The first episode of James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, a sprawling attempt to look at the key themes uniting all on-screen sci-fi over the years, deals with the concept of alien life. Inevitably, when you’re talking about alien life in science fiction films, you end up talking about alien invasion. And when you’re talking about alien invasion, you sooner or later get onto that most influential of invasion narratives, The War of the Worlds.
But which War of the Worlds? When writer and producer Dean Devlin, who knows a thing or two about marauding extraterrestrials thanks to his work on Independence Day, says “You can’t make a movie about an alien invasion without tipping your hat to [The] War of the Worlds. It’s the Godfather of alien invasion movies.” he’s clearly talking about the marvellous 1953 version, directed by Byron Haskin and produced by genre legend George Pal. But there have been a number of adaptations over the years since writer H.G. Wells first put his bleakly terrifying tale down on paper in the mid-1890s, with each speaking to the fears and anxieties of the time.