Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The prestigious CBS dramatic anthology Studio One launched its tenth season on the air with this elaborate dramatization of the nationwide panic which ensued after Orson Welles' famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast of October 30, 1938. Welles had chosen to update the H.G. Wells science fiction classic and present the drama in the form of an actual newscast, replete with special bulletins, on-the-scene reports of the Martian invasion of Grover's Mills, NJ, and moments of "spontaneous" (actually carefully scripted and directed) horror. Unfortunately, the listening public, many of whom tuned into the dramatization in progress and as such were unaware that it was all make-believe, were convinced that America was indeed under siege from hordes of invading Martians -- and, as everyone now knows, chaos ensued. Like the later made-for-TV movie The Night That Panicked America, this TV recreation alternates between the War of the Worlds performance in progress at CBS's New York studios with vignettes of the reactions of the listeners -- reactions which generally ranged from plain terror to stark, raw terror. The huge cast includes several stars-to-be, among them Ed Asner, James Coburn, Vincent Gardenia, Warren Oates, and, as a youthful poker player, Warren Beatty. Narrated by legendary newscaster Edward R. Murrow and originally telecast live, "The Night America Trembled" has happily been preserved in kinescope form and is available on videotape from several sources.