Monday, December 14, 2015

"Ray Bradbury's Library" Update

The development plans for the Carnegie Library in Ray Bradbury's home town of Waukegan, Illinois, are moving forward. The Ray Bradbury Waukegan Carnegie Library, Inc. (RBWCL) is the newly formed body which is trying to establish a museum and educational centre in the library building that Ray Bradbury visited frequently in his childhood.

A fictionalised version of the library lies at the heart of Bradbury's novel, play and film Something Wicked This Way Comes, and references to the same library crop up frequently in Bradbury's books and stories.

The mission statement of RBWCL is as follows:
  • To honor and promote Ray Bradbury’s artistic achievement.
  • To honor and promote Ray Bradbury’s transformative influence on the culture of the United States.
  • To honor and promote the influence of the Carnegie Libraries on Waukegan, Illinois, America, and the entire world.

RBWCL has a new website, which includes several draft plans for the various floors of the Carnegie building. Take a look:

Friday, November 27, 2015

THE NEW RAY BRADBURY REVIEW - announced for October 2016

I've been editing issue five of the annual New Ray Bradbury Review, and it has now been listed in the publisher's catalogue for 2016. October sounds a long way off , but with any luck, copies may become available earlier than this date; they sometimes do.

The issue is entirely devoted to articles related to the Francois Truffaut film of Fahrenheit 451, which is fifty years old in 2016. I managed to pull together contributors from four continents for a wide-ranging look at the film, its contexts, its influence and its curious strengths and weaknesses. The film is usually considered to be flawed - and indeed Truffaut scholars often rate it as one of his lesser works. But it remains just about the only film made from a Bradbury work by a major figure in world cinema. It's fun to speculate what a Kurosawa, a Fellini or a David Lean might have made of a Bradbury story - and Bradbury tried to work with all of these directors and more - but we do at least have a Truffaut version of Bradbury.

The New Ray Bradbury Review is edited at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis under the general editorship of the Director, Jon Eller; and is published by Kent State University Press. The publisher's catalogue page for the Review can be viewed here:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dandelion Wine - on screen

RGI Productions has confirmed its intention to adapt Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine into a feature film.

Rodion Nahapetov is the author of the film's screenplay, and he will produce the film with Natasha Shliapnikoff, Agata Gotova and Albert Pocej. The screenplay was initially developed several years ago, and had Ray's blessing.

There is a Facebook page for the film, which currently includes some concept art, and photos of Rodion with Ray:

There have been many announcements of Bradbury-based film projects in recent years. So far, nothing has resulted from the planned versions of Fahrenheit 451 or The Illustrated Man - and things have gone quiet on Something Wicked This Way Comes. But Rodion and Natasha are different: producers who had a close connection to Ray, and who have a strong commitment to Dandelion Wine. I think adapting Dandelion Wine could be really difficult, but I hope they manage to pull it off!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Forget Christmas. In Ray Bradbury's fiction, Halloween is the biggest holiday of them all.

As I was browsing through some files on my laptop, I came across a couple of images from The Halloween Tree which I don't think I have used before on Bradburymedia. They are background paintings, used as establishing shots in the 1993 Hanna-Barbara film based on Bradbury's novel. Ray wrote the script for the film, and won an Emmy Award for his efforts.

The paintings, below, are shown here as you never quite see them in the film. Both are used in panning shots - the camera moves across each one, from one side to the other. A couple of years ago, I took frame grabs from the DVD and stitched together several frames to create the panoramic images you now see.

I wish I could give due credit to the original background artist(s), but unfortunately I have no idea who they were. The film's credits are not specific about who created the backgrounds, and there are any number of artists who might have been responsible (see the full list of film credits here).

I've always been quite taken with the second image below, a representation of the fictional Green Town, Illinois. It looks very like old Waukegan, the real town it is based on.

Click on the images to embiggen.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Halloween Tree - in New York

Calling all New Yorkers! An event happening TOMORROW, based on Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree!

- - - - - - - - - - - - 
The Living Libretto : The Halloween Tree

October 30, 2015 / 7:00 p.m.
The National Opera Center
330 7th Avenue / New York, NY 10001

From Egypt to Mexico, from prehistory to modern day, the epic journey the boys in Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree undertake in their search for their friend Pipkin manages to combine the light humor of Alice in Wonderland with the adventurous narrative of The Odyssey. Underpinned by a morality reminiscent of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the story travels across space and time, all the while offering valuable wisdom with respect to the cultural and historical traditions that have led to the contemporary celebration of Halloween. "From Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, to Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors and Wuorinen’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, phantasmagorical adventures have sprouted from regular lifestyles, transporting the audience, along with the characters, into the wild world of imagination," write the creators.

“While it sticks to two of the Aristotelian unities for drama (it has one main plot and takes place within twenty-four hours), TheHalloween Tree disposes of the third unity, one physical location, in a daring manner by traveling through space and time,” explains librettist Tony Asaro. Composer Theo Popov continues, “There are moments in Bradbury’s novel that just beg for an operatic setting: the pumpkin chorus on the Halloween Tree, the funeral processions in antiquity, the lamentations of the Druids, the flight of the witches, the communal celebrations of the Mexican Day of the Dead…Most of all, the excited pace of the narrative, which can glimpse hundreds of years of history in mere moments, makes the story ideal for a staged adventure children and parents alike would enjoy." American Lyric Theater has proudly commissioned The Halloween Tree in cooperation with the estate of Ray Bradbury.

- - - - - - - - - - - - 

Tickets and more information here:

Sunday, October 25, 2015

No More Whispers...

I'm breaking a longish Bradburymedia silence to report that The Whispers has been cancelled by ABC.

The Whispers was the most recent attempt to adapt Ray Bradbury for the screen, taking the premise of his classic short story "Zero Hour" and spinning out into a long-running TV series. As it turns out, only thirteen episodes were made, and in the face of declining ratings ABC decided not to bring it back for a second season.

This, of course, leaves viewers of the series with unanswered questions, principally "what was that all about?"

I watched the first three or four episodes, and although it really had little to do with Bradbury, I thought the plotting had some intrigue, with mystery being piled on mystery. The opening scenes of episode one actually reflected Bradbury's "The Small Assassin" as much as they did "Zero Hour". I have the remaining episodes stacked up, and may get round to viewing them at some point.

It turns out to be a mixed blessing that Bradbury's name was completely left out of the credits. Most casual viewers will have no clue that The Whispers was "Zero Hour". But if any of those are left disappointed by a lack of a solid conclusion, point them to the original short story - which has one of Bradbury's finest endings.

More information on the cancellation of The Whispers can be found here:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Sound of Thunder

Yesterday I posted a brief announcement that the Take Me To Your Reader podcast about "A Sound of Thunder" was now live. Today, I thought I would post some convenient links for anyone who wants to find out more about the story and the media adaptations.

First, here's the link to the podcast, featuring yours truly as "special guest".

The Ray Bradbury short story is still copyrighted, so shouldn't really be out there on the web. But it is one of the most reprinted stories in history, and it is quite ubiquitous online. Here is just one of many finds that Google led me to.

The Ray Bradbury Theater episode is a quite faithful adaptation of the story, and although it shows its age (and lack of budget), it's still a pretty good presentation of the Bradbury original - and has a script by Bradbury himself. Watch it on YouTube here. And if you want to know more, read my review of the episode.

The much-maligned 2005 film version has some entertainment value, but as we all agreed in the podcast, you really have to leave your critical faculties at the door, since the expansion of the story to feature-length has been done without much intelligence, logic or scientific understanding. Not that science fiction has to be scientifically accurate - but if you expect to fool the viewer into believing the impossible, you need to do it without insulting their intelligence. Watch it on YouTube here.

If you want to do the right thing, here are links for purchasing some of the above. These links are " affiliate links": each purchase made after following these links will generate a small donation to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, to help preserve and promote the legacy of Ray Bradbury.

A Sound of Thunder (Widescreen Edition)

A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories

The Ray Bradbury Theater: The Complete Series

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ray Bradbury (1920 - 2012)

Today would have been Ray Bradbury's 95th birthday.

Let's start planning for the Bradbury Centenary in 2020. Onward!

Update: to tie-in nicely with Ray's birthday, the Take Me To Your Reader podcast I guested on has now gone live. You can listen to our lively discussion of "A Sound of Thunder" here:

Special thanks to Seth, Colin and James for getting the episode edited and online in time for 22 August!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Take Me To Your Reader

Last night I joined the regular team of the podcast Take Me To Your Reader to record an episode devoted to Ray Bradbury's short story "A Sound of Thunder" and two media adaptations of the story.

The idea behind Take Me To Your Reader is that the presenters will read a science-fiction book or short story, and then watch the film(s) based on the story. Previous topics have included Planet of the Apes (in all its filmic incarnations), Carl Sagan's Contact, and Jurassic Park - and many, many others. I've listed to maybe six or seven episodes previously, and always found them enjoyable for their careful but accessible analysis of how stories adapt from one medium to another.

"A Sound of Thunder" is unusual in being a quite short story which has been adapted into a full-length feature film, necessarily entailing the invention of a lot of new material. The film, directed by Peter Hyams and released in 2005, went out into the world almost unnoticed: it had a limited release, and then went quietly to DVD with a minimum of publicity. It didn't help that the company behind it went bust, and it almost never got finished.

The earlier screen adaptation was from Bradbury's own script, for Ray Bradbury Theater. I've always quite liked this version, although it has its flaws - you can read my review of the episode here.

I won't pre-empt the conclusions of the Take Me To Your Reader episode, but let's just say that all of us involved in the recording found the movie to be hilarious in places... but it is, alas, not intended to be a comedy...

We spoke via Skype, with one end of the conversation being recorded in Oregon and my end being recorded in the UK, so  the episode now needs to be edited to make a seamless whole. It should be ready by the end of the month. I'll post a link as soon as it goes live.

Meanwhile, if you're interested in SF adaptations, why not check out some of the earlier episodes, here.

During the recording, I recommended that newcomers to Bradbury's fiction should start with one of the compendium volumes, either The Stories of Ray Bradbury or Bradbury Stories. The two books are completely complementary, with no overlap at all in their contents. Each book contains a wide range of story types, and each one makes a perfect introduction to Bradbury.

Below is an Amazon link. If you click on this link, any Amazon purchase you make will generate a small donation to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Bradburymedia has been a little quiet of late, for which I apologise... but if you are feeling deprived of news and insights on all things Bradbury, please make sure you visit the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies on Facebook.

I maintain the Facebook page in my role as "Senior Advisor" - and tend to make short quick posts there several times a week. Often it will be for posting links I have found to other resources, the kind of thing that isn't quite substantial enough to warrant a full blog post. Recent posts include details on August events to celebrate what would have been Ray's 95 birthday, and an obituary for the sculptor who created Disney's animatronic Abe Lincoln (the inspiration for Ray's short story "Downwind from Gettysburg").

And for those of you who avoid/despise/detest/don't understand Facebook, I should point out that the page is public. You don't need a Facebook account to view it. (But if you are a Facebook user, we would welcome a "like" from you, if you haven't already "liked" us.)

Join us here:

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The Whispers - Premiere Episode

The Whispers - ABC's new SF drama series based on Ray Bradbury's "Zero Hour" - premiered on Monday. According to Variety, it got reasonable ratings, so I assume its future on primetime US television is assured for the time being.

The opening episode had some strong behind-the-scenes talent attached. Writer-producer Soo Hugh has been associated with Under the Dome. Not the greatest series of all time, but one which at least is sometimes able to sustain some mystery and suspense. Co-director Mark Romanek made the admirable Robin Williams film One Hour Photo, although his career since has never quite matched up to that early work.

Because of the Under the Dome connection, I half-expected The Whispers to be full of artificial suspense, shocks and surprises. Instead, it had multiple plot threads which started out independently but turned out to be connected. Nothing earth-shattering, but not bad TV plotting, especially in setting up what I assume might be a five-year series if those ratings hold up.

Not surprisingly, the show very quickly diverges from Bradbury's original story. However, what Bradbury-derived material there was seemed quite fine to me. There were the kids taking instruction from Drill, the parents talking on the phone and not quite paying enough attention to the kids - this taken directly from "Zero Hour". The mother at the beginning of the episode who died falling through the treehouse reminded me of another Bradbury story, "The Small Assassin", where a baby causes a mother to fall downstairs and die. Then there was the beardy guy in the hospital, who was covered with tattoos. Ah, Soo Hugh read "Zero Hour" in The Illustrated Man, I thought to myself. There's even one sequence which has visual echoes of "The Screaming Woman" from Ray Bradbury Theatre.
Of course, for every Bradbury element, this Amblin Entertainment production also had a Spielberg element: the kids, of course, plus the toys that take on a life of their own, and the mystery-object-found-in-the-desert (how could it possibly have got here?) - this could have been Close Encounters, or ET, or Poltergeist.

Overall, though, it was far better than I feared, and good enough to make me want to see more. I didn't care for the deaf kid (unconvincingly written and performed), and the mystery-object-found-in-the-desert (how could it possibly have got here?) was visually underwhelming. But otherwise, good stuff. I doubt there will be any Bradbury after this first episode, though.

One thing struck me as odd. There wasn't any credit to Bradbury on-screen anywhere that I could see. I imagine this is a contractual matter between ABC and the Bradbury estate, and it's none of my business. But if I were Don Congdon Associates, I would have insisted on a "based on a story by Ray Bradbury" credit at the head of each episode.
Over on io9, a reviewer suggests that The Whispers misses the point of Bradbury's story. It's a good review, which gave me a few chuckles. But it seems to me that you can't expect an open-ended TV series to have the same point as a short story that runs to just a few pages. I would hope that The Whispers is designed to reach a conclusion at some point, but it's not being advertised as a closed serial of defined length. Rather, it is typical network TV fare, working on the principle of "let's keep it going as long as we can, and possibly consider concluding it at some unspecified point in the future - if we don't get cancelled at short notice". The best we can expect, I think, is that "Zero Hour" be treated honorably as the jumping-off point for the series, after which it becomes its own thing.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Whispers = "Zero Hour"

On Monday 1st June, ABC airs the first episode of The Whispers, a science-fiction TV series based on Ray Bradbury's short story "Zero Hour". The series was announced a long time ago, and has been delayed several times. Let's hope the wait has been worth it.

"Zero Hour" was first published in 1947, in the pulp magazine Planet Stories, a regular home for Bradbury stories in the 1940s. Today you can find it in several Bradbury books: it's in the 1951 collection The Illustrated Man, the 1960s compilation S is for Space, and the 2003 retrospective collection Bradbury Stories: 100 of his most celebrated tales.

Planet Stories, fall 1947 issue.  Click to embiggen.

Bradbury's story is about an alien invasion with a difference. The alien - Drill - finds a way of communicating with Earth children.The children incorporate Drill's ideas into their play, and eventually enable Drill to take over the Earth. Like John Wyndham in The Midwich Cuckoos, Bradbury manages to tap into something inherently frightening about children. Perhaps they are too innocent, so that they just have to be up to something.

But what Bradbury's story is really about is... bad parenting. As with another of his classic short stories, "The Veldt", the parents just don't pay enough attention to the kids. They've got enough adult things to pre-occupy them, and would rather just send the kids off to play, or to sit in front of the TV. Their lack of interest in what their kids are up to, and specifically their lack of interest in the children's play, becomes the parents' downfall.

Bradbury often said that he didn't predict the future, but instead tried to prevent it. "Zero Hour" is a classic Bradburyan warning: pay more attention to your kids, or else...

"Zero Hour" has remarkable staying power. Although the story is dated in places, and clearly reads like something from the 1950s (although it was written in the 1940s), it is sufficiently non-specific about future technologies that it can stand up well today. It has long been popular in other media, too. It was all over American radio in the 1950s: it was adapted for Dimension X in 1950; Lights Out in 1951; Escape in 1953; Suspense three times (1955,1958 and 1960); X Minus One in 1955. And it has been made into a short film, and adapted by Bradbury himself for TV's  Ray Bradbury Theater - see the Youtube video below.

Although Bradbury's short story is still in copyright, somewhere along the line Anthony Ellis' 1950s radio script for "Zero Hour" slipped into the public domain, and has become a popular source for re-enactors of old-time radio. You can find the script here.

At the time of writing, I haven't seen The Whispers. Given that there have been some dreadful adaptations of Bradbury over the years, I am not expecting much from the series. But I have my fingers crossed that Bradbury's concept is strong enough to shine through whatever ABC can do to it!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ray Bradbury - "Minor Poet"

On 10th July 1972, Ray Bradbury​ was the first speaker in a twelve-week series of free lectures entitled Cosmic Evolution: Man's Descent from the Stars at San Francisco's Exploratorium. "I will be participating as a minor poet and sub-minor philosopher," Ray said, "seeking to explain our age and the great three-billion-year age ahead."

By this time, Bradbury had been closely associated with space - partly through his fiction, but more importantly through his non-fiction writings and public speaking.

Other contributors to the lecture series were all scientists, including: Freeman Dyson, who lectured on intelligent life in the universe; Nobel Prize-winning chemist Melvin Calvin, on the origin of life; and Philip Morrison, who concluded the series with "The Context of Mankind: a Summation."

Five years later, Bradbury and Morrison would sit together on a NASA panel with novelist James Michener and explorer Jacques Cousteau, discussing "Why Man Explores". The answer to such a question clearly required not just a scientific answer, but a poetic one.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Start Date for THE WHISPERS, based on Bradbury short story

After much unexplained delay, ABC has finally announced an air date for the new series The Whispers, which is based on the classic Ray Bradbury short story "Zero Hour". broke the news, and published the first preview of the official poster.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is the latest release from Colonial Radio Theatre, the audio drama company whose previous hits include Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Halloween Tree.

As with Colonial's Bradbury productions, 20,000 Leagues stays true to the source material - although if you are only familiar with the 1954 film (or any of the many TV remakes), there may be some surprises for you here. The first surprise might be the cover art, seeming to imply that Captain Nemo is perhaps some kind of Indian nobleman, but even this is true to Jules Verne, although it is in Verne's sequel The Mysterious Island that this aspect of Nemo's past is revealed.

Verne's extraordinary voyage is really a tour of the world under the sea, in itself a rather undramatic premise. It succeeds by the vividness of the wonders he describes, and by the verisimilitude of the fantastic events that befall the cast of characters: the French scientist Arronax, his assistant Conseil, and Canadian whaler Ned Land, all of whom become unwitting captives of the myterious Captain Nemo. The other element which draws the reader (or listener) forward is the mystery of Nemo himself. What motivates his vengeful attacks on ships of all nations? Who are the other occupants of Nemo's wondrous submarine the Nautilus? How can they possibly survive life beneath the oceans?

Colonial's Nemo is J.T.Turner, who plays him as appropriately larger than life. Although we never fully discover all of Nemo's secrets, we do learn of his intense sadness when there is loss of life among his own crew, and we do learn of an emotional trauma related to his wife and children. It is to Colonial's credit that these humanising elements of the story are retained alongside the rollicking adventure of fighting giant squid and escaping from cannibals.

Something else I admire about this production is its period setting. It might have been tempting to either update the story, or eliminate the specifically outdated elements. But I'm pleased to see that this version clearly keeps the story before the completion of the Suez Canal, and even allows Verne's mistaken assumption that the South Pole is on a floating ice cap (as the North Pole is), rather than on the terra firma of the continent of Antarctica.

Ordering details for Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea can be found on Colonial's website:

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The April Witch

Into the air, over the valleys, under the stars, above a river, a pond, a road, flew Cecy. Invisible as new spring winds, fresh as the breath of clover rising from twilight fields, she flew. She soared in doves as soft as white ermine, stopped in trees and lived in blossoms, showering away in petals when the breeze blew. She perched in a lime-green frog, cool as mint by a shining pool. She trotted in a brambly dog and barked to hear echoes from the sides of distant barns. She lived in new April grasses, in sweet clear liquids rising from the musky earth.

It's spring, thought Cecy. I'll be in every living thing in the world tonight...

- Ray Bradbury, "The April Witch", Saturday Evening Post, April 5th 1952.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bradbury on Screen: Twin Evils

Today sees the climax of our film series Ray Bradbury: From Science to the Supernatural in Bloomington, Indiana. To finish, we have two films with screenplays by Ray Bradbury.

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.

Unfortunately, the film didn't do well with preview audiences, and so it was extensively re-worked. New scenes were written and shot, and the whole finale sequence was re-edited. Special visual effects were added to give a more supernatural dimension to some scenes, and the original George Delerue score was replaced with a new one by James Horner.

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.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Two Ways To Burn A Book...

 Tonight, the Ray Bradbury film series Ray Bradbury: From Science to the Supernatural continues in Indiana, with a double bill and a discussion panel.

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.

Which brings me to our second offering of the evening: Francois Truffaut's film version of Fahrenheit 451. This 1966 film is a curious item. Not exactly typical Truffaut - it was Truffaut's first colour film, his first film made for an American studio, his first film made outside of France, and his first and only English-language film.

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:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bradbury on Screen: It Came From Outer Space

Tonight, we continue the film event Ray Bradbury: From Science To The Supernatural in Bloomington, Indiana - with a rare 3D screening of 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:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bradbury films online

If you couldn't get to the opening night of Ray Bradbury: From Science to the Supernatural - or if you were there and want to see the films again - here is a handy collection of links to online versions of some of the films.

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.

Marionettes, Inc.
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

Today sees the opening night of Ray Bradbury: From Science To The Supernatural, the film event I am co-hosting in Bloomington, Indiana. We're starting with some short items, for two reasons: first, I maintain that the short form invariably gives a better representation of Bradbury's storytelling (he was more of a short-story writer than a novelist); and second, it allows us to give a rapid overview of the range of Bradbury's work.

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:

Icarus Montgolfier Wright
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.

And The Moon Be Still As Bright
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.

The Burning Man
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.

Marionettes Inc.
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.

The Life Work of Juan Diaz
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.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ray Bradbury: From Science To The Supernatural

This week sees the start of the film event Ray Bradbury: From Science To The Supernatural, a week of screenings in Indiana of film and television works scripted by Ray, or based on his work.

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
It Came From Outer Space - the influential 1953 science fiction film (presented in 3D), from an original screen story by Bradbury, and directed by the legendary Jack Arnold.

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:

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.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Moby Dick (1956) on Blu-Ray

Somehow it passed me by, but back in July a Blu-Ray version of Moby Dick was released - in Australia.

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.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

You can't fail to have noticed the widespread tributes to Leonard Nimoy, who died recently at the age of 83. Of course, Star Trek, and of course, Spock. But Nimoy also had an incredibly long career that spanned stage, television, film - and was recognised for his acting, teaching, writing, directing and photography.

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 fallout following the demolition of Ray Bradbury's former Los Angeles home has continued, but KCRW's DnA architecture show has presented what may be the last word on the topic for now. Trailed online for over a week, the show was finally broadcast two days ago, and is currently online in full.

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:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Proposed SOMETHING WICKED film updates story to 1980s

Since the announcement last year that Seth Grahame-Smith was attached to a new film adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, there has been a period of silence. This week, Entertainment Weekly has provided an update. And the biggest news is that the film itself will update Bradbury's story - to the 1980s. This, Graham-Smith reports, is the era of his own childhood, "the most authentic time that I know how to represent."

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:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Jon Eller clarifies his position on the Bradbury house demolition

Last week, the news broke that Ray Bradbury's former home was being torn down. Shortly after, reports appeared suggesting that Bradbury's biographer Jon Eller was in favour of the demolition. Frustrated by inaccurate reporting, Eller has now made a direct announcement to clarify his position: he was never consulted by the architect, and the first he knew of the demolition was after the house was torn down. Eller visited Bradbury many times during the last couple of decades of Ray's life, and conducted many hours of research interviews. His announcement indicates the extent of his own personal attachment to "that Old Yellow House".

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:
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:
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.

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

A quick update to yesterday's post: architect Thom Mayne has spoken for the first time on his motivations and plans in buying Ray Bradbury's former house in Los Angeles.

Alex Shephard briefly interviewed Mayne by phone. Read the details here:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Building Bridges

Reports of the demolition of Ray Bradbury's former home have gone viral over the last day or two, with many news outlets and bloggers picking up on the original reports which appeared on File770. The news reports have resulted in hundreds of comments, some of them motivated by sadness, anger or disbelief. The architect Thom Mayne - reportedly the purchaser of the house on Cheviot Drive, Los Angeles - has been the target of some hostile reactions from Bradbury followers, but to my knowledge has not yet been drawn into commenting on reports of his plans and intentions.

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

Soft Rains

It's been the oddest of weeks.

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 . . ."