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The Night That Panicked America (1975)

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles's radio play "The War of the Worlds" accidentally provokes mass panic.

Director:

Joseph Sargent

Writers:

Nicholas Meyer (teleplay), Anthony Wilson (teleplay) | 2 more credits »
Reviews
Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Vic Morrow ... Hank Muldoon
Cliff De Young ... Stefan Grubowski
Michael Constantine ... Jess Wingate
Walter McGinn Walter McGinn ... Paul Stewart
Eileen Brennan ... Ann Muldoon
Meredith Baxter ... Linda Davis (as Meredith Baxter Birney)
Tom Bosley ... Norman Smith
Will Geer ... Reverend Davis
Paul Shenar ... Orson Welles
John Ritter ... Walter Wingate
Granville Van Dusen ... Carl Phillips
Burton Gilliam ... Tex
Joshua Bryant ... Howard Koch
Liam Dunn ... Charlie
Shelley Morrison ... Toni
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Storyline

The true story of the night that Orson Welles broadcast his version of 'H.G. Welles'' classic ''The War of the Worlds'' on the radio. Designed to be as realistic as possible, many people were fooled into thinking that an alien invasion was actually taking place. Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@cs.uq.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 October 1975 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Night the Martians Landed See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

|

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Apparently to save on royalties, the Paramount-owned "Cocktails for Two" is substituted for "Stardust" as "the tune that never loses favor" in the mock hotel orchestra broadcast. See more »

Goofs

Welles was 23 when his "War of the Worlds" production aired. Paul Shenar was 39 when portraying Welles. See more »

Quotes

Ora Nichols: [to her assistant, assessing the Mercury Theater's show] Looks like another big night for Charlie Mc Carthy.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Premiered om ABC-TV at two hours (with commercials). A subsequent network rebroadcast was cut to fit a ninety-minute time slot. Both versions later turned up in syndication. See more »


Soundtracks

Moonlight and Shadows
(uncredited)
Music by Friedrich Hollaender
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Look At Both Mass Hysteria And Early Radio
30 October 2013 | by sddavis63See all my reviews

In October of 1938, the world was on the brink of war and in the midst of a depression. People were frightened about the present an frightened about the future. One part of this movie, at least, is about fear - the fear felt by people facing tough situations and how easy it is to tap into that fear.

"The Night That Panicked America" is the story (accurately told for the most part) of the night of October 30, 1938. The CBS Radio Network and Orson Welles broadcast their version of H.G. Wells' "The War Of The Worlds." Largely taking the form of news broadcasts, and with people tuning in and out and not necessarily catching the disclaimer at the start, panic began to spread, as people heard the fake news reports and actually believed that Martians were attacking. The portrayal of mass hysteria is very interesting; how easy it was to convince people that this was real was actually rather frightening. I've seen estimates that about 6 million people heard the broadcast, 1.7 million of them believed it and 1.2 million were actually very frightened by what they thought was happening. Fascinating to think how easily manipulated the masses could be by someone deliberately setting out to do it - and, in 1938, CBS wasn't setting out to manipulate; they were just setting out to entertain with a scary Halloween Eve broadcast. Fascinating.

The other interesting aspect of the movie is the technical side. It was also fascinating to see the re-creation of how a 1938 radio show was put together. That alone made this worthwhile viewing - especially to see what they did for something that we today would think of as being as simple as sound effects.

Is this is a great movie? Probably not. It's not exactly what I would call riveting. But it is a good look both at early radio and at the phenomenon of mass hysteria. (7/10)


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