Night That Panicked America

Watch Night That Panicked America

  • 1975
  • 1 hr 32 min
  • 7.0  (735)

Night That Panicked America is a 1975 American made-for-television film directed by Joseph Sargent. The movie is a documentation of the hysteria that gripped the nation after Orson Welles' infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast on October 30, 1938. The film features an ensemble cast led by Vic Morrow, Cliff DeYoung and Michael Constantine.

Set in the 1930s, the movie follows the events leading up to and after the War of the Worlds broadcast, which caused widespread panic and confusion among listeners who believed that a real alien invasion was taking place. At the outset, radio producer David Sarnoff (Michael Constantine) is faced with a dilemma as to what to broadcast when he is warned that his network is about to suffer a colossal loss in revenue. Sarnoff decides to take a chance on young actor Orson Welles (Paul Shenar) and his Mercury Theatre Company's new production, The War of the Worlds, which presents the story as a series of realistic news bulletins.

On the night of the broadcast, the show starts at 8:00 pm and leads broadcast regulars into a world where Martian invaders are taking over the world. As the story unfolds, people who were already watching other programs and those who tune in later mistake the fictional news broadcast for a real event. Panic spreads like wildfire and various credible sources try to debunk the myth by appealing to the public, but to no avail. Scenes of mass panic in the streets, exodus from cities, looting, and suicides follow, all of which are based on actual events that took place that night.

Vic Morrow plays Henry Wells, a New Jersey farmer who tries to escape with his family after hearing the broadcast. He meets other panicked people on the way and together they try to get out of the city, but not without a few hiccups. Cliff De Young plays George Putnam, a radio commentator, who along with his actress girlfriend Grace Johnson (Eileen Brennan), interrupts The War of the Worlds broadcast to report that it is a fictional story. However, once the news bulletin ends, the Mercury Theatre returns and continues the broadcast, which once again throws residents of the fictional Grover's Mill, New Jersey, into a state of mass hysteria.

Night That Panicked America does a fantastic job of recapturing the terror that the American people experienced that fateful night. The movie takes viewers behind the scenes of the broadcast, exploring the drama that unfolded within the radio industry and away from the mike. The directing is superb, with split screens and visual tricks used to great effect to emphasize the chaos and confusion that gripped the nation at that time. The shots and camera angles are creative, making the action seem all too real.

The performance of the actors is excellent, especially that of Vic Morrow who plays his role brilliantly as the self-righteous and bewildered farmer. Cliff De Young equally holds his own, bringing emotion and gravitas to his role as a radio personality. The rest of the ensemble cast shines just as bright, perfectly capturing the time and flavor of this era in American history.

Overall, The Night That Panicked America succeeds in retelling the story of the War of the Worlds broadcast in a gripping and dramatic way. The film captures the fear and anxiety that gripped the public at the time, using a cast of capable actors, a tight script, and excellent direction. While there have been countless remakes over the years, this film remains the quintessential version of this gripping tale, and it continues to hold up even decades later. It's a fascinating snapshot of an important moment in American culture, which will undoubtedly be studied for years to come. Any history or sci-fi buffs will thoroughly enjoy this movie.

Night That Panicked America is a 1975 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 32 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.0.

Night That Panicked America
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  • Release Date
  • Runtime
    1 hr 32 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.0  (735)