Ray Bradbury in the Movies – A Retrospective
Ray Bradbury’s lyrical stories were perhaps unsuited to cinema and TV, but some interesting – albeit flawed – movies and TV shows were made out of them. In this article we look at a few of them, from best to worst . . .
In this Francois Truffaut movie adaptation of Bradbury’s 1951 novel books are forbidden and the fire brigade actually goes around burning them. One fireman secretly played by Oskar Werner secretly rebels after reading a Charles Dickens book.
The film version doesn’t exactly stick to the material at hand so don’t think you can cheat on your English Lit 101 exams by watching the movie instead of reading the book. This was the legendary French director’s only English movie – the director couldn’t speak it very well and it shows! The movie is stilted and dry, especially by today’s fast action movie standards, but it is a fascinating exercise for those with patience. Plus, the ending is quite haunting . . .
TRIVIA: Mel Gibson owns the rights to this book, but there are as yet no plans to film it. (How practical would it be to burn books in the age of the Kindle and the Internet?) In 2010 Ray Bradbury was asked about whether the movie would get made with all the bad publicity Mel Gibson has been getting to which he replied that no, the movie won’t get made because “unfortunately, [Mel Gibson]’s busy with the Russian girl, and I saw him on TV this morning swearing at her. So there you go.”
An anthology movie based on the 1951 Bradbury collection of 18 short stories of the same name.
This movie retells three of the stories excluding the framing device about a man (Rod Steiger in a memorable performance) whose tattoos or “skin illustrations” as he calls them comes alive when you look at them. The three stories are The Veldt (sort of a precursor to Star Trek Next Generation’s holodeck), The Long Rains (about astronauts stuck on a planet where it rains all the time) and The Last Night of the World (in which a couple must decide what to do with their children before impending nuclear destruction).
The movie is a hit-and-miss affair like most anthology stories, but if you’re in the mood for something different then this 1960s art movie might just fit the bill.
TRIVIA: When director Jack Smight contacted Ray Bradbury about buying the rights to The Illustrated Man, Bradbury informed him he would sell it if Smight hired Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman or Rod Steiger for the lead role. Steiger’s volatile performance is the best thing in the movie.
This five-hour long TV miniseries by the director of Logan’s Run has dated rather badly.
The special effects and sets are seriously retro and the astronauts pitch up on Mars in ‘Seventies leisure suits.
Some bits are also downright dull even though sci-fi legend Richard Matheson (I Am Legend) did an admirable job hammering Bradbury’s episodic stories into shape.
TRIVIA: At one point, shortly before the miniseries’ scheduled release, Bradbury found himself the sole representative of the production at a press conference. When one reporter asked him what he thought of the miniseries, he responded candidly, “Booooooooring!” NBC soon shelved the miniseries and it did not air it until January 1980.
This Peter Hyams (Capricorn One, Outland) movie takes Bradbury’s famous 1952 short story about someone on a “time travel safari” stepping on a butterfly and inadvertently changing the future and stretches into a big budget, special effects heavy B-movie.
It’s dumb and filled with plot holes and idiocies galore. Not to mention crappy special effects.
Bradbury fans hate it. Then again, so did mainstream audiences. The movie scored 6% at RottenTomatoes.com and only made $12 million worldwide even though it cost about $80 million to make.
TRIVIA: Renny Harlin was fired from the production, because he made a creative decision that made Ray Bradbury very unhappy, and this film’s producers decided to support Ray Bradbury.