One of my favorite aspects of the ongoing Paramount Presents series is the packaging. Each slipcase opens to reveal a replica of the film’s original poster art. However, this 2-disc set of The War of the Worlds and When Worlds Collide includes the one-sheet that was created to promote their re-release as a double feature back in the ‘70s. It’s almost as if Paramount had my childhood in-mind, because I was first in line to catch them at the Southgate theater one weekend, even though I'd already seen both on TV a million times.
When Star Wars became a cultural phenomenon in 1977, science-fiction was suddenly cool again. More importantly, it was profitable again and studios clamored to get a piece of the action. In an odd move, Paramount Pictures resurrected two relics from the early 1950s – The War of the Worlds and When Worlds Collide – marketing them with an all-new ad campaign.
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So there I was at the Southgate one afternoon, by myself, watching two movies that were made when my parents were kids. Granted, both were rendered quaint in the wake of Star Wars, but they won visual effects Oscars in their day, and decades later, were still more convincing than most of the Star Wars rip-offs cranked out at the time, such as Starcrash, Battle Beyond the Stars, Laserblast or Message from Space. And you know what? Seeing The War of the Worlds and When Worlds Collide on the big screen made them feel a lot more epic than they did on my tiny black & white bedroom TV. It was almost like watching them for the first time.
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Short of catching them at a revival house, this set (Paramount Presents #35) is the closest I’ll ever get to reliving the childhood experience of seeing them on the big-screen. Both of them look and sound wonderful…with the lights out & curtains drawn, it’s almost like being back at the old Southgate (minus the sticky floor).
While The War of the Worlds was first released on Blu-ray by Criterion just two years ago and featured a great remaster, I gotta say the 4K UHD transfer is a knock-out. But even for those who purchased the Criterion disc, the Blu-ray debut of When Worlds Collide is too tempting for any ‘50s sci-fi fan to pass up (and looks a hell of a lot better than the crusty old DVD). Unavailable separately, one could consider this the greatest bonus feature of all time. Nicely packaged and featuring a smattering of vintage supplemental material - all related to The War of the Worlds - this is one of the best releases of the Paramount Presents series. Whether you grew up in the ‘50s or belatedly discovered them in the ‘70s, these films paired together are a nostalgic blast and the perfect double feature.
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (4K):
FEATURETTES - “The Sky is Falling: Making The War of the Worlds”; “H.G.Wells: The Father of Science Fiction.”
“THE WAR OF THE WORLDS” - Orsen Welles’ infamous Mercury Theater On the Air Radio Broadcast.
AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By actors Ann Robinson & Gene Barry; 2) By director Joe Dante (Gremlins), historians Bob Burns & Bill Warren.
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (BLU-RAY):