Christmas 1978. My sister is given ‘Jeff Waynes Musical Version of the War of the Worlds’, a solid double album, packed with wonderful typography, sleeve art and prog rock. She listened to it repeatedly over the next few weeks, and I did not leave the house as a result. The reason?
The sequence with the lid of the Martian cylinder unscrewing. A immensely threatening sound, and for an impressionable six-year-old, utterly terrifying. The narration, by Richard Burton, mentions the cylinders leaving a ‘green mist’ behind them as they descended. Unfortunately, the suburban streetlights of Bedford lit up the foggy winter sky so that it looked green, like the Martians had landed, and were coming for me. Add to that the marching electricity pylons which cross Brickhill, and my fears were complete. It all added up to ‘Good Old-Fashioned Nightmare Fuel’.
As I said, impressionable. Still, it became a favourite, and the album is now in my possession, and gets played from time to time.
Cut to 2004.
The backstage chats during ‘Two‘, found a number of us saying how much we enjoyed the record, some of us for the innovative synthesizer technology, some of us for the axe hero workouts and the presence of Phil Lynott, and some for the dulcet tones of David Essex (you know who you are).
Since then, I’ve dug out the album again, and I’m listening to it now on my Walkman. It’s all the more creepy, considering I live in South West London, and work in Godalming, near Guildford. So the locations mentioned are all pretty close to home. Horsell Common in Woking (a town that would frankly be improved by a Martian cylinder landing on it), the destruction of Weybridge (ditto), Byfleet etc etc.
I’ve been checking out a few links, too. And what do I find? Not one, not two, but three movies in production!
Pendragon Pictures have a cheap CGI-enhanced version due for cinema release on 30 March 2005. Its supposed to be following the book directly, so that should be fun. If the trailers are anything to go by, they have budget and dodgy accents against them. Still I look forward to seeing it, if it gets shown at my local multiplex (faint hope). They were planning a contemporary version, with modern skyscrapers being destroyed, but they canned this idea in the ‘treading on eggshells’ mania of late 2001.
The Jeff Wayne album itself is set for a 2005 re-release, along with, wait for it, a fully CGI animated movie, using the imagery and machinery from the album booklet. I’m looking forward to this more than anything.
Finally, someone called Spielberg is making a film starring someone called Cruise, due for release on 29 June 2005. This is based on the late 80’s TV series, so don’t expect too much sticking to the book (not that doing that is an end in itself). Also expect mawkish sentimentality and explosions.
A veritable feast! As an extra treat, I found this great gallery of War Of The Worlds book covers.
And finally, the book that started it all. Here’s the full text, thanks to Project Gutenberg.
The most touching part of the story as I read it now, are the final lines, missed from the album, and most other versions.
“And strangest of all is it to hold my wife’s hand again, and to think that I have counted her, and that she has counted me, among the dead.”