Friday, August 18, 2006

"The Burning Man"

One of the best Bradbury adaptations in the visual media was a modest entry in the 1980s version of The Twilight Zone. "The Burning Man" is only eleven minutes long, and is based on Bradbury's short story of the same name. The writer and director of the adaptation was J.D.Feigelson.

Feigelson took Bradbury's story, looked at the central metaphors - the idea of evil being perpetually reborn, like locusts that return every seventeen years; and the idea that we all go a little crazy in the heat - and ran with them. This is by far the best way to capture the spirit of Bradbury; instead of slavishly keeping the plot but losing the imagery, you cling to the imagery and let the plot slide where necessary.

As it happens, Feigelson made very few changes to the story, just enough to vary the pace and, more importantly, to emphasise the drama in the dialogue.

Bradbury's story may be flawed (is it locusts that rise up out of the earth, or is it cicadas?), but Feigelson has captured the look and the feel of Bradbury's original. It has marvellous performances, particularly from Roberts Blossom as the crazy old guy.

"The Burning Man" features characters called Aunt Neva and Doug (probably Douglas Spaulding, although this isn't specified). Both names are familiar from other Bradbury stories. Bradbury really did have an aunt called Neva - there is a picture in Nard's gallery ("Ray Bradbury Personal Photos #2").

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