Red Scare-era America also embraced the classic Oscar-winning movie The War of the Worlds, based on H.G. Wells’s novel, which took a more sinister view of invaders from another planet. A radio dramatization of the novel by Orson Welles, beginning with a series of news bulletins that suggested an actual Martian invasion was in progress, caused mass hysteria when it was broadcast on Halloween of 1938. As the 1953 film opens, the narrator intones that with their own natural resources being exhausted, the inhabitants of Mars–the Red Planet–are looking to Earth to continue their civilization.
Dr. Clayton Forrester, a famous scientist, rushes to the scene after a molten hot meteor-like object lands in the California countryside. It turns out to be an alien spacecraft, and its occupants viciously kill three men who approach the craft in friendly greeting. The military is alerted, but human weapons are powerless against the strange ships, which have begun landing all over the world. Forrester and his love interest, Sylvia Van Buren, struggle to evade the Martians, who (in a radical departure from the human-like Klaatu) are portrayed as smallish brown creatures with three-fingered hands (to match their tripod-like ships) and a single large “electronic eye” glowing red, blue and green. Military forces around the world hit the Martians with all their firepower–even the deadly A-bomb–to no avail. In the end, the all-powerful aliens begin dying when they try to emerge from their spacecraft. As narrator puts it, they are “killed by the littlest things which God in his wisdom had put upon this earth”–bacteria.
The popularity of The War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still, as well as that of a number of other films, including The Thing From Another World (1951), Earth Versus the Flying Saucers (1956) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) helped make the 1950s a watershed decade for ufology. One of the most high-profile UFO incidents of the decade involved George Adamski, who claimed to have met a friendly visitor from Venus in the California desert on November 20, 1952. Adamski became a kind of hero to the budding ufology movement, but some have argued that he was less than honest, and that much of his story bears strong similarities to aspects of films such as The Day the Earth Stood Still. This was especially true of his account of the extraordinarily human-like alien, who according to Adamski radiated a “feeling of infinite understanding and kindness, with supreme humility.” Another notable “contactee” incident came in the early 1960s, when the New Hampshire couple Betty and Barney Hill claimed to have been abducted by aliens. In the investigation of the case, the Hills’ ongoing accounts of the abduction–retrieved partially through hypnosis–were also found to bear strong parallels with various media representations of alien invasions, including the 1953 film Invaders from Mars and an episode of the science fiction anthology television program, The Outer Limits.