Shortly after 8 p.m. on the Halloween Eve, 1939, the voice of a panicked radio announcer broke in with a news bulletin reporting strange explosions taking place on the planet Mars, followed minutes later by a report that Martians had landed in the tiny town of Grovers Mill, New Jersey. Although most listeners understood that the program was a radio drama, the next day’s headlines reported that thousands of others plunged into panic, convinced that America was under a deadly Martian attack. It turned out to be H.G. Wells’ classic The War of the Worlds, performed by 23-year-old Orson Welles.
Featuring interviews with film director and cinema historian Peter Bogdanovich, Welles’ daughter Chris Welles Feder, and other authors and experts, as well as dramatizations of some of the thousands of letters sent to Welles by an alternatively admiring and furious public, War of the Worlds explores how Welles’ ingenious use of the new medium of radio struck fear into an already anxious nation.