The War of the Worlds

There are some things that I would like to do and nothing in particular stops me from doing them, but I still don’t do them for some metaphoric reasons, which aren’t even good enough to blog about. One example of the thing that I wanted to do was to listen to the original “The War of the Worlds” radio show. I could have downloaded the mp3 at any moment and listen to it, but something was stopping me.

Today I finally did it though. “The War of the Worlds” mp3 was tossed into a bunch of other stuff that I was getting for my growing podcast hunger, and so it ended up on my phone and as a next item in the playlist.

By the way, if you don’t have a slightest idea of what I am talking about, you should probably read “The War of the Worlds (radio)” Wikipedia entry. If you want to listen to the show yourself, then you can get it from The Mercury Theatre on the Air website. If you have a feeling that the title sounds familiar, but somehow doesn’t fit the content, then you are probably thinking about the “The War of the Worlds” movie, which I’ve also seen some time ago and reviewed in this post.

The executive summary: “The War of the Worlds” went on air on October 30, 1938. It was in a form of news broadcast. It was entirely fictional and was about evil Martian invasion of Earth. There were a lot of listeners who ignored the opening credits of the show and warnings that it was totally fictional and thought that the real invasion was in progress. Some panic was caused.

Now, if this perspective doesn’t interest you at all, I’d still insist on you listening to the bit. It is a nice piece of sci-fi drama, and it will take only about one hour of your listening time.

While I was listening to the show, I tried to imagine people of the 1938 and just maybe realize their perspective. They didn’t have no Internet back than. Television was just coming out of labs and testbeds (entry for Television at Wikipedia). Newspapers and radio were basically the only two information channels. On top of that, mass media was also in its toddler years, so people were actually believing and taking for granted whatever was written in the papers and said on the radio.

If I was one of those people – I have to say that I’d probably paniced too. The show is done very professionally, and it sounds very realistic. Just maybe in some places the timing gives it away (like counting the survivors after a major battle took about five minutes). The organization of the news cast is amazing. It starts off with a very light mood, dancing music broadcast, and light interviews. As events unfold, it gets havier and havier.

At one point I realized that I was actually glued to the show, much like anyone would be back than in 1938. The only thing that kept me from fully believing it was the sound quality. Modern sound systems have advanced a great deal compared to the old ones. No more cracking noises, stereo is everywhere, and sound mixing is much more advanced too.

Anyway, I really liked the show. I do recommend it to anyone who is interested in radio, American culture, mass media, or Hollywood movies.

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