The War of the Worlds (radio 1968)
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Martians in Buffalo?
WKBW program director Jefferson Kaye, a big fan of the original Orson Welles version from three decades earlier, wondered what The War of the Worlds would sound like if it was made using up-to-date (for 1968) radio news equipment, covering the "story" of a Martian invasion. Up until this point, most radio renditions of the 1938 broadcast were simply script re-readings with different actors or had minor variations to account for significantly different geographical locations. Kaye decided to disregard the original script entirely, move the action to Grand Island, New York, and use actual WKBW disc jockeys and news reporters as actors. Other changes reflected the changing state of the industry: instead of the old-time radio programming fare of the 1930s, WKBW's War of the Worlds broadcast was interwoven into the station's top 40 programming.
Initially, a script was written for the news reporters to act out; however, upon hearing the rehearsals, it was evident that the news reporters were not adept at scripted radio acting. So instead, Kaye wrote an outline based on the events that were to occur, and the news reporters were then asked to describe the events as they would covering an actual news story. The results were much more realistic for its time, and this was the process used for the actual broadcast.
Despite an exhaustive advertising campaign by WKBW for this show, several people were still convinced upon listening to it that the events unfolding in the show were genuine. Among those fooled included a local newspaper, several small-town police officers and even the Canadian military, which dispatched troops to the Peace Bridge. Although the public concern over the legitimacy of the broadcast was not as great as in 1938, creator Kaye and director Dan Kriegler feared that they were going to lose their jobs as a result of the broadcast; Kaye claimed that he actually submitted his resignation, certain that he was going to be fired the next day. However, no one involved in the broadcast was fired and the resignation was not accepted.
During the broadcast, the show was interrupted every few minutes with an announcement that it was just a dramatization.
It was a generally conceived notion before the broadcast that a mass hoax, even one as unintentional as the 1938 program, could never be duplicated again by a lone radio broadcast. The rise of television as a preferred news medium was a factor in this notion that radio could no longer produce such a drastic response from its audience. The fact that the WKBW broadcast could unintentionally re-create that response on a smaller scale surprised many people and garnered a lot of post-broadcast attention on the radio station. In this way, it was a successful marketing gimmick.
1968: The original and longest of the broadcasts. Sandy Beach was the disc jockey in the opening.
1971: Jackson Armstrong was the DJ at the beginning of this broadcast. This version was edited down to 63 minutes from the 1:18 original.
1973: Shane "The Cosmic Cowboy" was the opening DJ and the rest of the broadcast was identical to the 1971 version. The 1973 version is to be rebroadcast on WGWE in 2012.
1975: Considered by many to be the weakest of the versions, this edition contained sloppy editing done to eliminate on-air talent no longer with the station.
- Original 1968 version of WKBW Radio's War of the Worlds
- Making of WKBW's War of the Worlds
- Buffalo Broadcasters, WKBW War of the Worlds
- REELRADIO presents WKBW's 1971 War of the Worlds, a recording of the 1971 broadcast
- Science Fiction Radio: War of the Worlds
- Gosling, John. Waging the War of the Worlds. Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland, 2009 (paperback, ISBN 0-7864-4105-4).