The Night America Trembled – a TV dramatization of the effect of Orson Welles’ War Of The Worlds broadcast

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Studio One, a long running anthology series on CBS television, broadcast The Night America Trembled on September 9th, 1957. It was a one hour television recreation of the supposed effect of Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of The War Of The Worlds on October 30th, 1938.

Studio One - The Night America Trembled

Conspicuous by it’s absence is the man himself. The actor portraying Orson Welles is described simply as the “host of the Mercury Theatre”. The cast includes a number famous actors in small roles, including James Coburn as a father who has his nioght out rudely interrupted by a hysterical teenage girl. Looking around the web I note that The Night America Trembled has garnered nothing but tremendously positive reviews. Thankfully you can decide that for yourself as the entire play PUBLIC DOMAIN and is available via

Download options |AVI|OGV|MP4|

My favourite part of it was all the Westinghouse commercials. Household appliances seem to have stopped evolving. My modern toaster looks like the Westinghouse model and cost about the same too.

Watch right to the end to see the intriguing descriptions for the next two shows (one a murder mystery based on a short story by John D. MacDonald and another a drama set on an atomic submarine).

I should also mention that there is second TV adaptation of the same story, entitled The Night That Panicked America, broadcast in colour on October 31, 1975. It has never been officially released but is available via torrent.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Treehouse Of Horror XVII: The Day The Earth Looked Stupid

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Speaking of Gloomy Sunday and the 1930s … October 30th, 1938 was a Sunday. And as it happens an important one.

I’ve been re-watching all The Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror episodes. There’s a terrific, and hilarious sequence in The Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror XVII called “The Day The Earth Looked Stupid.” It’s a parody and satire of the Orson Welles’ broadcast of The War Of The Worlds with a little Fallout 3 and Iraq War thrown in.

Orson Welles: “They’re grinding up the bodies of human beings.”


Orson Welles: “Now they’re riding horses in the rain.”


Orson Welles: “Now they’re playing the xylophone while bowling near an airport.”


I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire |MP3|

[via Rocker Chris Video and]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Sound Affects does a War Of The Worlds month

SFFaudio Online Audio

Sound Affects: A Radio PlaygroundThis October marks the 70th Anniversary of the Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre’s War of the Worlds program, now known as “the panic broadcast” of 1938. It’s also the 110th Anniversary of the publication of the original novel by H. G. Wells. In celebration each Sunday this month Jerry Stearns, host of Sound Affects: A Radio Playground, will present excerpts from some of the many different radio versions of the War of the Worlds, plus parodies and take-offs, and background on the original Orson Welles production and at least a dozen other versions since then.

Sound Affects: A Radio Playground airs every Sunday in October at 9:30 PM on
KFAI, 90.3 FM and 106.7 FM, Minneapolis and St. Paul. Online streaming is available at Here’s the October schedule:

October 5th 2998 – The story surrounding the 1938 Orson Welles “War of the Worlds”, the most famous radio broadcast of all time. And a parody, “They Came For The Candy” by Wisconsin’s Radio Pirates (featuring Scott Dikkers, of ‘The Onion’).

October 12th 2998 – Excerpts of War of the Worlds productions by the *Lux Radio Theater*, and the *L.A. TheatreWorks* (with an all Star Trek cast), plus three different parodies.

October 19th 2998 – Excerpts of *Jeff Wayne’s musical* version of War of the Worlds, from *WKBW* in Buffalo, NY, and from the *BBC*, plus more take-offs, including the *Simpsons* parody.

October 26th 2998 – The complete *50th Anniversary Production of War of the Worlds*, starring *Jason Robards*, Steve Allen, Hector Elizondo and recognizable voices from NPR, all recorded on location at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch by Oscar winning sound artist Randy Thom, and directed by David Ossman.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Mars Phoenix lander brought Science Fiction audio to Mars

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Mars Phoenix DVD - Messages From EarthThe Mars Phoenix lander carries a mini-DVD loaded with art, produced on Earth, about Mars. And very coolly the audio end of Science Fiction is well represented on the disc! Here’s the official word:

“Radio has been associated with Mars ever since Marconi, Tesla, and Edison each expressed interest in the possibility of radio messages coming from Mars to Earth in the early part of the 20th century. In 1938 Orson Welles and Howard Koch reinterpreted the H.G. Wells novel The War of the Worlds for radio, with unexpected and dramatic results. In a section of this disk called RADIO MARS we present some of that and other broadcasts. Arthur C. Clarke supplied us with the rare radio interview featuring a discussion between H. G. Wells and Orson Welles. The radio documentary about the Viking landing is part of a program I made for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1976, as part of its documentary radio series IDEAS. The producer was Max Allen of the CBC. Allen helped me organize over 100 hours of material recorded on tape cassettes, and mix it into the audio tapestry heard on this disk. The program includes interviews with many of the important science fiction writers who witnessed this historic event at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It was a thrilling occasion — a moment when science fiction and real space exploration truly came together. We hope that this program will convey what it was like on the night when the history of human presence on Mars really began. Seventeen years later, Max Allen played an important role in the creation of this disk: locating the original master tapes of our Viking documentary, remixing and editing the Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast, and recording the greetings from Judith Merril and Carl Sagan. In general he put the impressive technical and studio facilities of the CBC’s then new national headquarters in Toronto at our disposal. Lorne Tulk, a consummate recording engineer at the CBC, who had mixed the Viking program, lent his skills to the assembly of the RADIO MARS portion of this disk. We are also extremely grateful to the distinguished actor Patrick Stewart, well known in our time for his role on the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, for providing the narration for the audio section. In 1993 it was much easier to store sound than to store moving images on CDs. That is the principal reason for including a section on RADIO MARS as opposed to sequences from film or video images of Mars. Radio as a medium has much to recommend it. You can listen to it while driving, for example. Nothing delights the makers of RADIO MARS more than the thought that one day someone might listen to the Welles or Viking broadcast while piloting a vehicle across the martian deserts or through the martian skies!”

The Mars Phoenix Lander Deck May 26th 2008

And there it is, attached to the deck of the lander (next to the flag), the “Phoenix DVD.” I’ve managed to round up some of the audio found on the disc, from around the net. Check it out…

Carl Sagan |LISTEN|

Arthur C. Clarke |LISTEN|

War of the Worlds |MP3| The 1938 radio drama.

Wells and Welles |MP3| A 1940 non-fiction radio piece in which H.G. Wells and Orson Welles met to discuss War of the Worlds.

The Viking Landings |REALAUDIO EXCERPT| Jon Lomberg’s report on the Viking landing on Mars, July 20, 1976. Includes live recordings from mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and interviews with science fiction writers and actors.

By the way, the DVD is made of a silica glass (instead of regular plastic) so as to withstand long-term exposure on the Martian surface. Now all those Martians will need is a DVD player.

Also, for those curious about what else the lander is doing on Mars; the latest Planetary Radio podcast (put out by the Planetary Society) talks about the lander’s landing and what it’s going to do now that it has landed |MP3|.

Posted by Jesse Willis