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: https://www.facebook.com/KinoLorberStudioClassics/photos/a.683404775049766.1073741828.682934655096778/1744016005655299/?type=3&theater

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:  https://www.neh.gov/news/press-release/2018-04-09

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".