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“If they’re mortal, they must have mortal weaknesses,” the astrophysicist hero tells his girlfriend in The War of the Worlds (1953). “They’ll be stopped…somehow.” They—the Martians, on a mission to exterminate humanity—are, indeed, eventually foiled in this Oscar-winning adaptation of H.G. Wells’ fantasia of mass destruction, but not before a whole lotta Hollywood extras get atomized. Stilted dialogue aside, most everything in War—from its documentary-style opening to its final elegant image of deus ex machina salvation—works beautifully, including the film’s one sequence of undiluted horror: Trapped in a farmhouse with three manta-like Martian death machines hovering over them, the hero and his girl hide from the tentaclelike probe that’s searching the building for survivors. This game of cat-and-mouse, included by director Byron Haskin at producer George Pal’s suggestion, is both a show- and a heart-stopper. And it’s way scarier than anything in Independence Day. At 6:30 p.m. at the National Theatre’s Hayes Gallery, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. (202) 783-3372. (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa)