An iconic classic, this version of H. G. Wells’ novel remains as good as it was almost 70 years ago. It’s lean at 85 mins, delivers on the premise of thrills and sci-fi action, and offers some amazing visuals along the way.
Gene Barry delivers a grounded performance in one of his earliest leading roles. He’s confident and authoritative without being overbearing.
Ann Robinson’s hysterics are as on the nose as ever as the damsel in distress. Although her introduction shows her to be educated, she’s unfortunately relegated to serving up meals and coffees, and screaming/crying at regular intervals. A sign of the times.
The star of the film is undoubtedly the machines. Albert Nozaki’s Manta Ray design with the cobra head is iconic. It may not match Wells’ description, but it’s menacing, alien, and when combined with the sound design they’re totally impressive on screen. The shots of the machines with their shields still looks amazing.
The Deus ex Machina ending is far too abrupt. It’s accurate to the book, but a few more minutes charting the end of the conflict would have helped. Aside from that, it remains an absolute classic.
The 4K scan is a revelation in comparison to older offerings. The detail level is quite high, levels are good, and colours are nicely saturated. Wire removal work was completed, but they’re still noticeable in some shots. Compression could be improved, as some of the grain is not well resolved. Optical fades have some DNR applied to reduce the increased grain. One other notable issue: unlike Criterion’s upcoming release, Mars has not been colour corrected and appears blue. Disappointing, considering the other benefits.
There are two lossless options – a dual mono and a 5.1 remix. Both offer good clarity and separation. If you’re familiar with the mix, you’ll know some of Ann’s outbursts distort a little and some of the sound effects have a similar distortion, but it’s all source related. I think I heard a few new effects in the 5.1 track too. Two solid tracks.