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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Companion Piece To The Battle Over Citizen Kane
This is the story of one of the most famous radio broadcasts in history, perhaps the most famous. It is an essential look at a crucial period in Orson Welles' life, the time between his theatrical accomplishments and his later departure for Hollywood. The 1938 broadcast of the play and subsequent controversy would make Welles an overnight celebrity. The film makes for a...
Published 5 months ago by Stephen

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wide of the Mark
There are a few factual errors here that someone even casually familiar with the event will catch. For instance, the decision to frame the broadcast as a series of news bulletins was part of the idea from the beginning, according to Howard Koch's account of working on the script. The fake-documentary style wasn't adapted only three days before air, as reported here...
Published 6 months ago by Jay Freeman


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wide of the Mark, January 7, 2014
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This review is from: American Experience: War of the Worlds (DVD)
There are a few factual errors here that someone even casually familiar with the event will catch. For instance, the decision to frame the broadcast as a series of news bulletins was part of the idea from the beginning, according to Howard Koch's account of working on the script. The fake-documentary style wasn't adapted only three days before air, as reported here.

What really grated on me, though, were the amateurish recreations of listeners reporting their experiences. These are shot in distressed black and white (like "News On The March" footage), but you know instantly that they're contemporary, over-the-top, rather dinner-theatre-ish performances (with one exception at the end), not remotely convincing as period footage. This is in lamentable contrast to the event being celebrated, in which actors like Frank Readick and Ray Collins really managed to sound like non-actors, to sensational effect.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Companion Piece To The Battle Over Citizen Kane, February 20, 2014
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Stephen (Chicago, IL, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: American Experience: War of the Worlds (DVD)
This is the story of one of the most famous radio broadcasts in history, perhaps the most famous. It is an essential look at a crucial period in Orson Welles' life, the time between his theatrical accomplishments and his later departure for Hollywood. The 1938 broadcast of the play and subsequent controversy would make Welles an overnight celebrity. The film makes for a very good companion piece to the 1996 documentary called The Battle Over Citizen Kane.

The film is well done. I especially appreciated all the old film footage and still photographs. However, I did not much care for the actors who read letters written at the time, though they all did a fine job. In my view, simple voice-overs would have been equally effective, if not more so. Despite that, the film offers a great deal of information regarding a signal event in broadcast history. It is also an important part of the story of the man who would go on to create one of the most influential movies of all time, Citizen Kane.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Demonstration of the Influence of Mass Media, November 2, 2013
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This review is from: American Experience: War of the Worlds (DVD)
I wish the DVD had the full recording of the radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds." It is still a good documentary about how a radio drama based on a science fiction story and presented as a live real time news report could produce a panic. Mostly people who tuned in after the show had started heard only the parts where the Martians were attacking New Jersey and they missed the introduction to the show that explained that it was just a radio drama. The public reaction after it was realized that it was only a radio play ranged from praise to rage. The DVD only deals with the events in the United States late in 1938.

This was not the only radio dramatization of "The War of the Worlds," there are others not mentioned on the DVD. The more infamous example was the broadcast during February, 1949 in Quito, Ecuador. It created a mass panic among the citizens of Quito! When they learned that it was a radio play, they were not amused.
Reportedly a mob formed and a riot broke out. The building where the radio station was located in was set on fire. Tragically, a few people were killed as a result. For more information about this incident, you might enter terms like Quito, "War of the Worlds, and "radio hoax" into the search engine of your choice.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine WOTW documentary, even if it is a little short, November 2, 2013
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steve_manassas (Manassas, VA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: American Experience: War of the Worlds (DVD)
I first heard Orson Welles' WAR OF THE WORLDS when I was in elementary school. Even then, I couldn't understand why people thought that the Martian invasion was real.

I watched this PBS AMERICAN EXPERIENCE documentary on Tuesday, October 29, 2013, on Washington, D.C. affiliate WETA - the eve of the 75th Anniversary of the original broadcast on the Columbia Broadcasting System (not "Service," as the documentary claims). I received the DVD on November 1, 2013.

The documentary is a fine behind-the-scenes look at the documentary and the panic it caused. There are interviews with Welles' daughter, Chris Welles Feder, director Peter Bogdanovich, and several others, along with recreations, played by actors, of reactions of people who heard the broadcast.

Not much in the way of extras, except for a few outtakes, a brief "making-of" segment, and some of the letters written to Welles.

A good documentary, though I think 2 hours would have given it justice.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great pbs show, March 30, 2014
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Charlene (Pearl City, Hawaii) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: American Experience: War of the Worlds (DVD)
We bought this after watching this on P B S. We enjoyed it so much we decided we needed to own it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hall of Shame, March 6, 2014
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This review is from: American Experience: War of the Worlds (DVD)
This is based on the broadcast, but applies to the DVD, also. The rogram has a quick scroll of newspaper articles about public reaction to the broadcast. One is a NYT article about Brevard College in North Carolina (evidently, someone contacted the local newspaper which put the report on a wire service; the article then went, in theory at least, world wide). Students fainted, and many telephoned parents to take them home. In a history of the College, it is said President Coltrane of the College received several letters chastising the BC students for being so gullible.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is wonderful., February 25, 2014
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R. Browning "rsbrown3" (San Antonio, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: American Experience: War of the Worlds (DVD)
A superb way of getting at one of the 20th centuries most important moments in terms of mass media. Very well done.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A nice exploration of mass panic, December 15, 2013
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This review is from: American Experience: War of the Worlds (DVD)
This is a DVD about the infamous Orson Wells radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. There are excerpts from the radio drama, there are recreations of reactions, there is a nice narrative flow. The focus is on "why" people reacted as they did and not so much a presentation of the show. I found it very interesting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but a bit slight, December 2, 2013
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This review is from: American Experience: War of the Worlds (DVD)
The DVD contains the one-hour program plus a few extras. The extras mostly have to do with the making of the program itself. I was hoping for more historical extras on the DVD; at the very least a recording of the broadcast.

The program includes dramatizations of comments sent in by listeners at the time. These are somewhat interesting since they are first-person accounts from people who were seriously frightened by the radio show. The presentation is a little strange since they are shot as interviews in period dress, on a period-furnished set. I was a bit confused at first until I realized that they had to be present-day actors. Some of them chew the scenery a bit, which seems over the top. I guess not even PBS is immune from the pressure to put these staged re-enactments into documentaries that in former days would only use historical material.

Overall, though, this is still worth watching if you are interested in this episode and/or Orson Welles.
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American Experience: War of the Worlds
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