects to stay overnight to wait for the thing to cool off. Having no place to stay since the other two scientists went back to Pacific Tech in Forester's plane, Dr. Matthew Collins, pastor of the community church insists Forester stays at his home. To wile the time away, Forester attends a square dance accompanied by Sylvia.

During the dance, as three men stood fire watch over the meteor, the meteor came to life. A plug unscrewed from the top of the meteor and an alien cobra-like probe appeared from the opening. Seeking friendship with the occupants the three men approached the meteor ... and got fried by a heat ray from the probe.

While the heat ray was frying the three men, all electric power in town was lost. The heat ray fried the nearby power lines as well. All wrist watches became magnetic and stopped. Even the Sheriff's pocket compass no longer pointed north, but rather to the meteor site.

Brush fires around the meteor caused by the heat ray drew the attention of the townspeople. Upon inspecting the site, Dr. Forester, Sheriff Bogany and a deputy were nearly fired themselves. Once the probe started shooting again, the deputy drove off in cowardice leaving Forester and the Sheriff to themselves. The deputy and the patrol car were fried.

From there, all manner of military aggression failed. Worldwide. Guns, tanks, bombs, even the atomic bomb were all useless. Dr. Bilderbeck (DSandro Giglio), also of Pacific Tech calculated the time it would take for the Martians to take over the earth -- 6 days.

But the Martians got only one day of those six days before the simplest critter on Earth brought the Martians down. Any more of the plot and story is up to your discovery should you, after inspecting the listing in the Findings/Scoring section (the heart of the CAP analysis model), decide this film is fit for your family.

I would like to offer a comment about how Hollywood will use sensationalism over accuracy and take advantage of general unfamiliarity to increase suspense. When the first of the meteors from Mars landed, Forester used a Geiger-Muller type Geiger counter to detect radiation from it, ostensibly ionizing radiation. In the film, though it would matter to the one(s) exposed, it didn't matter whether the radiation was alpha, beta, gamma, X-ray or whatever. As Forester waved the probe of the Geiger counter around the clicking of the counter increased as the probe pointed at the meteor and decreased as it pointed away. For eight years I trained police/fire/rescue in the use of Geiger counters with a cobalt-60 gamma source set as a radiation source while working as a Radiation Safety Officer for a State emergency preparedness agency. Proper positioning of a Geiger counter probe is to hold it perpendicular to the direction of radiation, in other words with the side of the probe facing the source. There was a lot more wrong with the way the Geiger counter was being used but hopefully the point is made. By the way, the blinking light on the Geiger counter was fanfare. Although The War of the Worlds (1953) is before my time, most Geiger counters use headsets or speakers. I have never seen one with a blinking light. And I have never seen one used properly in film.

Another comment on Hollywood's exaggeration of reality applies to their incessant portrayal of disaster leading to mass looting and rioting. While working on the Exec staff at a commercial nuclear power station, I was tasked with studying mass evacuations and writing a white paper on the subject. The study revealed that people will more likely react with camaraderie and with earnest desire to help rather than looting and rioting, even to the point of sacrificing themselves for the benefit of others. It is unlikely one will ever encounter the mass rioting and looting after an evacuation due to disaster such as depicted in The War of the Worlds (1953). Indeed, it would seem that the only place where mass rioting and looting surrounding evacuations happens is on the big screen. But it seems almost everybody believes looting and rioting are unavoidable surrounding a mass evacuation. Maybe that fortifies the finding of National Geographic that the power of mass communications can and does "manipulate the public." Note that the study did not involve race-based upheavals, just evacuations due to disaster, such as depicted in The War of the World (1953).

I would get into the film's portrayal of exploding a nuclear bomb but it would take too much space, which I've done already.

Other than the issues already discussed, about the only remaining items which might be of parental concern is the demonstration of cheating [2Tim. 2:5], the smoking [1Cor. 6:19], Forester calling people "fools" [Matt. 5:22] and the reference to evolution [Gen. Ch. 1, 2]. Not one use of the three/four letter word vocabulary, not one of the most foul of the foul words nor one example of sexual immorality was found. Not one. I am looking forward to preparing a comparative of this 1953 version with the 2005 version.


If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ] or bold. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.


  • Prov. 13:2 From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things, but the unfaithful have a craving for violence.
  • Prov. 3:31 Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.
  • Ps. 37:37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace.
  • 2Tim. 2:5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.
  • 1Cor. 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 1Cor. 6:20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
  • Matt. 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment [krisis: accusation, trial]: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca [senseless, empty headed: a term of reproach among Jews at the time of Christ], shall be in danger of the council [sunedrion: adjudication]: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool [moros: impious, godless], shall be in danger of hell fire.

    ***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men [e.g., create progressively vile/offensive entertainment with impunity and no consequences to younger and younger audiences every year when enough people continue to defend it, embrace it, pay for it, enjoy it, want it].
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
  • Rom. 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
  • Jude 1:4 For there are certain men* crept in unawares [secretly slipped in among you], who were before of old ordained to this condemnation [whose condemnation was written about long ago], ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness [a license for immorality], and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto [or for] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [or for] me.
  • Luke 17:2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. ["Offend": skandalizo - to entice to sin; to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey; to cause to fall away. "Little ones": mikros - little;, small of age; younger which can include at-home teens].
  • Ps. 119:133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me [let no sin rule over me].
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. ["Evil" includes all things that are sinful.]


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.
    (The heart of the CAP Analysis Model)

    The War of the Worlds (1953) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W)
  • military armament
  • alien attack/action violence, repeatedly
  • battle sequences, repeatedly (no gore)
  • death by fire
  • man shaking woman and shouting at her to stop her hysteria
  • imagery of panic
  • hit to face

    Impudence/Hate (I)
  • cheating
  • mass looting, rioting, mob rule

    Sexual Immorality (S)
  • none noted

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • smoking, repeatedly

    Offense to God (O)
  • "You fools!" three times (Matt. 5:22]

    Murder/Suicide (M)
  • murders by alien weapon fire, repeatedly (no gore)
  • one murder by disintegration which may be lite gore to some

  • First Impressions and

    Christian Educators Association International



    There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our more than eight years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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