Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Family Tree

I occasionally get emails asking about Ray Bradbury's ancestry. So, as a public service, here's a link to an earlier post (wow, it's nearly ten years old!) where I unveiled his family tree:

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Another Fine Mess

Twenty-four years ago, in April 1995, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction debuted a new Ray Bradbury short story. "Another Fine Mess" is one of Bradbury's tributes to Laurel and Hardy, and another of his laments for the old Hollywood of his childhood.

Bella Winters, newly moved into a house near Effie Street in Los Angeles, awakens one night and hears voices outside. And what sounds like a piano being hit. She becomes convinced that she is hearing, in the darkness outside, Laurel and Hardy attempting to get a piano up the steep concrete steps. She calls her friend Zelda, a silent film fanatic, and Zelda too becomes convinced that Stan and Ollie are somehow haunting the steps. Perhaps, Bella suggests, they have returned because no one has ever told them how much they are loved...

The piano reference is, of course, to Laurel and Hardy's classic, Oscar-winning short film The Music Box (1932), in which the comic duo repeatedly attempt to get a boxed upright piano up an impossibly long flight of stairs.

As a longtime resident of Los Angeles, and a lifelong fan of Laurel and Hardy, Bradbury knew and loved the old Hollywood. Bella and Zelda represent aspects of himself, both characters being around his own age, and speaking of seeing Laurel and Hardy films in their early childhood. The old Hollywood may be gone, but vestiges of its geography survive even today, and Bradbury's story is partly a celebration of this. Bradbury had previously returned to old Hollywood in his 1990 novel A Graveyard for Lunatics, a fictionalised account of his own adventures in 1950s Tinseltown.

Oddly, for all his Angeleno knowledge and familiarity with Hollywood, Bradbury doesn't place "Another Fine Mess" at the real location used in The Music Box. The steps seen in the film are located in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles, and run between Vendome Street and Descanso Drive. For some reason, though, Bradbury sets his story on nearby Effie Street. It's a similarly hilly place, and does indeed have some long concrete steps. But it has nowhere quite like the real Music Box steps. Of course, the story is a fantasy - Bella Winters' waking dream - so has no obligation to reflect reality. But it makes me wonder if Ray was basing the story's location on a particular house that he knew.

Laurel and Hardy purists might further object to Bradbury's Ollie repeatedly saying "Another fine mess" - when the real Hardy tended to say "Another nice mess". However, I'm going to give Ray a pass on this, since there is a Laurel and Hardy short called Another Fine Mess (1930). If Laurel and Hardy are allowed to misquote, then so is Ray!

Bradbury refers to The Music Box in another of his short stories, "The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair" (1987), and he put "the boys" into yet another story, "The Laurel and Hardy Alpha Centauri Farewell Tour", in 2000. And he famously saw Laurel and Hardy live on stage in Dublin in the 1950s, when he was in Ireland to write the film version of Moby Dick (1956). The love for Stan and Ollie declared by Bella and Zelda is heartfelt, and undoubtedly reflects Bradbury's own love for Laurel and Hardy.

Today, you can find "Another Fine Mess" in two of Ray's books: Quicker Than The Eye and Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales.

And you can learn how the once-lost Music Box steps were "re-discovered" here:

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Fifty Years Beyond Apollo

If you didn't already know it, you will soon. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the first Moon landing, and you can be sure there will be all sorts of celebrations and commemorations all over the world. Of course, it's not the first time Apollo 11 has been commemorated. Just one decade after Neil Armstrong's one small step, it was celebrated in a TV documentary presented and co-written by Ray Bradbury.

Infinite Horizons: Space Beyond Apollo seems to have begun life as an undated Bradbury script titled Beyond 1984, probably written in 1978. The documentary's presenter, called "Interlocutor" in the script, looks back on the Moon landing and asks philosophically what it was all about, whether it was worthwhile, if there is any hope, and what happens next. The tone of the script reflects Ray's frustration at humankind's greatest achievement - escaping the Earth and setting foot on another world - being cast aside and forgotten.

Ray's view was reflected in his other writings of that era. While at the peak of the US Moon preparations he had written eagerly about Houston Mission Control for Life magazine ("An Impatient Gulliver Above Our Roofs", 1967), a few years after Apollo he wrote a poem called "Abandon In Place", inspired by the now-deserted rocket pads of Apollo at the Kennedy Space Centre.

Ray developed his Beyond 1984 script through various drafts and titles - "Remembrance of Things Future" (March 1979) being one of them. By this draft, the "Interlocutor" was to interact with such futurist luminaries as Isaac Asimov and Alvin Toffler. The final version of the script, now titled Infinite Horizons: Space Beyond Apollo was written jointly by Ray and his producer-director, Malcolm Clarke. In this version - as in the finished documentary - Ray Bradbury is clearly identified as the presenter, stepping into the interlocutor role.

Malcolm Clarke would go on to an illustrious career as a film-maker. He received Oscars for best short documentary in 1989 and 2014 (You Don't Have to Die and The Lady in No. 6 respectively), and his other awards include those from the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America, Cable ACE - and an Emmy.

Incidentally, this wasn't the first time a Bradbury script had cast him as a presenter. In 1966, he drafted a TV science special called Tomorrow is Now where he would have shown the viewer a history of science from the Ancient Greeks to the present day. And in 1970 he wrote Death Warmed Over, another TV special with himself as host, this time on the subject of horror. Neither of these specials was produced as far as I know, although Death Warmed Over re-surfaced as an essay in a magazine.

Infinite Horizons: Space Beyond Apollo first aired on 17th July 1979 on ABC-TV, ten years and a day after the launch of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins on Apollo 11. The final page of the script talks of humankind taking to the stars in solar-powered ships, like giant kites flying in formation, and like Christopher Columbus' ships heading out into uncharted waters. (Bradbury was never afraid of mixing his metaphors.) Ray's final lines echo Tsiolkovsky: "For Earth is only our birthplace after all. It needn't be our home forever."

A cut-down version of Infinite Horizons: Space Beyond Apollo can be viewed on, here:

My thanks to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies for providing access to Bradbury's papers, which include the various draft scripts referred to above.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Repairs complete!

Following the migration of Bradburymedia to a new web host, repairs are now complete!

There are probably still some broken links around the place - particularly links to other websites, which I haven't had time to systematically check - but everything should now be back to the way it was before the migration. If you spot anything that looks wrong, please post a comment below and I'll check it out.

In case you're wondering what else is here, other than the blog posts, here's a selection of pages which you may find interesting:

My review of the classic feature film It Came from Outer Space (original screen story by Ray Bradbury):

My review of episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (scripted by Bradbury and adapted from Bradbury stories):

My overview of the classic radio series Bradbury Thirteen (based on Bradbury stories):

Thanks for your patience during the refurb - and check back soon for some new content! 

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

My Scribblings

While Bradburymedia undergoes much needed maintenance, perhaps you'd like to peruse some of my more academic writing? I've collected many of my conference papers, journal articles and books chapters in two places, so take your pick:

Phil's writings at Researchgate:

Phil's writings at Academia:

Maintenance continues...

I'm still doing repairs to Bradburymedia following its migration to a new web host. Most pages still work, but there will be dead links a-plenty.

Once the basic mechanical stuff is fixed, I'll begin posting new material. ("At last!" I hear you cry...)

Monday, February 11, 2019

Under maintenance...

Image result for roadworks sign

I'm doing some behind-the-scenes maintenance work on Bradburymedia, so don't be surprised if there are some glitches.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Ray Bradbury's Christmas Gift

This is actually a re-post from 2013, but it's a perennial favourite - and seasonally appropriate to boot!

Seasons greetings, everyone!

I've noted previously that Ray Bradbury wrote very few Christmas-themed stories, but one of his best-known is "The Gift". It was first published in Esquire magazine in 1952. The artwork above (click to embiggen) is by Ren Wickes, and in the child's face beautifully captures the good old "sense of wonder" people used to talk about in science fiction stories.

To find out why the child is so astonished, read "The Gift" here.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A Challenge to Scholars!

I was commissioned by an American publisher to provide a short annotated bibliography of the best critical writing about Ray Bradbury's short stories. This meant ploughing through a list of about a hundred candidate essays looking for a dozen or so worthy of comment. And I discovered something rather interesting.

The essays tend to divide into two major groups: those written in the 1980s, and those written in the 2000s. In itself, nothing new. Not to me, at least. I've long been aware that Bradbury was a popular study in American high schools from the 1980s onwards, and that this had prompted a mini-industry of books about his work. Some of the best studies date from this period, including Wayne L. Johnson's book Ray Bradbury and Greenberg & Olander's essay anthology Ray Bradbury. (You'd think publishers would be able to come up with more distinctive titles.

And then, of course, Ray's death in 2012 provided the impetus for some re-evaluation, and hence we get new critical essay collections such as McGiveron's Critical Insights: Ray Bradbury and Critical Insights: Fahrenheit 451, and Gloria McMillan's Orbiting Ray Bradbury's Mars.

Now here's the really interesting thing. These newer collections of essays - and most of the individual essays on Ray published between 1980 and the present - stick to the same old stories. Fahrenheit 451 gets a lot of attention, and rightly so. The Martian Chronicles and the individual stories it comprises also get a lot of attention. But I can count on the fingers of... well, on one finger how many essays consider stories in any of the books shown at the top of this blog post.

Perhaps you recognise those books?

They are the seven new collections of Bradbury short stories published between 1980 and today. Seven collections, covering about thirty years. That's an awful lot of fiction, covering one-third of Bradbury's life. Nearly half of his professional career.

Which leads me to this challenge to scholars:

Enough of your re-assessments of "And The Moon Be Still As Bright" and applying a new "critical lens" to "The Veldt". How about picking something from that seven-volume, thirty-year range of short stories which no one else has considered?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Ninety-Eight Years of Ray Bradbury

It's hard to believe that Ray Bradbury was born nearly a century ago, but it's true. Today would have been his 98th birthday.

How to celebrate?

Well, if you're in Indianapolis, you could attend the fifth annual Ray Bradbury Memorial Lecture at the city library: Jon Eller of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies will be giving an illustrated talk about Bradbury and art. Details are here.

Or if you're in the Los Angeles area, you could attend a free exhibition in Pasadena entitled Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, & Southern California.

But if you're elsewhere in the universe - like me -  you'll have to make your own entertainment. I will spend the day reviewing my notes and documents relating to The Ray Bradbury Theater, because next month I will be presenting a conference paper on Ray's authorship of the sixty-five episode series which took up more than seven years of his professional life. After the conference, I will be submitting an extended version of the paper to an academic journal, and after that it will be expanded further into a book on the series. As with my PhD thesis (which examined Ray's screenwriting), I'll be presenting my findings as something of an archaeological dig into Ray's archives, trying to establish to what extent Bradbury the screenwriter can be seen as the "author" of his TV series. The answer is not as straightforward as you might think.

Happy Bradbury Day - and here's looking forward to the Bradbury Centenary in two years' time.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Bahrani Looks Back on Fahrenheit 451 (2018)

A new interview has appeared on the HBO film of Fahrenheit 451 (2018) in which writer-director Ramin Bahrani looks back on his film. All previous articles presenting his views were part of the promotional push when the film was released.

Seeing his comments here, it is unfortunately obvious that the weaknesses of the film come largely from a flawed approach to the adaptation. Bahrani points out that he had never adapted a novel before; that he had never made a film with such a big budget; and that he had never made an action film before.
It shows.

He says he wanted to make a film that would work for teenagers. Hence all that nonsense jargon, all the reliance on emojis, and almost forgetting that F451 is about book-burning.

He says it's supposed to be set in a parallel present, rather than in the future - but there isn't a single indication of this in the film itself, and I don't recall any of the reviews picking up on this.

And he attributes the negative response to the film as coming from hardcore fans of the book.
Er... no, sorry: 25% on Rotten Tomatoes suggests a WIDESPREAD rejection of the film, not hostility from a narrow audience of Bradbury readers.

I remain a defender of the film, which isn't nearly as bad as that 25% rating would suggest. But nor is the film worthy of the Emmy Award it has been shortlisted for.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I Made A List: July

There seem to be a lot of Ray Bradbury stories dealing with summer. Dandelion Wine of course (and its late sequel Farewell Summer), "The Day it Rained Forever", "The Burning Man", and many more.

Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that a lot of his short stories first saw the light of day in the month of July. Take a look:

July 1941

To Make a Long Story Much, Much Shorter

July 1942

Eat, Drink and be Wary

July 1943

The Scythe

July 1944

Killer, Come Back to Me
The Long Night
There Was an Old Woman

July 1945

Corpse Carnival
The Dead Man
Dead Men Rise Up Never

July 1946

The Night

July 1948

The Undead Die

July 1949

The Changeling
The Lonely Ones

July 1950

The City (under the title "Purpose")
The Illustrated Man

July 1954

The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone

July 1955

The Trolley

July 1957

The Day it Rained Forever

July 1964

The Cold Wind and the Warm

July 1966

The Dragon Danced at Midnight (under the title "The Year the Glop Monster Won the Golden Lion at Cannes")

July 1975

The Burning Man

July 1984

By the Numbers!

July 1988

The Thing at the Top of the Stairs

July 1995

Grand Theft

If you want to track any of these stories down, use my Short Story Finder to locate them in Bradbury's many books.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Fahrenheit 451's missing Millie

HBO's Fahrenheit 451 finally went to air last night, receiving some very mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes shows a surprisingly low score from critics, but a somewhat higher score from viewers.

One puzzle is: whatever happened to Millie, Montag's wife?

I'm on record as saying that I didn't miss her while I was watching the film, because some of the story function of Millie is instead transferred to Montag himself. But after the film I began to wonder whether she had been cut for time, or for some other reason. She certainly existed in earlier drafts of the script, and the role was certainly cast. Laura Harrier, the Millie who never was, says that she was cut because she would have made the film too long, and because Millie had no part in the story that director Ramin Bahrani was developing. What isn't clear is whether Millie was shot and left on the cutting-room floor, or whether she was cut from the script before shooting began.

Maybe she'll show up in a DVD extra some day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

HBO's new Fahrenheit 451

I was given access to a preview screener of Fahrenheit 451, the new HBO film which premieres on 19th May. I'll be discussing it with Bruce Walker on the podcast Radio Free Acton ( - the interview starts at 20:29).

My overall reaction after watching the film: relief.

Relief that they hadn't totally screwed up the adaptation.

This is probably quite a common reaction to seeing a beloved book adapted to the screen, but is particularly important to me for any Bradbury adaptation - because too many previous adaptations of his work have totally missed the point. Classic examples of missing the point include The Illustrated Man (1969), Picasso Summer (also 1969 - not a good year for Bradbury, evidently) and A Sound of Thunder (2005).

This doesn't mean that I'm a stickler for "fidelity" in adaptation; far from it, I enjoy seeing film-makers wrestle with adaptational strategies, especially when they can shine new light on the book they are taking as inspiration. But there is something peculiar about Bradbury's writing - its pictorial vividness combined with its poetic non-literalness - which seems to attract film-makers of limited vision.

I find that Ramin Bahrani, the director and co-writer of the new HBO Fahrenheit 451, is far from being in this camp. The new Fahrenheit does take many liberties with Bradbury's story (what, no Millie? Clarisse as a police informant?), but it knows what it's doing. Specifically, it knows what Guy Montag has to learn, and what he has to become; and it knows what Beatty is in relation to Montag. Most importantly, it knows how to show the relevance of Fahrenheit to today's world of sound bites, clickbait headlines and fake news. Bradbury said that you don't have to burn books to destroy a culture; you just have to get people to stop reading. And that's exactly the world Bahrani has created here.

The film has one annoying addition, a bizarre and unnecessary science-fictional twist to do with DNA (I'll say no more, because spoilers) which suggests the film-makers' lack of confidence in the strength of Bradbury's original ending. But, like Francois Truffaut - and Bradbury himself in his stage play version of F451 - Bahrani has dropped the idea of an atomic war as a dramatic conclusion and perhaps felt the need to add something else of symbolic value to close the story.

Overall, the film has a good look to it, sitting somewhere between Blade Runner, Nineteen Eighty-Four (the 1984 film version) and Gattaca, but occasionally revealing its presumably low budget. It has a fine pace. It does some lovely things with Beatty, the fire chief who represents one possible life-outcome for Montag. It has some strong performances, with Michael B. Jordan the standout as Montag, and Michael Shannon as Beatty mostly managing to control his histrionics.

My only disappointment is with the old woman who sets fire to herself and her books. This pivotal scene in the book is inherently cinematic and dramatic, and really needs little adjustment for screen, as Truffaut proved back in 1966 (with Bea Duffell entrancing as the martyr). Bahrani's version of the scene misses the tension, and has a central image which is unfortunately comical. A shame, because the immediately preceding scene where Beatty shows Montag the old woman's attic full of books is done extremely well, and updates Bradbury's explication of how the world of Fahrenheit came to be.

While not a masterpiece, this new take on Fahrenheit 451 is possibly the best feature-length adaptation of a Bradbury work to date, and is worth a look.

Update,17 May 2018:

I've added the link to the Acton Institute interview above.

Since writing the above review, I've remembered a few additional points about the new film which I just wanted to capture:

'Colour blind' casting and the question of race - Going into the film, I was very happy that Montag is played by a black actor. A fine example of colour-blind casting, I thought. And Michael B. Jordan is certainly up to the job. But then comes one brief scene whether the question of race arises, and it's in Beatty's account of how the world of F451 came into existence. It becomes apparent that Montag has no knowledge of black history, and suddenly we get it: these characters have no knowledge of their own history. This is one of Bradbury's themes in the novel, as Montag struggles to even remember where he first met his wife. The moment in the film works precisely because Montag is black, and makes for probably the most profound insight the film has to offer.

The book people - I may have drifted off for a while, but the film seems to introduce the book people (outcasts from society who memorise books to preserve the texts for future generations) without much of an explanation, and without any sense of surprise from Montag. He should be surprised. This is one area where the new film is not as strong as Truffaut's film. Truffaut makes light of the apparent absurdity of the idea, but then demonstrates in a series of brief scenes, how it would work - even showing how mistakes will be made and corrected, and how the knowledge will be passed down the generations.

Generation gap - it is implied that it is mainly the older generation who cling to their books, while the younger people are just hooked on social media. There's a nice scene early on with Keir Dullea which captures this idea. It's also a fair reflection of real life. But it also helps explain why there are still caches of books to be found.

The guy who looks after the bird - I won't give any spoiler about the bird or its function in the film, but the guy who is responsible for that whole project is presented as having some kind of savant syndrome (think Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man). The character is there only briefly, and serves as an extreme model of how rote-memorisation of books can work. I think this is a smart move in helping to establish the plausibility of the memorisation take, and it is very  understated. It's a shame, then, that the story with the bird is allowed to overshadow this character.

One last missed opportunity - the firemen are shown several times chanting their firemen's song, a bit like a football or rugby crowd getting carried away with their chanting. It's a primitive but effective way for human beings to commit a text to memory. And yet the film does nothing with it. I was reminded of David Calcutt's radio play version of F451 which carefully builds nursery rhymes and oral tradition into the background of Montag's world, except that Calcutt does it for a purpose and ties this idea tightly to Bradbury's story. The new film makes it a throwaway.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Countdown to FAHRENHEIT 451

HBO's new film adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is due to air on 19th May, so my friends in the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies have begun a countdown. Every day, they are posting the opening line of the novel in a different language, taken from the many foreign-language editions held in the Center's archive.

You can find these posts all over social media, including the following:


The countdown has begun!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

RIP Michael Anderson (1920-2018)

Martian Chronicles director Michael Anderson has passed away, at the ripe old age of 98.

Anderson's long career in film included a number of landmark works: The Dam Busters, 1984, Around the World in Eighty Days and Logan's Run among them.

When Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles was being adapted for TV in the late 1970s, Bradbury provided the producers with his list of preferred directors. Anderson was on the list, but according to Bradbury was a long way down the list. Unfortunately, Anderson's direction of the eventual miniseries was not stellar, and certainly not consistent with his reputation for helming complex spectacle. On the contrary, The Martian Chronicles was visually pedestrian, and the performances lacking in dramatic impact. Ray Bradbury famously described the miniseries as "boring".

It is proper, therefore, to remember Anderson primarily for those earlier works. The Dam Busters is a British classic, and is close to the heart of many British viewers, both the older generation who saw it on first release, and younger generations who have seen its many appearances on TV. Around the World in Eighty Days, for which Anderson received an Oscar nomination, remains a colourful spectacle, despite its flaws. And while 1984 isn't a patch on the BBC TV production by Nigel Kneale and Rudolph Cartier, it's still a bold early attempt at dystopia, paving the way for Anderson's later box office success with the dystopic Logan's Run.

Having said that, The Martian Chronicles is set for a BluRay debut later this year, which will no doubt draw fresh critical attention to it.

Read more about Michael Anderson's career here:

Bradbury's 'The Veldt' influences new arena venues

Ray Bradbury's classic tale 'The Veldt' - one of the most influential early virtual reality stories - continues to impact on real life. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Madison Square Garden Company is planning two new 'sphere arenas' in Las Vegas and London. Chairman James L. Dolan publicly referenced the Bradbury story in a presentation about the planned entertainment venues, which will feature the equivalent of 42 IMAX screens linked together, forming the most colossal display screens in the world.

I have blogged about 'The Veldt' many times over the years (click here!), since it is one of the most frequently adapted of Bradbury's stories. I find it curious that it can both inspire real-world creative technologies and serve as a warning about such technologies.

The LA Times report is here:

Many thanks to Steven Paul Leiva for drawing this article to my attention.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

BluRay Bradbury: Martian Chronicles reissue

Kino Lorber have announced that the 1980 miniseries adaptation of The Martian Chronicles is set for a BluRay release on 26th June. The series - scripted by Richard Matheson and starring Rock Hudson - has been released on DVD before, but is new to the HD format.

Ray Bradbury had little direct involvement with the miniseries. He had spend a couple of decades trying to get the Chronicles on screen, writing several screenplays in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Matheson teleplay that was eventually used is pretty good, but the miniseries suffers from lacklustre direction from Michael Anderson (whose previous films include The Dam Busters, 1984, and Logan's Run. At the time of the original TV broadcast, Bradbury went on record as saying that the miniseries was 'boring'... which earned him a reprimand from the producers and the network.

The last time I watched any of the series, I was struck by the slow pace of the first episode, and the appallingly cheap special effects. For a post-Star Wars production, this is unforgivable. It does have some good sections, however: I've always liked the treatment of 'The Martian', the episode where a shape-shifting Martian is able to take on the appearance of any human's loved one. The adaptation incorporates elements from a non-Chronicles Bradbury story, 'The Messiah' - and idea which came from Bradbury himself.

I don't know that there's much to be gained from a BluRay treatment. The miniseries was shot and edited on 35mm film, so there is a theoretical improvement in an HD scan. But I fear BluRay will just make the FX strings more visible than ever...

There's nothing on the Kino Lorber website just yet, but the Facebook announcement is here:

Monday, April 09, 2018

Center for Bradbury Studies receives major grant

Congratulations to my friends and colleagues at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies who were today awarded $50,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

The grant is for the preservation of the Center's extensive collection of Bradbury papers and memorabilia - materials which have been invaluable in my research, and will continue to be of interest to Bradbury scholars in the future. The project lead is Prof Jonathan R. Eller, author of Becoming Ray Bradbury and Ray Bradbury Unbound.

The announcement from the NEH mentions the Bradbury project in the same paragraph as an unrelated project on Mae West, an amusing juxtaposition:

Friday, April 06, 2018

HBO Fahrenheit - New Trailer

As the air date of HBO's new adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 approaches, a second trailer has been released. This one shows us much more of Montag's world: a clear distinction between text in electronic media and text in printed books; something of Beatty and his motivations; and a hint of the underground which Montag becomes a part of. There are strong hints of Nineteen Eighty-Four and a touch of Blade Runner. And, as always, the footage of books burning looks astonishing - just as Truffaut found in his 1966 film, the horror of book burning is paradoxically beautiful to watch.

Fahnrenheit 451 is due to premiere on 19th May 2018.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

LeVar Burton Reads... Bradbury

LeVar Burton - Emmy and Grammy Award-Winning actor-director, and star of Star Trek - has a weekly podcast where he reads selected short stories. Think of it as PBS' Reading Rainbow for adults! The most recent episode is a full reading of Ray Bradbury's "The Great Wide World Over There".

The production values are high in this series. Not just a straight reading of the story, the episode includes subtle sound effects and almost subliminal music cues. Burton performs each character distinctly - and the sound design separates the characters out from the narration, so that it almost sounds like a full cast dramatisation, but the cast is just LeVar alone.

Burton's evident interest in literacy (he hosted and produced Reading Rainbow for twenty-three seasons; there's commitment for you) make this story a natural choice. "The Great Wide World" concerns Cora, an adult living in backwoods Missouri who has never learned to read or write, and indeed has never left the valley she was born in. When she is helped by her nephew, she begins replying to the ads in the back of a pulp magazine - and in return receives her first ever items of mail: free samples of sunflower seeds, pamphlets from the Rosicrucians, and free diet plans. In the internet age this sounds like spam hell, but in simpler times (the story was first published in Maclean’s in August 1952), it's easy to imagine that such junk mail would be a wonder. There's no SF or fantasy in this story, by the way. It's one of Bradbury's realist tales, perhaps echoing Dandelion Wine more than any other of Bradbury's major works, but set in a different locale.

Below is a direct link to the episode - but you can also pick up the series on any decent podcast app by searching for "LeVar Burton". The website for the series can be found here.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Breaking the silence on FAHRENHEIT 451

It's no secret that HBO are producing a feature-length adaptation of Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, but there has been very little public information about the production, beyond the casting announcements last year. On Thursday, things changed, when HBO opened up to the press.

Writer-director Ramin Bahrani, as quoted in the Hollywood Reporter, admits to some trepidation about making the film - at least in part because of his awareness that someone is bound to be upset by any adaptation of such a well-known and beloved novel. But he seems to have been bold enough to make changes where dramatically necessary. The good news is that he seems to have a grasp on what the book is really about:

"I don't want to focus so much on [Trump] because I don't want to excuse the 30 to 40 years prior to that; he's just an exaggeration of it now," he said. "I don't want us to forget what Bradbury said — that we asked for this. We elected [politicians] over many decades, we're electing this thing in my pocket [pulls out his cellphone]. Between the technological advancements in the last 20 years and politics, Bradbury's biggest concern about the erosion of culture is now."
The full Reporter article is here.

HBO has also released this teaser trailer for the film, which is (vaguely) scheduled for "spring 2018".

Friday, December 08, 2017

Free Reading!

I finally got round to putting a batch of my Ray Bradbury writings online. You can view them on Academia here:

All of the articles are pre-publication versions, which means that there may have been some edits/alterations/corrections in the versions that were later published.

I can't claim any of these pieces to be highly academic, since I much prefer to write in plain English for a general reader. If you're looking for high theory, you've come to the wrong place. I'm probably most happy with the more recent articles, but the two pieces on Ray Bradbury and BBC radio show the best bits of original research.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Two Rays

Ray Bradbury and animator Ray Harryhausen had remarkably parallel lives and careers. Both were born in 1920 (and so both are due a big centenary celebration in a few years). Both were members of the same science fiction group in Los Angeles. Both credited on The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Both with a love of King Kong and other classics of fantasy film and literature. They met in 1938 at the house of collector and editor Forrest J Ackerman, and remained friends for life. According to Bradbury, they "made a pact promising to grow old, but never to grow up".

In 1947 Harryhausen was best man at Bradbury's wedding, and Bradbury describes the wedding party crowding into Harryhausen's car for a trip across town. A few years later, Bradbury dropped in on Harryhausen at work on a new dinosaur movie, and was invited by producer Hal Chester to take a look at the script. Bradbury quite liked what he read, but pointed out that the scene where a creature from the deep destroys a lighthouse is remarkably similar to a scene in a short story he had recently written for the Saturday Evening Post. Chester's fact flushed as he realised what had happened: the script had been inspired by Bradbury's story (or more likely the artwork which accompanied it), but the inspiration had been forgotten. Until now. Bradbury was paid for the use of the story, so when it came out, the film's poster proudly boasted that Beast from 20,000 Fathoms was "suggested by the sensational Saturday Evening Post story by RAY BRADBURY".

By the early 1960s Bradbury, now well and truly established as a short story writer, novelist and screenwriter, found himself separated from friend Harryhausen by the Atlantic, as Harryhausen found European locations and studios more suitable for the style of films he was developing. But they maintained their friendship through air-mail correspondence. Some of these letters have survived in the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis. "Dear Brother Ray," Harryhausen would write from exotic locations in Spain; and he would sign off as "the Other Ray" or "the tormented one."

Occasionally Bradbury would send film ideas to Harryhausen - as he would send off ideas to anyone he thought was compatible with the idea: Fellini, David Lean, Kurosawa. In 1976, Bradbury shared his idea/outline "The Nefertiti-Tut Express" with Harryhausen, who in turn shared it with longtime producer Charles H. Schneer. Harryhausen reluctantly admitted that the idea wasn't suitable for the type of film he wanted to make, but wrote that one day the right subject would come along to allow the two Rays to collaborate. Alas, this would never come to pass, and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms remains the only film where Ray B and Ray H have their names together on the screen.

Over the years, Bradbury built versions of Harryhausen into his stories. In 1962, he fictionalised a real-life encounter Harryhausen had had with a nasty producer. The result was the humorous short story published as "The Prehistoric Producer", but better known today as "Tyrannosaurus Rex". Here is how that story describes the painstaking stop-motion animator's art:

Step by step, frame by frame of film, stop motion by stop motion, he, Terwilliger, had run his beasts through their postures, moved each a fraction of an inch, photographed them, moved them another hair, photographed them for hours and days and months.
"Tyrannosaurus Rex" was later filmed for the TV series The Ray Bradbury Theater,with a script by Bradbury himself. In all honesty I have to say that it's not a very good episode - it was made in on far too low a budget. However, for the all too brief animated sequences the producers enlisted French animator Jean Manuel Costa, winner of multiple Cesar Awards (French Oscars) for works such as Le voyage d'Orphée (1983) and La tendresse du maudit (1980), and therefore something of a French Harryhausen.

In 1992, Bradbury was one voice among many of Hollywood's great and good lobbying for Harryhausen to receive a special Oscar. The campaign was a success, and resulted in Tom Hanks and Bradbury introducing Harryhausen as he was given the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for his lifetime of achievements in animation and film-making. The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies holds copies of many of the campaign letters, and a list of the senders reads like a Who's Who of film-makers and special effects artists: Bradbury, George Lucas, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, Gordon Hessler, Miklos Rozsa, John Dykstra, Joe Dante, John Landis, Burgess Meredith, Charles H. Schneer, Jim Danforth, Rick Baker, Stan Winston, Gale Anne Hurd, Nathan Juran, Albert Whitlock... every one of whom wrote a loving tribute to Harryhausen, their colleague, friend or inspiration.

In 1993, Bradbury paid perhaps the highest tribute of all, by incorporating a fictionalised Harryhausen as a major character in his Hollywood novel A Graveyard for Lunatics. Special effects wizard "Roy Holdstrom" is a very thinly disguised Harryhausen, and accompanies the narrator in attempting to solve a murder mystery in 1950s Hollywood. Here is how the narrator first sees Holdstrom's workshop, which we can imagine is similar to what Bradbury saw back in 1938 when first invited into Harryhausen's garage:
Stage 13 was, then, a toy shop, a magic chest, a sorceror's trunk, a trick manufactory, and an aerial hangar of dreams at the centre of which Roy stood each day, waving his long piano fingers at mythic beasts to stir them, whispering, in their ten-billion year slumbers.
Bradbury wrote other tributes as introductions for Harryhausen's wonderful books, Film Fantasy Scrapbook and An Animated Life, and in 2010 also provided a video greeting for Harryhausen's 90th birthday BAFTA tribute.

Ray Bradbury passed away in 2012, and less than a year later Ray Harryhausen also left us. Alas, the two never did work together on a movie, but they both had long and successful careers and remained friends to the end. They also both live long enough to see significant recognition for their work: Harryhausen with the Oscar and BAFTA tributes, and Bradbury with his French Order of Arts & Letters and his Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.

As 2020 approaches - the centenary of both Rays - it will be great to celebrate these twin talents, united at age eighteen with their shared passion for King Kong, and never divided.


Rare Update!

Bradburymedia has been quiet of late, as life has been far too hectic. But I will be posting a bit more frequently now that my PhD is well and truly out of the way.

The Cinema of Lost Films: Ray Bradbury and the Screen is the title of my thesis, which I handed in back in January. Then, in October, I was finally notified that my PhD was complete.

Call me Dr Phil!

As I write this, I'm sitting in the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis. I'm on a three-week research visit, gathering material for a proposed book on Ray Bradbury Theatre, Ray's TV series from the 1980s and 1990s. I've just spent an hour Skyping with the good people of the Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation for an episode of their podcast which should be released soon. Watch this space for more detail.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Ray Bradbury Classic Radio

Part of Ray Bradbury's sustained popularity since the 1940s comes from his presence across a range of media. Starting as an author making frequent contributions to pulp magazines in the genres of fantasy, science fiction and horror in the 1940s, he moved onto to be a writer of quality short stories for the "slick" magazines of the 1950s.

The 1950s also saw his reputation expanded through many adaptations on radio (and later in television and film). Most of the radio adaptations were carried out by other writers, although Bradbury himself was very active in circulating his short stories to the radio networks. Sometimes, the networks bought the stories before they had even been published elsewhere.

My view has always been that radio is the most natural home for adaptations of Bradbury stories. While his stories can work well in film and television, the very act of showing requires that things have to be made concrete. Often, when adapting from a written text, it is better to leave some things in the mind of the viewer/reader/listener.

My full(ish) list of Bradbury's radio outings can be found here.

And if you've never experienced Bradbury on radio, where better to start than with the classic episodes of the 1950s series Suspense and Escape. Most of these episodes are not science fiction. Instead, these series adapt Bradbury's more suspenseful stories set pretty much in the real world. But with a twist.

There is a well-curated collection of the Suspense/Escape episodes here:

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury, Vol. 3

In May 2017, The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury, Volume 3, is published by Kent State University Press. Covering just one year of the author's output (1944-1945), this third volume highlights not just Bradbury's prolific output, but the rapidly rising quality of his work at this time.

The full table of contents is as follows:

  1. No Phones, Private Coffin (Yesterday I Lived)
  2. If Paths Must Cross Again 
  3. The Miracles of Jamie 
  4. The Long Way Around (The Long Way Home)
  5. The Very Bewildered Corpses (Four-Way Funeral)
  6. The Reincarnate
  7. Chrysalis
  8. The Poems
  9. Defense Mech
  10. Mr. Priory Meets Mr. Caldwell (Hell’s Half-Hour) 
  11. “I’m Not So Dumb”
  12. Invisible Boy
  13. Ylla (I’ll Not Ask for Wine)
  14. The Tombstone
  15. The Watchers
  16. Lorelei of the Red Mist
  17. One Minus One (Corpse-Carnival)
  18. The Sea Cure (Dead Men Rise Up Never)
  19. Skeleton
  20. Riabouchinska (And So Died Riabouchinska)
  21. Skeleton
  22. The Black Ferris
As with the previous volumes in the series, the stories are presented more or less in the order of composition, not the order of publication. This allows the reader, for the first time, to truly appreciate Bradbury's developing authorship. As I have pointed out before, reading Bradbury's short story collections can give a thoroughly false understanding of how he developed as a writer, since any given collection may gather material composed decades apart.

The period covered by this volume contains a lot of stories that eventually appeared in A Memory of Murder - a collection of stories which Bradbury would have preferred not to have seen the light of day. These are stories which appeared in detective and mystery pulp magazines such as Flynn's Detective Fiction and Dime Mystery. But there are also some significant classics, including a rare opportunity to see two versions of "Skeleton", and the story that would eventually evolve into Something Wicked This Way Comes, "The Black Ferris".

Currently, Amazon US has this volume available for pre-order at 50% of the publisher's list price. So if you were put off by the cover price, you might now want to reconsider!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ray Bradbury Day - 2nd March 2017

The City of South Pasadena has declared 2nd March 2017 as "Ray Bradbury Day". Pasadena was for many years the home of Bradbury's Pandemonium Theatre company, and he had long ties with the city and its libraries.

Left is the complete proclamation, listing among all the "whereases" Ray's key achievements (click on the image to enlarge).

The photo below shows two of Ray's friends holding the proclamation: John King Tarpinian (left) and Pandemonium actor Robert Kerr.

Many thanks to jkt for the photos.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Fahrenheit 451 - a top selling dystopia

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 has risen up the sales charts since Trump took office.

Last week, as the US inaugurated its new President, the phrase "alternative facts" hit the headlines. As spokesmen for the new administration started putting out revisionist accounts of recent events, comparisons were made with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Within hours, Orwell's dystopian novel saw booming sales - and in its wake, other classic dystopias such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 also rose up the sales charts.

Read more on this turn of events here:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Studies of Bradbury

I'm drafting the introduction to my PhD thesis, and have compiled some bibliographical crib sheets to keep on hand to make sure I don't miss out anything important. I thought this one might be useful to publish here. It's a list of key studies of Ray Bradbury's works.

It's not exhaustive, but it covers all the studies that get mentioned somewhere in my thesis. Even then, I'm bound to have missed something out.

If you want something more pictorial, check my Books About Ray Bradbury page.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fahrenheit 451 Special Issue

The Fahrenheit 451 special issue of The New Ray Bradbury Review, edited by yours truly, has finally landed in the UK. This fifth issue of the journal produced by the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies is a fiftieth anniversary celebration of Francois Truffaut's 1966 film based on Bradbury's classic novel.

Copies of the journal began to appear last month, but it has taken a while for it to make its way across the pond. You can order directly from the publisher, Kent State University Press, or from Amazon, using the links below.

Here's the official flyer which explains what the issue is about. I wrote the original copy for the flyer. I also wrote the introduction to the issue, and the essay which concludes the issue. Other contributors include Jon Eller (author of Becoming Ray Bradbury), Bill Touponce (co-author with Jon of Ray Bradbury: the Life of Fiction), and film scholar Joseph McBride (author of Steven Spielberg: a Biography and Whatever Happened to Orson Welles, among many others).

Order from Kent State University Press:

Order from Amazon (US):

Order from Amazon (UK):


As of today,Bradburymedia has a Twitter feed, which you should see over there on the right.* It will mainly carry things that I have posted to the Facebook page of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies (which I administer). Please click the links and 'like' the posts!

*Except on mobile devices. I'm working on it...

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Bradburymedia has had a very slight facelift (the old template was getting almost impossible to modify, so I had to switch to a new one). Rest assured that the old content is still here.

I haven't posted much lately, since I'm busily trying to put my PhD thesis together. If you feel starved of Bradbury-related posts, don't forget to take a look at the Facebook page of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, which I also administer. There's usually a couple of quick posts a day on there.

Happy Halloween, and: Onward!

Monday, August 22, 2016

96 Years Ago...

Ninety-six years ago in Waukegan, Illinois, Ray Douglas Bradbury was born.

People sometimes ask me why Bradbury was important. There are all sorts of answers to that, some of them to do with him as an author, some of them to do with him in relation to the world, and some of them just down to personal taste.

The best answers I can give are these:

Innovation. Long after gothic fiction had grown tired, irrelevant and formulaic, Ray Bradbury was reinventing it as modern horror. He presented contemporary people in the contemporary world who became obsessed by, and frightened of, everyday horrors. Crowds. Your own skeleton. The wind. I refer you to those masterpieces of short fiction, "The Crowd", "Skeleton" and "The Wind." Without Ray Bradbury, there is no contemporary horror fiction. Stephen King has admitted as much. If you aren't familiar with this Ray Bradbury, check out his The October Country.

Reflection. When science fiction had become a genre, the staple of American pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, Bradbury took its clichés and its tropes and used them to do something other than fantasize about conquering alien races. He blended SF with horror and reflected our fantasies and fears, in stories like "Mars is Heaven!" He considered the complexity of colonialism, by reflecting on what it means to be the conquering race in stories such as "And The Moon Be Still As Bright" and "The Million-Year Picnic".

Write what energises you. When other writers were content to write for the market, churning out fiction that merely fed back into the pulps the same tired ideas that had originated there, he chose to write for himself - and let the stories find their own market. Because his writing was of quality, he soon emerged from the pulp ghetto into the so-called "quality" magazines. By so doing he was able to take his fantasies and horrors to the mainstream, where genteel magazines such as Mademoiselle found themselves challenged to accept new story forms.

Write clearly, visually. As a writer of efficient, transparent prose, he soon realised that his style should lend itself to screenwriting, and began creating TV and film versions of his works for Alfred Hitchcock , Rod Serling and others, and became a dramatist for John Huston, Carol Reed and Hecht-Hill-Lancaster. He put up with the disappointments of working in Hollywood (where most film scripts end up gathering dust on a shelf) because he loved the excitement of conceiving and re-conceiving ideas for different media. And, perhaps, because Hollywood paid him well, even while it treated him badly.

Head and heart, in equal measure. He occasionally turned out some clunkers, as all writers do. But he also kept everything that didn't sell, and would go back to his earlier manuscripts, eager to fix them. He allowed the public to believe that his stories came easily and unbidden, that he wrote without thinking because intellectualising was anti-creative. But the reality was that he was a shrewd editor who knew how to take out this wrong word, or to move up this powerful paragraph; or to speed up the pace, or slow things down. He summed up his process metaphorically as "Throw up in the morning, clean up at noon". By which he meant put the story down as it comes, without letting your conscious thoughts get in the way; and later return to what you have written and let your intellect make the cool decisions of what to cut, what to re-write.

Scenes. If Bradbury's fiction loses its way, which it sometimes does, it's in the longer pieces. In the short form, I firmly believe that he reached perfection in some stories. But even the longer fiction had stunning scenes. The martyring of the old lady in Fahrenheit 451 is perfect. Will and Jim hiding down in the drain while Mr Dark and Mr Halloway talk above it is perfect in Something Wicked This Way Comes, as is the carnival that sets itself up by night. What's been most fascinating for me, as I have studied Bradbury's manuscripts, is how often he will stumble across a scene idea in one draft which will then be improved in the next draft, even while the context of the scene is changed. Then, when he takes the work into another medium (adapting it for film or stage, for example) he will re-work the overall story but still find a place for those perfected scenes.

And if you need more reasons for thinking highly of Ray Bradbury, I can give you a random list:

"A Sound of Thunder"
"The Veldt"
"The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl"
Fahrenheit 451
The Martian Chronicles
"The Jar"
"The Burning Man"
"The Messiah"
"The Toynbee Convector".

Today in Los Angeles, to celebrate Ray Bradbury's 96th birthday, many friends (and family) of Bradbury are gathering to read his stories, poems and essays. "The Ray Bradbury Read" is taking place right outside the LA central library, adjacent to Ray Bradbury Square. I can't be there, on account of living on a whole 'nother continent, but I heartily recommend it to those who might happen to be in SoCal.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Les Spectateurs: a short Bradburyesque film

Les Spectateurs is a beautiful, Bradburyesque short film made by students at ArtFX in Montpelier, France. While the story is original, some of visuals and the mood of the film have strong echoes of Ray Bradbury - and Ray is listed among the acknowledgments at the end of the film.

The film is set on a "mega-satellite" orbiting Earth, but the satellite is soon to break away from Earth and make a new start. The inhabitants are given a last opportunity to return to Earth, before the breakaway takes place. We follow one couple, and especially one woman, who longs for Earth, but is unable leave.

The film is built upon a vast amount of CGI work, and this is fundamental to the story. Some of the CGI establishes the physical set-up of the satellite in relation to the Earth, Moon and Sun. But the more important CGI work creates the entire small town that the people live in, with their American-style suburbia. It's so well done that on first viewing you won't even realise that much of what you see is computer-generated.

So what of the Bradbury connection? Look for the visuals of the rocket ships heading back for Earth, and see if that doesn't remind you of The Martian Chronicles, especially the section of Bradbury's book when the atomic war has broken out back on Earth and there is a mad rush to return.

Look also for the melancholy tone of the relationship of the couple, and see if this doesn't remind you of any number of Bradbury shorts, from "The Rocket Man" or "The Last Night of the World". The film's subtitle is "saudade", which means "a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia". You can't get more Bradbury than that. The film also has a good central metaphor (which I won't spoil) which has no direct connection to Bradbury that I can think of, but which made me think of Bradbury.

It's not a perfect film by any means. The woman's depressed state needs a bit more fleshing out (why doesn't she just get on the first available rocket and go?), and some of the technology is out of whack (wind turbines on a space station?) - but it's a short piece and there's lots about it to like.

Here's the film itself, and below it is a very breezy "making of" feature. This is amazing work for a team of students.

// ArtFX OFFICIEL // Les Spectateurs from ArtFX OFFICIEL on Vimeo.

// ArtFX OFFICIEL // Les Spectateurs MAKING-OF from ArtFX OFFICIEL on Vimeo.

Friday, July 15, 2016

FAHRENHEIT 451 dropped by the Big Read

It's disappointing to see that Fahrenheit 451 has been dropped from the Big Read programme.

NEA - the USA's National Endowment for the Arts - has been running the community literacy scheme for years, and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 has long been a popular inclusion. Ray even made a short documentary for the NEA back in 2008, in which he talked about the genesis of F451 and why it is a significant work that speaks out for literacy and against censorship.

It's hard to complain about the new batch of books, which has been drawn up in a deliberate effort to enhance the diversity of authors and voices in the list. But it's sad to see such a classic and popular work, one that chimes so directly with the aims of The Big Read, being turned aside.
The full list of twenty-eight books in the new scheme can be viewed here:

And here's Ray Bradbury talking about his masterpiece, and promoting The Big Read.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Gone, But Not Forgotten

It's four years to the day since Ray Bradbury died. But he's still in the public consciousness, as this question from ABC's game show 500 Questions demonstrates. With thanks to jkt for the photo.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Fahrenheit 451 50th Anniversary Screening

Last night was the special 50th Anniversary Screening of Fahrenheit 451 at Wolverhampton's Light House Cinema, and it was a well attended event.

I introduced the film, attempting to place it in a proper historical context. After the screening, I was joined by my colleague, film lecturer Eleanor Andrews, to discuss what we had seen, and to take comments and questions from the audience.

Some interesting observations emerged, both familiar and new. Eleanor was struck by the overall aesthetic of the film, which she compared to 1960s TV classics such as The Avengers and The Prisoner. Various people were taken by the boldness of the film's elimination of text (except for what we see in the prohibited books). And a number of people commented on the drug-taking, zombie-like characters who are shown to be the norm in Fahrenheit.

As so often when I screen this film, I was somewhat taken aback by viewers' willingness to overlook or forgive some of the technical weaknesses of the film, largely because of the strong ideas which the film manages (or struggles) to convey.We spent much of the time discussing the quality of the acting, the apparent consequences in the film of the loss of literacy (characters struggle to remember things, struggle to communicate, and struggle to manage their emotions), differences between book and film, and how the film relates to other works by Truffaut.

The last time I watched the film all the way through was with an audience at the Ray Bradbury on Screen event in Indiana, which I co-curated last year. Both audiences seem to have appreciated the film's ideas, but both audiences seem to have found the character relationships confusing or disturbing. One of the big debates is whether this is what the film is really about, or whether this is some reflection on its troubled production history. I have written before that the alienating effect is to a large extent deliberate, as is evidenced by Truffaut and Jean-Louis Richard's screenplay - but that the actual performances add a layer of complication that is probably not fully intended. By this I'm referring to Oskar Werner's heavily-accented delivery, and Julie Christie's struggle to maintain any nuance of difference between the two characters she plays.

Going into this event, I had no idea what audience we might find. I half-expected to be talking to a mere handful of viewers, but the small venue was actually quite full. I'm told that the audience was much bigger than most of the introduced film screenings offered in last year's Artsfest.

After fifty years, Truffaut's film still holds up, particularly when considered as a reflection of the era in which it was made. But there are so many elements of Bradbury's novel that the 1966 film left to one side. Fingers crossed that the forthcoming HBO adaptation will give us a new screen version that is as challenging, and as relevant to present times.

Later this year, I have another Fahrenheit 451 project going public: the special issue of The New Ray Bradbury Review which I have been editing. This contains a number of articles considering the representation of books and texts in the film, some that consider the reception of the film by contemporary and modern audiences, and my own article on Ray Bradbury's responses to Truffaut's film. The issue is due out in October, but is available for pre-order now.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Fahrenheit 451 - 50th Anniversary Screening

On Tuesday 24th May, I will be introducing a screening of Truffaut's 1966 film of Fahrenheit 451, at Light House Cinema in Wolverhampton, UK. It all ties together with the 50th anniversary of the film's release, and the forthcoming issue of The New Ray Bradbury Review that I am editing.

If you're thinking of traveling to the event, the venue is a five-minute walk from Wolverhampton rail station and bus station. And Wolverhampton rail station is on the "west coast main line", about a twenty-minute journey from Birmingham New Street.

Here's a little poster (click to enlarge):

Friday, April 15, 2016

Ray Bradbury and the Oscars

Ray Bradbury never won an Oscar, but in 1963 he came close.

The 1962 short film Icarus Montgolfier Wright, which animated hundreds of Joe Mugnaini's paintings, was written for the screen by Ray Bradbury and George Clayton Johnson, and based of course on Ray's short story. It was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Short Film, and the award would have gone to producer Jules Engel. But on the night, the award went instead to John and Faith Hubley for The Hole.

Here's the announcement of the nominees and winner, from actor Van Heflin:

You can watch the Hubleys' film here:

And you can watch Icarus here:


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fahrenheit 451 - new adaptation mooted

Breaking news: HBO is apparently developing a new adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's best known and most successful novel. This comes after two decades of on-again off-again "development hell" from Mel Gibson's Icon Pictures, the previous holder of the screen rights to the property.

Ramin Bahrani has been identified as the writer-director of the proposed new version. He has a good track record by all accounts, with a number of award nominations and some critical acclaim for his previous work:

As always, I caution people not to get too excited over announced adaptations. Many of them come to nothing. Remember the supposed remakes of The Illustrated Man and Something Wicked This Way Comes? No? That's because they both stalled, like Fahrenheit 451 did the last time we heard about it (F451 was in the hands of the highly bankable Frank Darabont, and even that came to nothing, despite a smart, strong and modern script).

Read more here: