Saturday, March 28, 2015
Bradbury on Screen: Twin Evils
Moby Dick (1956) was not Bradbury's first screenwriting job, but it was certainly the one which established him as a quality writer for the screen. He shares screenplay credit with John Huston, but a study of Bradbury's final draft script with the finished film shows that Bradbury wrote the majority of what was filmed - although he was, of course, working under guidance from Huston.
The film influenced Bradbury's career in many ways, and really echoed through much of his work that he did in the following forty years or so, some of which I discuss in my review of Moby Dick, which you can find here.
Our second Bradbury-scripted film can also be said to have occupied Ray for thirty-five years, in that it has its origins in a 1948 short story, "The Black Ferris", which Bradbury then developed into a screen treatment in the late 1950s, turned into a novel in the 1960s, and finally scripted (several times) in the 1970s and 1980s. Something Wicked This Way Comes, finally produced by Disney in 1983, was directed by Jack Clayton, and features some memorable scenes - such as the library confrontation between Mr Dark and Mr Halloway - which Bradbury refined through his many re-writings as the story evolved from initial premise through to final screenplay.
Clayton and Bradbury had a serious falling-out during the making of the film, and although they maintained a diplomatic silence about this while the film was on first release, Bradbury later let it be known that his and Clayton's decades-long friendship was over. The two had met in 1954 - when Bradbury was working on Moby Dick.
Both films play on ideas of evil, and both make use of omens to build an atmosphere of fear. The great Royal Dano appears in both films, and is the prophet of doom in each one.
In between the two films, there will be a discussion session, where Jon Eller and I will attempt to unravel the complex production histories of the two films. If you can join us, we'd love to see you there.
I've blogged quite a few times on Moby and Something Wicked: Moby Dick posts are here; and Something Wicked posts are here.
Labels: film event
Friday, March 27, 2015
Two Ways To Burn A Book...
First on screen is a genuine rarity: an episode of the classic 1950s live TV anthology series Playhouse 90 which has never been given any kind of repeat broadcast. Nor has it ever seen any kind of commercial release. "A Sound of Different Drummers" is an original TV drama written by Robert Alan Aurthur, about agents of the state who send books for incineration.
Now, if you think that sounds like Fahrenheit 451, imagine what Ray Bradbury thought when he saw it back in 1957.
Bradbury initiated legal proceedings, claiming that Playhouse 90 had taken his story without permission. At first, he lost. But on appeal, and with the presentation of evidence that Aurthur had prior knowledge of Fahrenheit, he won.
There are three good accounts of "A Sound of Different Drummers". One is online, in Stephen Bowie's excellent Classic TV History blog. Bowie has actually watched the episode (researchers can access a copy at the Paley Center in New York), and makes some great observations about John Frankenheimer's direction. A second account is given in Gene Beley's book Ray Bradbury Uncensored. The third account, and the one which gives most detail of the legal case, is in Jon Eller's biography Ray Bradbury Unbound.
Jon Eller will be co-hosting tonight's screening, and also participating in the discussion panel which will be sandwiched between "Drummers" and Fahrenheit 451.
Truffaut declared that he wasn't interested in science fiction, and this makes him a curious choice to direct Fahrenheit. What attracted him to the story was the very notion of book-burners. As a lifelong bibliophile, he took great delight in thinking through the consequences of a world without books.
Contemporary viewers and critics were somewhat perplexed by the film. The mere fact of it being a British-made film of an American book, directed by a French filmmaker, gave it a strange feel. The decision to largely avoid any chemistry between the characters of Montag, Linda Montag and Clarisse gave it a coldness. Some interpreted this revealing a lack of ability on Truffaut's part. My own view is that Truffaut was very conscious of what he was doing, and indeed his films prior to Fahrenheit demonstrate a clear understanding of human relationships. The coldness of Fahrenheit is not a failing; it is the central message of Truffaut's view of a world without books.
Showing Truffaut's vision of Bradbury's text immediately after Aurthur and Frankenheimer's view of a similar (but not identical) scenario will, I hope, allow us to consider different interpretations of the same basic idea. Aurthur and Bradbury were both writing in the 1950s, the era of McCarthyism, but also the era when television was becoming the leading popular medium, threatening to bring about the end of radio, cinema, theatre and literacy. Truffaut was responding to the 1960s, with television rapidly moving towards McLuhan's vision of the "global village".
In between the screenings this evening, there will be a discussion panel. Jon Eller and I will be joined by Ray Haberski, who heads American Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and by De Witt Douglas Kilgore, a leading science fiction scholar from Indiana University.
Details of how to obtain tickets for tonight's free events are here: http://www.cinema.indiana.edu/about/visiting-the-cinema/
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Bradbury on Screen: It Came From Outer Space
The film was made from a detailed screen treatment by Ray Bradbury. In 1952, with no real screenwriting experience to speak of, Bradbury was contracted to create and develop a film story for Universal. Being somewhat naive, and perhaps getting carried away with his idea, Bradbury wrote several versions of his treatment, culminating in one which was over a hundred pages long. In all but its technical formatting, this was a screenplay rather than a treatment.
To turn Bradbury's screen story into a shooting script, Harry Essex was brought in. Essex freely admitted that his job was very easy, as all he had to do was re-shape the treatment to conform to the screenplay format, and add some dialogue.
It Came From Outer Space joined the wave of science fiction films which had begun with Destination Moon in 1950, continued with The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951, and with War of the Worlds in 1953. By the end of the decade, the SF film genre would deteriorate into repetitive monster movies - but for now, Bradbury was able to make a significant contribution to an intelligent form of SF in which being alien doesn't necessarily mean being evil or hostile.
Twenty-five years later, Steven Spielberg would declare It Came From Outer Space as one of his key influences in developing Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
My review of It Came From Outer Space includes some extended quotes from Bradbury. You can find it here.
Tonight in Indiana University Cinema in Bloomington, Indiana, we will be presenting the film in 3D. Viewers will be given the classic red and blue glasses. Jon Eller and I will introduce the film, and we will be joined on stage by IU's resident 3D film expert Chris Eller. There will be a post-screening Q&A session. Details of ticketing arrangements can be found here: http://www.cinema.indiana.edu/about/visiting-the-cinema/.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Bradbury films online
Icarus Montgolfier Wright
This is a different print to the one we screened, and lacks the Bradbury introduction (which was added c.1970).
And The Moon Be Still As Bright
From The Martian Chronicles.
The Burning Man
From The Twilight Zone.
From The Ray Bradbury Theater. Watch out for the Bradbury stand-in in the title sequence. (From the front, the legs and arms of "Ray" are significantly skinnier than the real Ray.)
The Life Work of Juan Diaz
From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
TV + Shorts Programme
In this one evening, we can show Bradbury the visionary of the space age, alongside Bradbury's nostalgic recollection of his childhood; Bradbury's considered reflection on the rights and wrongs of explorers pushing forward into new territory, next to his fictionalised reflection of his own experience of the "alien" Mexican approach to death.
Here's what we're showing:
This Oscar-nominated short animation from 1962 (it lost to the Hubleys' "The Hole") is based on a story first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1956. George Clayton Johnson - who would become known as a significant writer for The Twilight Zone, Star Trek and the original Ocean's Eleven - drafted the original screenplay directly from Bradbury's story. Bradbury then re-wrote the script, taking the opportunity to tweak the story. The two writers share screenplay credit.
The imagery for the film comes entirely from the artist Joe Mugnaini, who by 1962 had become intricately connected to Bradbury's work. His illustrations had graced the covers (and interiors) of a number of Bradbury books, most notably Fahrenheit 451 and The Golden Apples of the Sun.
When NBC broadcast its Martian Chronicles miniseries in 1980, Ray Bradbury famously declared to the press that he found it "boring". And indeed, the series as a whole is remarkably lacklustre, with a leaden pace. Oddly, the teleplay - by the usually excellent Richard Matheson - seems blameless: for the most part, the miniseries follows the fascinating events of the novel. And yet the Bradbury magic is mostly lost. The blame must surely lie with the director Michael Anderson, whose previous forays into science fiction territory (1984, Logan's Run) were similarly unengaging.
One segment which came close to capturing the dynamics, mood and tone of the Bradbury original comes in the last part of the first episode of the miniseries, which adapts the turning-point story "And The Moon Be Still As Bright". The story (and episode) captures the shocking discovery that the native Martians have been wiped out by disease brought from Earth, and then considers the dilemma of what to do: press on, and take over the Red Planet, or seek to preserve the remains of the lost Martian society. Bernie Casey puts in an energetic turn as Spender, the Earthman who speaks for Mars.
This episode of The Twilight Zone from 1985 has a script and direction by Ray's friend J.D. Feigelson. I have always put this episode forward as one of the best examples of Bradbury adapted for screen. It's short, atmospheric, and engaging. Roberts Blossom dominates the screen.
For more on this episode, see my review, here.
One of the better early episodes of Ray's own TV series, The Ray Bradbury Theater (1985), this one stars James Coco in dual roles: Braling, and the robotic Braling II. As with all episodes of Ray Bradbury Theater, the script was written by Bradbury himself, and allows us to see how he re-imagined the story nearly forty years after its creation: it's a Bradbury classic, dating back to 1949.
It's been adapted for TV several times, including a version for Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the 1950s. Read my review of the Ray Bradbury Theater version here.
This Bradbury-scripted episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour dates from 1964, and is based on a short story first published in Playboy the year before. Bradbury was inspired by his visit to Mexico in the 1940s when, as a young writer, he encountered the Mexican Day of the Dead, and visited the famous mummies of Guanajuato. That short visit gave him experiences which would surface in a number of short stories, including "The Next in Line", "El Dia de Muerte" and "The Candy Skull".
This episode was directed by the estimable actor-producer-director Norman Lloyd, who produced and directed most of Bradbury's work for the Hitchcock series. My review of the episode is here.
Labels: film event
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Ray Bradbury: From Science To The Supernatural
The germ of the idea came a year ago, when Jon Eller - Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies - was in discussion with Indiana University Cinema, headed by Jon Vickers. IU Cinema hosts major film events, including visits from luminaries such as Werner Herzog, Meryl Streep and Peter Weir.
When I visited the Bradbury Center in Indianapolis this time last year, Jon and I spent a bit of time bouncing around ideas for a Bradbury film series - and the result is From Science To The Supernatural.
But why that title?
We wanted to reflect the breadth of Bradbury's writing, presenting him not as "just" a science-fiction writer, or "just" a fantasist. At the same time, we were conscious of Ray's close association with space scientists - while not a "hard" SF writer, Ray's poetic vision of humankind's future in space made him a leading advocate of the American space programme. We wanted to acknowledge Ray's influence on a couple of generations of space visionaries, while also presenting some of the best adaptations of his work which, as it happens, tend to be at the more fantastic end of the spectrum.
Jon Eller and I both had some instant ideas of what to screen in our imagined ideal Ray Bradbury film festival, and we were partly influenced by the treasures held in the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, which include Ray's personal 16mm and 35mm prints of some of his film and TV work. After bouncing around ideas, we gradually homed in on the selection in the current programme.
And so, when the series begins in IU Cinema on Tuesday 24 March, we shall be offering the following:
TV + Shorts:
- Icarus Montgolfier Wright - the Oscar-nominated short animation from 1962.
- And The Moon Be Still As Bright - the best segment of the otherwise lacklustre 1980 TV miniseries of The Martian Chronicles
- The Burning Man - an episode of The Twilight Zone from 1985, with a script and direction by Ray's friend J.D. Feigelson
- Marionettes Inc. - one of the better early episodes of Ray's own TV series, The Ray Bradbury Theater (1985)
- The Life Work of Juan Diaz - a Bradbury-scripted episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour from 1964, based on one of his Mexican stories
Playhouse 90: A Sound of Different Drummers - a TV drama which borrows from Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury sued over this, and won).
Fahrenheit 451 - Francois Truffaut's Hitchcockian 1966 take on Bradbury's best-known novel.
Moby Dick - the film which effectively launched Bradbury's screenwriting career, directed by John Huston in 1956.
Something Wicked This Way Comes - the only major film to have been made of a Bradbury book from a Bradbury script during Ray's lifetime. This 1983 Disney film was directed by Bradbury's friend Jack Clayton, but friction between the two unfortunately brought their friendship to an untimely end.
If you happen to be in Bloomington, Indiana, during the coming week, grab yourself some free tickets to our screenings - detailed scheduling and ticket information are here: http://www.cinema.indiana.edu/?post_type=series&p=8874
I will be blogging about the film event every day that we have a screening. Watch this space for more on Ray Bradbury: From Science To The Supernatural.
Labels: film event
Friday, March 06, 2015
Moby Dick (1956) on Blu-Ray
It's officially labelled as "region B", but there are many reports that the disc is actually region-free, which means it should play on any Blu-Ray player, anywhere in the world.
The few brief reviews I have seen indicate that the disc is quite plain, with no special extras, and the transfer is nothing special. It appears that no particular restoration has taken place. However, the Blu-Ray does offer one distinct improvement over the previous commercial releases of the film: it is in the correct 1.66:1 aspect ratio. This means that, for the first time, home viewers can see the full film frame, and not have Oswald Morris' careful compositions wrecked by inconsiderate cropping to a 4:3 frame.
Labels: Moby Dick
Sunday, March 01, 2015
Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)
It would be impossible for science fiction giants like Nimoy and Bradbury to have never crossed paths, and indeed their paths did cross on several occasions - but curiously the only times when Nimoy acted for Bradbury were all voice work.
Nimoy recorded a couple of spoken-word albums of Bradbury material, which included short stories chosen from The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles. Today, we would call these "audiobooks", but back in the day they were released as LPs.
Later, Nimoy put in an energetic performance as Bradbury's character Moundshroud, in the Emmy-winning animated TV film of The Halloween Tree. On this occasion, Nimoy was performing directly from a screenplay written by Bradbury himself.
It's been interesting to see the tributes to Nimoy, which have come not just from Hollywood, but from NASA, astronauts, and President Obama. He inspired people to dream of space, and of the future; much as Bradbury did. I haven't been able to locate any photos of Bradbury and Nimoy together, but I've sure they met at some point, and no doubt they would have much in common to talk about.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Last Word on the Demolition?
The report begins with a brief interview with the Manager of the Office of Historic Resources of the City of Los Angeles' Department of City Planning, who explains what would have been needed to have saved the house. Then buyers of the house, architect Thom Mayne and his wife, explain their plans for the property. Finally, Jon Eller of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, who only learned of the demolition after it had happened, presents a philosophical take on where we can go from here.
The show is online here: http://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/design-and-architecture/thom-mayne-shares-plans-for-bradburys-former-home-suburban-la-gets-a-retrofit
Monday, January 19, 2015
Proposed SOMETHING WICKED film updates story to 1980s
This strikes me as incredibly faulty logic - like updating Huckleberry Finn to the 1970s.
The EW article is a survey of Grahame-Smith's current projects - and there are plenty of them: not only Something Wicked but proposed re-boots of Beetlejuice and Stephen King's It, among others. This is one busy writer-producer-director.
Something Wicked is reported as being scripted by David Leslie Johnson, from a treatment by Grahame-Smith. Johnson began his career as an assistant to Frank Darabont on The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Walking Dead; his biggest screenwriting credit to date is for The Wrath of the Titans. The earliest the film might go before the cameras is late 2015, but my recommendation (as always) is: don't hold your breath.
The EW report is here: http://insidemovies.ew.com/2015/01/16/beetlejuice-2-something-wicked-gremlins-seth-grahame-smith/2/
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Jon Eller clarifies his position on the Bradbury house demolition
Jon Eller's statement was published yesterday on the web page of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, which he directs at Indiana University. It was also sent directly to me, to author Steven Paul Leiva, and a few other news outlets.
This is what he wrote:
I would like to clarify the reporting of recent days concerning the Bradbury Center's support of Thom Mayne’s plans for Ray Bradbury’s Cheviot Hills home in Los Angeles. I was never in favor of demolishing the Bradbury home; until last week, I had no idea who the new owner was, or what he planned for the home. When I received pictures of the house being torn down, I found out who the new owner was and I learned all I could about his plans. I was impressed by his decision to preserve the fine details of woodwork for charity donation. I was impressed that he was planning to live in the new house, rather than build and sell it. I later learned that he would be building a low-profile, garden-and-wall home that would prominently honor Ray Bradbury’s legacy on that property. I subsequently supported Thom Mayne’s planning going forward, not because he demolished the Bradbury home, but because I knew he planned to honor Ray Bradbury’s memory in a significant and enduring way. - See more at: http://iat.iupui.edu/bradburycenter/news/center-director-responds-media-coverage-comments-bradbury-house-tear-down#sthash.Nzeg87Mb.dpufI would like to clarify the reporting of recent days concerning the Bradbury Center's support of Thom Mayne’s plans for Ray Bradbury’s Cheviot Hills home in Los Angeles. I was never in favor of demolishing the Bradbury home; until last week, I had no idea who the new owner was, or what he planned for the home. When I received pictures of the house being torn down, I found out who the new owner was and I learned all I could about his plans. I was impressed by his decision to preserve the fine details of woodwork for charity donation. I was impressed that he was planning to live in the new house, rather than build and sell it. I later learned that he would be building a low-profile, garden-and-wall home that would prominently honor Ray Bradbury’s legacy on that property. I subsequently supported Thom Mayne’s planning going forward, not because he demolished the Bradbury home, but because I knew he planned to honor Ray Bradbury’s memory in a significant and enduring way. - See more at: http://iat.iupui.edu/bradburycenter/news/center-director-responds-media-coverage-comments-bradbury-house-tear-down#sthash.Nzeg87Mb.dpufI would like to clarify the reporting of recent days concerning the Bradbury Center's support of Thom Mayne’s plans for Ray Bradbury’s Cheviot Hills home in Los Angeles. I was never in favor of demolishing the Bradbury home; until last week, I had no idea who the new owner was, or what he planned for the home. When I received pictures of the house being torn down, I found out who the new owner was and I learned all I could about his plans. I was impressed by his decision to preserve the fine details of woodwork for charity donation. I was impressed that he was planning to live in the new house, rather than build and sell it. I later learned that he would be building a low-profile, garden-and-wall home that would prominently honor Ray Bradbury’s legacy on that property. I subsequently supported Thom Mayne’s planning going forward, not because he demolished the Bradbury home, but because I knew he planned to honor Ray Bradbury’s memory in a significant and enduring way.
The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies exists on Indiana University’s IUPUI campus to extend the Bradbury legacy, to preserve his writings and books, and to provide extensive research sources and public outreach for scholars, students, and the general public. We are fortunate to have archives and artifacts here at IUPUI in Indianapolis that will allow us to re-create Ray Bradbury’s basement office as it existed for decades in his Cheviot Hills home. It takes the work of many people from all over the country to realize that dream. I’m in the business of building bridges that embrace hope and sadness, loss and recovery, and the celebration of the human imagination. Thom Mayne knows Ray Bradbury’s literary works, and I want the Bradbury Center to be able to help him celebrate and honor the Bradbury legacy in the future. I miss that Old Yellow House more than I care to say publicly, and I never wanted to see it disappear. But it will never be lost, as long as we work together to preserve its memory.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Former Bradbury Home Demolition - New Owner Speaks Up
Alex Shephard briefly interviewed Mayne by phone. Read the details here: http://www.mhpbooks.com/why-was-ray-bradburys-home-demolished-an-interview-with-architect-thom-mayne/
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Jon Eller - Bradbury's literary biographer, author of Becoming Ray Bradbury and Ray Bradbury Unbound, editor of The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury, and director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies - has taken a more philosophical view on the demolition. According to KRCW's Design & Architecture blog, Eller believes that both Bradbury and Mayne are futurists, whose view of the transformative power of architecture show parallels. Eller hopes to draw Mayne into dialogue, so that the reported family-home construction planned to replace the Bradbury house will be in some way informed by Bradbury's legacy.
KRCW has recorded an interview with Jon Eller, and is planning to interview Thom Mayne. The Design & Architecture blog promises that these interviews will be heard in an upcoming episode.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Ray Bradbury's former house, located on Cheviot Drive in Los Angeles, has been recreated along with Ray in a graphic treatment of a Bradburyesque fiction - and in real life has been pulled down.
Ray passed away in 2012, and in 2014 his house was finally put up for sale. It was bought by an architect who, apparently, has the intention of using the land for building a new family home. It was only a matter of time before the Bradbury house, a curious yellow bungalow built into a hillside, would be redeveloped. I don't think anyone close to Bradbury was quite prepared for how devastating this would seem.
Ray and his family moved into the house over fifty years ago, and countless newpaper interviews, magazine profiles, news reports and documentary films have shown the house, so much so that the house and Bradbury became synonymous. His basement office, overloaded with books, toys and exotic masks, was for many years a particular focus of published profiles of Ray; and in the last years of his life, it was his "den" that became the focus, where he would entertain visitors surrounded by sculptures of dinosaurs, an Ice-Cream Suit, Halloween paraphernalia and original artworks.
In 2014, not only was the house sold off, but many of Ray's possessions also went up for auction. And this week, the demolition team moved in. There are pictures of the remains of the house in this report on Mike Glyer's File770 website, accompanying an article written by Ray's longtime friend and helper John King Tarpinian.
By coincidence, this week also saw the publication of the third issue of Shadow Show, the comic book based on the Bradbury tribute book of the same name. Issue 3 includes a graphic adaptation of Bradbury biographer Sam Weller's short story "Live Forever!" - a story which includes Ray as a character, and uses the house as the arena in which this Bradburyesque tale unfolds. Sam tells me that the comic's producers went to great lengths to achieve accuracy in depicting the house. The result is very successful. Here's one page from the comic, and you can see more in this preview.
Note that even the artworks hanging on the walls are reproduced with accuracy in Mark Sexton's comic strip - in the page above, the final frame shows the classic cover art for Bradbury's The Illustrated Man.
It is a great irony that these two events should have coincided: the celebration of Bradbury's house as one source of his literary strength, and the destruction of that same house. Friends of Bradbury who were present around the time of the demolition have reported a further irony. The day they knocked the roof off the Bradbury house, it rained. Not exactly a common occurrence in Los Angeles. Inevitably, it brings to mind Bradbury's classic short story "There Will Come Soft Rains", which poignantly depicts an empty house after a nuclear war:
The house shuddered, oak bone on bone, its bared skeleton cringing from the heat, its wire, its nerves revealed as if a surgeon had torn the skin off to let the red veins and capillaries quiver in the scalded air. [...]
The crash. The attic smashing into kitchen and parlor. The parlor into cellar, cellar into sub-cellar. Deep freeze, armchair, film tapes, circuits, beds, and all like skeletons thrown in a cluttered mound deep under.[...]
Dawn showed faintly in the east. Among the ruins, one wall stood alone. Within the wall, a last voice said, over and over again and again, even as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped rubble and steam:
"Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is . . ."
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Ray Bradbury: From Science to the Supernatural
The images below are taken from the Spring 2015 programme book from IU Cinema. Click on them to enlarge, and you will see the full blurb for each of the events.
All being well, I will be attending all screenings - introducing some of the events, and participating in disussion panels for some of them. Jon Eller, author of Becoming Ray Bradbury and Ray Bradbury Unbound will be co-hosting. Jon and I collaborated on the basic "wishlist" for the screenings, and IU Cinema's Jon Vickers has done the real work in sorting out screening rights and securing prints and recordings of the films and TV shows in the programme. (No mean feat, especially when Jon Eller and I desperately wanted to include the extremely rare "A Sound of Different Drummers".)
According to the IU Cinema catalogue, all screenings in the Bradbury series will be FREE, but you will need tickets to attend (IU Cinema is limited to 260 seats). Details of how to book are included in the images below.
Monday, December 01, 2014
Ray Bradbury and THE TWILIGHT ZONE
When Zicree was working on The Twilight Zone Companion, he attempted to interview Bradbury about his involvement with that classic Rod Serling TV series. Bradbury wrote just one completed episode of the series, "I Sing The Body Electric," but also wrote a couple of unfilmed episodes. Bradbury also claimed a significant contribution to the very existence of the series: he reportedly introduced Serling to the writers Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, each of whom would write many episodes of the series.
Zicree's attempt to draw information out of Bradbury was thwarted back in the 1980s, but the two later became friends. Long after The Twilight Zone Companion was published, Zicree finally heard Bradbury's account of how the relationship between Serling and Bradbury soured. Zicree recounts all of this in his latest "Mr Sci-Fi" video on YouTube.
Zicree slightly overstates things when he claims that none of this has been discussed before. In fact, much of Bradbury's account of events is given in Sam Weller's biography The Bradbury Chronicles. Nevertheless, Zicree's encyclopedic knowledge of Twilight Zone and Serling, and his friendship with Bradbury, make his telling of events fascinating and compelling. You can see the entire 24-minute video below.
There is, in fact, yet more to the Serling-Bradbury conflict. The Zicree video presents the Bradbury interpretation, but I have seen correspondence from the time which suggests an entire other dimension to the argument between the two great writers. Indeed, Jon Eller's new book Ray Bradbury Unbound (chapter 28) reveals much more of the Serling-Bradbury relationship, based on both the surviving correspondence and his own extensive interviews with Bradbury, giving the most detailed and insightful account yet published.
One day, perhaps, a fuller version of the story may emerge - but for now, Zicree's recounting of Bradbury's view is one of the best you will find.
(This blog post has been updated to include the reference to Ray Bradbury Unbound - 7 January 2014.)
Friday, November 14, 2014
Bradbury Auction - Round Two
Among the curios still on offer are a genuine Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, from one of the productions of Bradbury's story/play; a herringbone jacket which Ray wore in Ireland while working on Moby Dick for John Huston back in the 1950s; and many items of artwork from Bradbury's personal collection.
Perhaps the standout item is the official commemorative plaque from Ray Bradbury's Hollywood Star, which was presented to him in 2002.
When the first auction was on, I suggested that it would be rather neat if someone would bid-and-donate: to bid on an item and then donate it to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. The Center, in Indianapolis, houses the largest collection of Bradbury materials: manuscripts, correspondence, books, pulp magazines, awards and other artefacts - including the furniture from Ray's former basement office. It's primarily a research collection (as the "Studies" in its title implies), but it also has plans for more public outreach and for a visitor reception/exhibition area. While the Center's collection is extensive, the Center isn't exactly awash with funds, and isn't in much of a position to extend its holdings, except by donations.
So, with the round two auction now underway - with just under a week left to run - I would once again like to suggest bidding-to-donate. That Hollywood Star would look quite magnificent in, say, a reconstruction of RayBradbury's basement office...
The Hollywood Star lot is viewable here: http://natedsanders.com/ItemImages/000032/47585h_lg.jpeg
And the entire auction catalogue is online here: http://natedsanders.com/Category/Ray_Bradbury_Estate-66.html
Wednesday, November 05, 2014
RIP: George Slusser (1939-2014)
George wrote one of the earliest studies of Ray Bradbury's work, The Bradbury Chronicles (Borgo Press, 1977). This short study, written in an accessible style, concentrated mainly on Bradbury's early short stories, and drew out the key themes that seemed to be Bradbury's preoccupation in those classic weird tales.
George Slusser was an academic at the University of California Riverside, where he built the J.Lloyd Eaton Collection into the world's largest research collection for science fiction, fantasy and horror. He also organised or helped organise many of the Eaton Conferences, and edited and co-edited many of the books that collected the proceedings of those conferences.
As well as writing about Bradbury, George wrote books on Ursula Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Robert Heinlein and many others. He collaborated frequently with Eric Rabkin, and helped shape the academic study of SF.
In 2008, I submitted a conference paper proposal about Bradbury to the Eaton Conference, and was surprised to get a personal response from George. I was even more surprised when he told me my paper had been accepted - and that Ray Bradbury was to be a guest of honour at the conference. That conference would be my first meeting with both George and Ray.
Both the Eaton collection and the Eaton conference look set to continue in the future. Both are a fitting legacy for George Edgar Slusser.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Re-Unite Bradbury's Hugo Award with his Manuscripts!
Ray's Retro-Hugo is currently up for auction, along with more than 400 other artefacts offered by the Bradbury estate. The starting bid was $5000. Unfortunately, this is beyond what the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, which holds (in original or digitised form) many manuscripts related to Fahrenheit 451, could afford to spend. So I would like to make a simple proposition to put the Hugo back with the manuscripts:
Is there someone out there who could bid for the Retro-Hugo, and donate it to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University?
If this idea appeals to you, please visit the web site of Nate D. Sanders Auctions of Los Angeles (link below); or email firstname.lastname@example.org; or phone 310 440-2982. The auction instructions and registration pages of the website explain the online, phone, and mail bidding process.
The bidding period runs until 5:00 p.m. PDT on Thursday, September 25th, 2014. The Bradbury Hugo Award is lot number 293 in the Bradbury online auction catalog. Here's a direct link:
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Bradbury "Ice Cream Suit" Event in California
The film was scripted by Ray Bradbury, based on his short story and play, and was directed for Disney by Stuart Gordon - a director better known for his work in the horror genre. Gordon will be on the discussion panel, along with two of the film's stars: Joe Mantegna and Edward James Olmos.
And if that weren't enough, the panel will be joined by Bradbury's authorised biographer Sam Weller, and chaired by organiser of Los Angeles' Ray Bradbury Week, Steven Paul Leiva.
Full details of the 12th October event are here.
Saturday, September 06, 2014
Auction for the Ray Bradbury Estate
The full catalogue for the auction is online, and the auction house appears to be open to online bidding. There are hundreds of lots, ranging from rough sketches by Bradbury collaborators such as Joe Mugnaini, through to the commemorative plaque for Ray's Hollywood star. Even if you don't intend to bid on anything, the catalogue is fascinating to browse through, and in most cases includes quite detailed photos of the lots. View the catalogue here.
Friday, August 29, 2014
I had the privilege of reading some of the book while Jon was finalising it, and it is a thorough piece of work which captures the whirlwind of Bradbury at his peak, following the successes of Fahrenheit 451 and his film work for Moby Dick and leading into the 1960s.
Ray Bradbury Unbound is available for pre-order in all the usual places: click here to order on Amazon (US); click here to order on Amazon (UK); click here to order from the publisher.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Asteroid 9766 Bradbury
Dr Jeffrey Larsen of the Spacewatch Project and the University of Arizona wrote to Ray Bradbury to tell him of this astronomical re-naming. He provided technical details of the asteroid's orbit, and more graspable information such as its size (three to nine kilometres in diameter) and distance from the Sun (2.45 astronomical units). Dr Larsen also informed Ray that the asteroid had not been observed for its physical composition, and thanked Ray "for inspiring me in my youth" through his writing.
Ray immediately faxed Dr Larsen back, exclaiming "Holy Magoly!" He thanked Larsen for "this wonderful baptism" and felt sure that this would earn respect from his four daughters.
Ray Bradbury had been similarly honoured by the Apollo 15 astronauts, who named a crater on the Moon as "Dandelion Crater" in 1971. Shortly after his death, he was astronomically honoured once more, when the Curiosity landing site on Mars was named as "Bradbury Landing".
Friday, August 22, 2014
Ray Bradbury's Birthday
Ray Douglas Bradbury was born ninety-four years ago today.
Even now, two years after he passed away, the fascination with his life and work continues. In a few weeks' time, a second volume of literary biography will be published: Ray Bradbury Unbound by Jon Eller. Shortly after, the second volume of The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: a Critical Edition will appear. The successful tribute volume Shadow Show is being developed into a comic-book series. Film composer John Massari has developed his Ray Bradbury Theater music into a symphonic suite. Dramatic Publishing is expanding its list of Bradbury-authored theatre plays with Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Bradbury. And this week, the Indianapolis Public Library inaugurated an annual Ray Bradbury Lecture in conjunction with Indiana University's Center for Ray Bradbury Studies.
I think that deserves a round of applause!
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Comic-Book Series: Ray Bradbury Tribute SHADOW SHOW
The original anthology, edited by Mort Castle and Ray Bradbury's biographer Sam Weller, was created as a tribute to Bradbury, and included stories from leading fantasists such as Neil Gaiman and Harlan Ellison.
The new comic will adapt a selection of the anthology's stories, including those by Gaiman, Ellison, Joe Hill and Alice Hoffman.
Full details are on IDW's web page, here.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Bradbury Wins Retro Hugo
At this year's Loncon3 convention, the Retro Hugos have been given for the year 1939. This, of course, is long before most of the convention's members were born. But it has given Ray Bradbury a second opportunity to have his works considered for recognition.
Bradbury was on the ballot in two categories:
"Best Short Story" - his amateur story "Hollerbochen's Dilemma" lost out to Arthur C. Clarke's "How We Went To Mars". Perhaps the UK location of this year's Worldcon helped Clarke to win this category...
"Best Fan Writer" - Ray won in this category, where the award is not given for a specific named work, but for a general body of work. Of course, in the late 1930s Bradbury was contributing to a number of fan publications, and was producing his own fanzine, Futuria Fantasia.
I find it quite amusing that Ray Bradbury should win as "best fan writer", particularly since back in 1939 he attended the very first World Science Fiction Convention in New York.
Full details of the Retro Hugo ballot can be found at Tor.com.
Monday, August 04, 2014
Harlan Ellison story dedicated to Ray Bradbury
Harlan is also one of the latest additions to the Archive of American Television's oral history programme, with a video interview conducted in early 2013, covering most of the steps in Ellison's screenwriting career. Interviews in this series are usually continuous and chronological, but for some reason this one has been broken into short, top-and-tailed segments. While this has created some fun sections, it doesn't seem quite as carefully controlled as the rest of the series, and the sense of chronology is sometimes lost - as when Harlan talks about The Twilight Zone from the 1980s in between his comments on the 1960s series Ripcord and The Flying Nun. You can watch the interview here.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
"Kaleidoscope" is a classic SF short story, in which a group of astronauts find themselves flung aimlessly through space when their spaceship is destroyed; each one of them faces a slow, isolated death. As I have noted elsewhere, the premise seems to have inspired part of John Carpenter's movie Dark Star and Alfonso Cuaron's recent Gravity.
This 1991 radio adaptation is unusual, because the script is by Bradbury himself. It's a modified version of his stage play, and based on his own original short story. It was only the second BBC production to have used a Bradbury script (the first was Leviathan '99, which I reviewed here.).
The 1991 "Kaleidoscope" was directed by Hamish Wilson, who later co-produced the Bradbury series Tales of the Bizarre. It was also the first BBC production to use digital sampling technology in a drama production: they used a Synclavier to create the complex soundscape.
As with most BBC Radio broadcasts, the show will be available for streaming on the web for seven days, and should be accessible from anywhere in the world. Here's a direct link to the web page: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0499l5n
Today is also the 91st birthday of science fiction writer, critic and historian James Gunn. I met Jim last year, as I recounted in this blog post. He's still going strong, and last year published a well-received novel, Transcendental.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Dangerous Visions from BBC Radio 4
Today at 2.30pm UK time, Brian Sibley's dramatisation of The Illustrated Man gets its first airing. You can listen live online from the link below. Alternatively, you can listen on demand for seven days following the broadcast.
The BBC website has some interesting background material on the production, the dramatist and the cast, and the link for listening:
And if you haven't already done so, check out Brian's own blog: every day this week he has posted audio recordings of his previous Bradbury dramatisations - and very good they are, too.
Friday, June 06, 2014
The BBC web pages for the forthcoming Ray Bradbury adaptations have started to appear. The page for The Illustrated Man by Brian Sibley is here!
My original blog post about the shows is here.
Thursday, June 05, 2014
Two Years On
Interest in his work continues, and has perhaps even intensified. Coming soon are:
- the second volume of The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: A Critical Edition, 1943-1944;
- the second volume of Jon Eller's literary biography Ray Bradbury Unbound; and
- the fourth issue of The New Ray Bradbury Review.
Meanwhile, in Hollywood, Disney is planning its second attempt to film Something Wicked This Way Comes with Seth Grahame-Smith as writer-director. And in just over a week, BBC Radio 4 will be topping and tailing its season of SF dramas with two new productions based on The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles.
In the last year we have seen academic texts about Bradbury's works:
- About the Arizona and Mars connections - Orbiting Ray Bradbury's Mars;
- About one of his most enduring novels - Critical Insights: Fahrenheit 451.
Finally, we have seen Bradbury's office contents shipped to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies for preservation future study, and the sale of the Bradbury house on Los Angeles' Cheviot Drive.
A time of change, to be sure.
Labels: Bradbury Unbound, Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury, Disney, Fahrenheit 451, Orbiting Ray Bradbury's Mars, Seth Grahame-Smith, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles
Saturday, May 31, 2014
Truffaut's FAHRENHEIT 451
Truffaut happens to be one of my favourite film-makers, so this was a natural theme for the issue. However, I consider Fahrenheit 451 to be one of his weakest films. I attribute this to the peculiar circumstances in which the film was made: it was Truffaut's first and only film in English... a language which Truffaut struggled to learn, and never really mastered. The film was made with a British crew, and Truffaut had to address them through an interpreter. Fortunately, his cinematographer, the legendary Nic Roeg, was fluent in French, so Truffaut was at least able to converse with this one key collaborator.
The New Ray Bradbury Review is a scholarly journal, published by Kent State University Press and produced at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies (Indiana University). But it has always been an accessible journal, not full of obscure academic language. If you feel you have something to say about the Truffaut film, I would welcome you submitting a proposal. Proposals will be considered on their merits, not on the basis of the academic track-record of the writer.
If you're interested in contributing, please read the call for papers here.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Harlan Ellison at 80
He and Ray Bradbury were friends for years, and appeared together at many events. Here's a photo from an NBC Tom Snyder show, which I would guess was taken in the late 1970s. (Left to right: Ray Bradbury, Tom Snyder, Harlan Ellison - and an unknown fourth person. Any guesses?)
UPDATE - 1 JUNE 2014 - Several people have suggested that the person on the right is Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame, and that this photo dates is from The Tomorrow Show which aired on August 19, 1974.This sounds highly credible, and I can believe that it's the back of Roddenberry's head that we can see there. Thanks to Brian Sibley, who was the first to point this out!
Thirty years ago, David Gerrold wrote a piece for Starlog magazine in which he attempted to account for the various different ways that people see Harlan Ellison. His explanation for their widely divergent views is simple: it's like the blind man and the elephant. The cartoon accompanying the article put it best, so here is Phil Foglio's "What is an Ellison?" (Click on the image to embiggen.)
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Spielberg's The Whispers = Ray Bradbury's Zero Hour
The trailer for the TV series clearly presents this premise - although it looks as if it rapidly moves to Close Encounters territory - with perhaps a hint of Bradbury's "The Small Assassin" thrown in for good measure.
I don't see anything yet from the ABC network to confirm the Bradbury connection, but it's been mentioned in a number of places such as this announcement in Variety. There's a bit more (but not much) about the series here. And here is the trailer:
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
2001: A Space Odyssey
Two tickets for the West Coast premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey, complete with invitation to the post-screening champagne reception.
According to the in70mm website, 2001 had begun screening in Washington DC first, then New York City, and then on 4th April 1968 it began its run in Hollywood at the Warner Hollywood Cinerama Theatre. By attending the screening in that first few days of release, Ray Bradbury saw 2001 in its original state, before the film's director Stanley Kubrick had shortened it by nineteen minutes. On 9th April he wrote a review of the film for Psychology Today.
Bradbury's review is mixed. Among his positive comments, there is great praise for his friend and fellow SF writer Arthur C. Clarke: the film's basic idea is "immense and moving". The photography, too, is outstanding: "truly beyond belief"; "probably the most stunning film ever put on screen."
But Bradbury's assessment of the heart of the film, the scenes on the spaceship Discovery, is scathing. He refers to the two astronauts played by Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea as "two Antonioni people" who give us nothing to care about.
Nevertheless, Bradbury heartily recommends that everyone should see the film, preferably before (as he seems certain will happen) MGM cuts 90 minutes out of its running time. "Forgive it, if you can, its huge and exasperating flaws," he writes, and then mourn "for the experience we so much wanted to have." That missed experience is no less than "the painting, in one night, of the Sistine Chapel" - nearly, but not quite achieved.
Friday, May 02, 2014
Exclusive: New BBC Radio Productions of Bradbury Stories
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
- an almost full script c.1960;
- re-writing it as the novel published in 1962;
- writing an entirely new script based on the novel for Twentieth Century-Fox in 1973;
- substantially revising and reducing the script for Jack Clayton in 1976;
- re-working it again in 1981 for Disney, again with Jack Clayton.
The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies holds manuscripts of most of Bradbury's script work on this project. These are the folders for the 1973 and 1976 screenplays. The Bryna Company is Kirk Douglas's production company, which teamed up with Disney for the 1983 film.
(Photos by Phil Nichols, courtesy of the Bradbury Memorial Archive, Center for Ray Bradbury Studies.)
Friday, April 25, 2014
Center for Ray Bradbury Studies
This is what I wrote about my visit on my Facebook page. Apologies if this seems familiar (especially to anyone reading this blog post on Facebook, who may have already seen this before...):
Just finishing up after three weeks spent at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis. For the final phase of my PhD research I was given unique access to the new materials recently shipped to the Center: the manuscripts and other materials from Ray Bradbury's basement office.
This photo shows just one drawer of one cabinet. There are 31 cabinets, and I browsed every one, checking and annotating the Center's inventory as I went.
There are also dozens and dozens of boxes, but three weeks isn't enough to have looked through those.
I found what I was looking for, and much much more. But every drawer was a surprise. Just when you think you know the works of Ray Bradbury, you discover ANOTHER variation on a familiar work. I lost count of the number of adaptations of DANDELION WINE, and the number of screenplay versions of THE FOX AND THE FOREST.
Some time in the next couple of years, these materials will be fully catalogued and made accessible to researchers, but for now they are in temporary storage. I am enormously grateful to Prof Jon Eller for allowing me such privileged access while the materials are still in this state.
If you haven't already found me on Facebook, please seek me out here.
I'm also managing the Facebook page for the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, which you can find here. Please visit, and "like" our new page!
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
50th Anniversary of the 1964 New York World's Fair
A detailed description of the experience/ride with its "moving grandstands" can be found on the excellent NYWF64.com website, here.
The same website also reproduces Bradbury's text for the US Pavilion, here.
The same text would appear as an article entitled "Taming the American Wilderness" in The Daily Californian Weekly Magazine on 5 November 1968, but without any reference to the World's Fair.
It was the first of many Bradbury excursions into writing for events, exhibitions and rides, including some for Disney, the California Air and Space Museum, and IMAX Ridefilm.
On my recent trip to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis, I found Bradbury's scripts for all of these, including the New York World's Fair script:
Labels: World's Fairs