The latest entry in the Paramount Presents line is the highly anticipated double feature with The War of the Worlds and When Worlds Collide, two science fiction classics produced by the special effects pioneer George Pal. The package includes the far more famous film, the 1953 adaptation of the classic H.G. Wells novel, on a mostly excellent 4K UltraHD disc. However, the package is hampered by some quality control issues, which tempers the excitement surrounding the release.
The 1953 adaptation of The War of the Worlds was directed by Byron Haskin and written by Barré Lyndon. They moved the action from Victorian era-England to Cold War-era southern California, where the mysterious Martians first arrive. Although many may believe that '50s sci-fi movies are filled with cheap effects, visible wires, and bad acting, that is hardly the case for The War of the Worlds. Newcomers will be surprised by the Oscar-winning effects and the warm performances from Gene Barry and Ann Robinson (both of whom had cameos in Steven Spielberg's 2005 adaptation). The War of the Worlds has influenced decades of sci-fi films and is an important step in the development of special effects.
Two years before The War of the Worlds, Pal produced When Worlds Collide, an adaptation of the novel by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie, directed by Rudolph Maté. The story involves the discovery of a rogue star that is hurtling toward earth. When scientists discover the star also has a habitable planet, they try to build a space version of Noah's Ark to take survivors there. This feels like a real trial run for The War of the Worlds but is also a really fun movie. Running a hair under 90 minutes, When Worlds Collide is a breezy adventure that is eerily relevant to today's issues.
Both movies in the set are wonderful and have their legions of fans, which makes it a little disappointing that some issues have come up. As The Digital Bits noted in their review, The War of the Worlds has a weird color timing issue that leaves Mars looking blue! However, the trailer included on the 4K disc shows the Red Planet looking red, as does the 2020 Criterion Collection Blu-ray. Paramount told The Digital Bits this shot was "taken from the original three-strip Technicolor negative. Paramount chose not to employ additional color correction, but instead consulted original IB Technicolor prints and matched the look from there." In addition, the color timing is off on the entirety of When Worlds Collide, as the Technicolor movie has an odd brownish hue. (This issue was first pointed out in the DVD Beaver review and it does look a little odd.) Paramount hasn't said anything about a replacement program to fix the issue yet.
Aside from Mars looking more like Neptune, the 4K War of the Worlds disc looks amazing. It does have another problem though. The disc is missing the original mono soundtrack. Instead, you only get the 2018 5.1 remix that Ben Burtt created. This gives some of the sound effects an unexpected punch. The 4K disc also houses all of the bonus material, which was carried over from Paramount's previous DVD. There are two commentary tracks (one with Barry and Robinson, and another with Joe Dante and historians Bob Burns and Bill Warren), two documentaries, the trailer, and Orson Welles' 1938 radio adaptation. When Worlds Collide's only bonus is a trailer. Also, it's important to note that the package does not include The War of the Worlds on Blu-ray. The film is only presented on a 4K disc.
Paramount's The War of the Worlds/When Worlds Collide double feature is a nice release and it's exciting to see a studio release a film from the 1950s on 4K. They are also really great movies and hopefully, more '50s sci-fi is coming to the best home video formats. That said, the release isn't as perfect as it should be. The issues pointed out by other experts will be glaring for longtime enthusiasts of these films.