Friday, March 21, 2014

Ray Bradbury on THE HAUNTING (1963)

From The Times, 12 December 1998, Ray Bradbury gives a hearty recommendation to Robert Wise's classic understated horror movie The Haunting:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Time Intervening

Time is so much present in one way or another in my work. The aging process. Death. The urgency one feels to celebrate before it’s too late.

Last night there was a warm wind at midnight. I thought, ‘I should roll down the lawn like I did with my daughters when we were young.’

I didn’t.

But I could savor it, freeze it with my art, get it on paper.

- Ray Bradbury, interviewed by Aljean Harmetz. New York Times, 24th April 1983, page H1.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Something Wicked Turns Round and Comes Back for More

Deadline Hollywood is reporting that a new film is to be made based on Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. Disney has attached Seth Grahame-Smith to the project as director - his first feature film in this role - and he is due to produce a treatment, after which a writer will be assigned. The story is here.

Well, it IS the twenty-first century, that period in history when Hollywood is only interesting in re-treading old product (as this fascinating infographic makes plain).

Whenever I hear of a new Bradbury-based film, I always say two things.

First, don't hold your breath. The history of Hollywood is one of options being taken out, traded and dropped; of scripts being written, rejected, rewritten, thrown away and written again from scratch; and of change in management that make one day's hot property the next day's embarrassing liability. Whatever happened to the Frank Darabont Fahrenheit 451? The Zack Snyder Illustrated Man? That proposed version of Dandelion Wine?

And second, don't pre-judge. The history of SF and fantasy film is that, based purely on announcements and rumours prior to release, fans get up in arms about who is attached to a project (they will ruin it!), changes to the story (that's not in the book!) and changes to the characters (he wouldn't do that!). Sometimes the adaptation will work despite such misgivings, sometimes not. The only way to find out is to wait and see.

That said, who exactly is Seth Grahame-Smith, the neophyte film director who is being entrusted with this undertaking? None other than the creator, writer and director of the MTV sitcom The Hard Times of RJ Berger (2010-1), the screenwriter of Dark Shadows (2012), the author and screenwriter of novel and film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2010 & 2012 respectively), and writer of the book (and forthcoming film) of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009 & 2015 respectively). More information here.

On the plus side, an association with darker themes. On the minus side, someone whose entire cinematic oeuvre to date is dependent on re-tooling existing stories and characters in a "quirky" way.

Hmm. Let's wait and see.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Orbiting Ray Bradbury's Arizona

Orbiting Ray Bradbury's Mars is a new book edited by Gloria McMillan (University of Arizona and Pima Community College, Tucson). Yesterday, McMillan appeared on Tucson public television to discuss the book. You can view the TV show below - the Bradbury book is the headline of the programme, and then the first full report after the news summary.

The accompanying web page refers to the book as "kaleidoscopic", because of the many facets of Bradbury that it tries to bring out. The book's subtitle claims for it "biographical, anthropological, literary, scientific and other perspectives", which does indeed sound multi-faceted. So far, I have only dipped into the book, more or less at random, but at some point I will post a review of it.

The original call for submissions to the book mentioned the Arizona connection, suggesting that the book would be "keyed to the fact that Ray Bradbury spent a formative teen year in Tucson, Arizona, that impressed his young mind, largely shaping his metaphorical Mars" and it is precisely this aspect that Arizona's AZ Illustrated picks up on here, leading off with the scientific view of Mars.

Thursday, March 06, 2014


For my PhD thesis (forever a work in progress...) I am currently studying Something Wicked This Way Comes. You may know it as a 1962 novel by Ray Bradbury. Or a 1983 film scripted by Ray Bradbury. But its origins go right back to the 1940s with a short story called "The Black Ferris", and its development continued well into the 2000s with Bradbury's stage play version.

It's something you might call Bradbury's life work...

As part of my research, I've been tracking the changes in all the different versions - including a number of screenplay versions which have neither been filmed nor published. Along the way, I've been keeping tally of who might have directed the Something Wicked movie at various points in history. Here's a quick summary. (If you also follow me on Facebook, you may have seen me post this on there recently.)

People who might have directed SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, if things had played out slightly differently...

No. 1: Gene Kelly, pictured here directing the "Circus" section of INVITATION TO THE DANCE - the film which triggered Ray Bradbury's creating SOMETHING WICKED in the first place!

No. 2: Blake Edwards, who said he wanted to do it, but never seemed to take any steps towards it.

No. 3: Federico Fellini, who Ray Bradbury asked a producer to consider, given Fellini's apparent interest in similar themes. Fellini is pictured here on the set of LA STRADA with Richard Basehart (who performed in the Bradbury-scripted film version of MOBY DICK around the same time as this).

Bradbury subsequently realised that, as a writer-director auteur, Fellini would have little use for a Bradbury script - but the two would meet and become good friends, although they never worked together.

No. 4: Sam Peckinpah. According to Bradbury, Peckinpah's method of filming SOMETHING WICKED was to be as follows: "Rip the pages out of the book and stuff them into the camera". Given that Peckinpah was himself a writer, and had a habit of re-writing the scripts he directed, I suspect that it might not have been so straightforward. Bradbury wrote at last one complete screenplay version of SOMETHING WICKED for Peckinpah, but the production didn't come together.

No. 5: Ray Bradbury! After deciding that he and Fellini wouldn't be compatible, Bradbury seriously proposed directing the film himself. He would tentatively consider directing again later in his career, but didn't get round to it.

And finally, the person who DID direct SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983)...

Jack Clayton.

Ray Bradbury and Jack Clayton had been friends since Bradbury's visit to England in the 1950s. For decades they had talked about working together, but were unable to find anything that worked for both of them. Clayton rejected THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, saying that he liked the book but it wasn't the kind of film he felt he could make. Given that one of Clayton's great successes was THE INNOCENTS (based on TURN OF THE SCREW), it should have been obvious that he was a perfect match for SOMETHING WICKED.

SOMETHING WICKED got off to a false start with Clayton as director, and the production nearly evaporated like so many other Hollywood projects. Eventually, it got back on track and was finally made, with ANOTHER Bradbury screenplay.

The Bradbury-Clayton relationship, cordial for decades, was unfortunately soured when Clayton had Bradbury's script re-written (without his knowledge or permission). RUMPOLE creator John Mortimer was Clayton's uncredited script doctor.

When SOMETHING WICKED was previewed, the audience didn't respond well, causing Disney to re-work the film. With Bradbury's involvement (and with Clayton effectively sidelined), new material was shot - which is why the two child stars inexplicably age in a couple of scenes - some visual effects were added, and a new music score was commissioned.

The film, then, was a compromise. But it might have been similarly compromised with Gene Kelly, Blake Edwards, Sam Peckinpah or Federico Fellini at the helm!

Jack Clayton is pictured here on the streets of "Green Town, Illinois" during the making of the film.


Monday, March 03, 2014

Bradbury Doodles

Anyone who ever corresponded with Ray Bradbury, or had a book signed by him, will likely be familiar with the doodles he was fond of adding, such as the charming little Moby Dick fellow you see here.

Frank Palumbo and his students kept up a correspondence with Bradbury for a decade or more, and Frank kept not just Bradbury's letters, but the envelopes they came in. Thanks to Frank's generosity, I am able to share some of them with you here.

One or two items have been tidied up a little (by me), mostly to remove folds, creases and inkblots. (The whale above is one of my Photoshop efforts, but you can see the untouched Bradbury original below, with the original message.) The most common items in the Bradbury doodle repertoire are faces and animals. The humans sometimes look angry, sometimes perplexed, sometimes just grotesque. The animals are a bit more straightforward.

The last item is a simple Bradbury annotation of the Edgar Allan Poe postage stamps on the envelope, indicating Bradbury's idea of the familial relationship between the two authors.