The Illustrated Man (1969)

Actors: Rod Steiger, Claire Bloom, Robert Drivas, Don Dubbins, Jason Evers
Jack Smight
Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Number of discs:

DVD Features:

  • Available Subtitles: English
  • Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Vintage featurette: "Tattooed Steiger"
  • Original theatrical trailer


In this 1969 movie set during Depression-era America, Rod Steiger is an ill-tempered drifter whose entire body is covered with tattoos, or "skin illustrations" as he brashly insists on calling them.

When others look at the tattoos they are made to experience events from the distant future.

The movie is an adaptation of a collection of short stories by sci-fi master Ray Bradbury published in 1951. However, whereas the book (of the same name) contained 18 stories, only three are recounted here.

In one story the virtual reality playroom (resembling the holodeck in Star Trek - Next Generation) of two children seems to be stuck on the African veldt setting with lions and vultures in the distance ominously munching on some unidentified prey the whole time.

In another story four astronauts struggle for their survival and sanity after their spaceship has crash-landed on a hostile planet where it rains incessantly.

In the final story a young couple must decide whether or not to kill their children to spare them the anguish of a coming global holocaust.

The framing story featuring Steiger is however the most intriguing and it also allows the actor some elbow room to deliver a rather memorable performance.

THE DISC: A pristine transfer in its original aspect ratio. Sure, the film's original colors are rather brown and muted in the way only 1970s movies can be, but this is a decent restoration. To see how good it is, simply check out the Tattooed Steiger featurette from the era on the disc with its poor image quality and speckled print used. Sound is decent too. Nothing much in the line of extras except for said featurette, the film's original trailer (notice how much faster today's movie trailers are?) and a trailer for the straight-to-DVD release of Dukes of Hazzard: the Beginning for some unfathomable reason.

WORTH IT? Slow-moving and dated, The Illustrated Man never quite captures the essence of what makes Bradbury's stories so unique. Some of the stories are also badly edited and tend to fumble their supposed narrative surprises. Still, some of the retro designs are fascinating (I particularly liked the rainy planet and the furniture in that futuristic house) and Jerry Goldsmith's orchestral score is kinda cool in its own over-the-top way. Ultimately the movie is proof that even flawed late-1960s/early-1970s sci-fi fare such as this is more interesting than a lot of the crud Hollywood serves up as SF nowadays.

RECOMMENDATION: You'd be better off reading Bradbury's tales in their original format, but patient sci-fi fans will find that there is much to admire in The Illustrated Man.



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