RAY BRADBURY: AN APPRECIATION
By L.L. Soares
Yesterday’s death of Ray Bradbury was a loss to the world of literature, but it was also a loss to the worlds of movies and television. There were lots of adaptations of his works for screens both big and small, and here are just a few of the highlights:
LIGHTS OUT episode “Zero Hour” (1951) The first of Ray’s stories to be adapted for television.
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) – based on Ray’s story “The Foghorn,” features a giant reptilian creature that emerges from the sea. Created (and given animated life) through the work of stop-motion effects master, Ray Harryhausen. This same year, the movie IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE was also released, based on another of Ray’s story.
MOBY DICK (1956) Director John Huston hired Ray to co-write the script for his adaptation of the Herman Melville classic. Filmed in Ireland, Ray had a lot of stories about his clash of personalities with the larger-than-life director. The film starred Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab and Richard Basehart (later in the TV series VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA) as Ishmael.
THE KING OF KINGS (1961) – Ray provided the (uncredited) narration for this epic about the life of Christ, directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Jeffrey Hunter.
TWILIGHT ZONE episode “I Sing The Body Electric” (1962) – another classic Bradbury story adapted for a classic TV series.
ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1956 – 1962) Ray wrote several teleplays for this series, including the episodes “Design for Living” and “The Faith of Aaron Menefee”. There was also a later hour-long version of the show called THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR (1964), which adapted “The Jar,” one of my favorites of Ray’s stories.
FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966) – Arguably the most famous film (and one of the best) to be based on one of Ray’s books, this one is a classic directed by Francois Truffaut, and starring Oksar Werner and Julie Christie, in a tale of a future where a fireman’s job also includes the burning of books.
THE ILLUSTRATED MAN (1969) –Movie based on three stories (and the wraparound story) from Ray’s short story collection of the same name. The adaptations include Ray’s stories “The Veldt, “The Long Rain” and “The Last Night of the World.” Starring Rod Steiger as the heavily tattooed title character. Directed by Jack Smight.
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983) – Well-regarded movie version of Ray’s novel, directed by Jack Clayton and starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce. Ray wrote the screenplay for this one, and it was produced by Walt Disney Studios. There was also a 1972 film based on the same book.
THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES (1980) – a television miniseries based on one of Ray’s most famous and acclaimed books. Directed by Michael Anderson and written by Ray and the great Richard Matheson. It was aired in three installments. The cast included Darren McGavin, Rock Hudson, Roddy McDowell and TV’s SPIDER-MAN, Nicholas Hammond.
THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER (1985 – 1992) – Considering how many stories Ray wrote over the years, it’s not surprising that there was a television show devoted completely to his work. Ray wrote most of the screenplays for this Canadian-produced series and even appeared in a few episodes. Many episodes were filmed in Auckland, New Zealand.
THE WONDERFUL ICE CREAM SUIT (1998) – Director Stuart Gordon adapted Ray’s story about a magical white suit. Starring Joe Mantegna. Ray wrote the original story and the teleplay.
A SOUND OF THUNDER (2005) One of the last films to be based on Ray’s work during his lifetime, this one was directed by Peter Hyams and involved a time-traveling hunter who goes back to prehistoric times to hunt the ultimate prey, and who disturbs the time continuum in the process.
RAY BRADBURY’S KALEIDOSCOPE (2012) – recently completed short film based on Ray’s short story.