R.I.P. Ray Bradbury

The world has lost another visionary this week with the passing of Ray Bradbury. The legendary science-fiction author died peacefully on Tuesday at the age of 91.

Many of Bradbury’s writings have been adapted to film or television over the years, typically not very well. To my knowledge, the only of his works currently available on Blu-ray is the episode ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ from the classic series ‘The Twilight Zone’, in which a widower buys a robotic grandmother to care for his three children. The episode can be found in the Season 3 box set, as well as the Complete Series and Fan Favorites packages. In a sad bit of irony, the latter two were released this Tuesday, the same day as the author’s death.

Of course, the most famous (and generally regarded as the best) film based on a Bradbury story would be François Truffaut’s 1966 adaptation of the dystopian classic ‘Fahrenheit 451’. While the movie is not yet available on Blu-ray, VUDU has a 1080p version available for streaming. (I haven’t seen it and can’t vouch for its quality.)

Other notable films drawn from Bradbury’s works (faithfully or not) include the 1953 ‘The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms’ (with stop-motion monster courtesy of Ray Harryhausen), John Huston’s adaptation of Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’ (which was scripted by Bradbury), and ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’. I saw the latter in the theater at the tender age of 9, and recall being traumatized by the spider scene. I haven’t watched it again since.

In 1980, Bradbury’s short story collection ‘The Martian Chronicles’ was made into a three-part TV miniseries starring Rock Hudson. Bradbury himself described the production as “just boring.”

One of the more recent attempts to adapt a Bradbury story resulted in Peter Hyams’ extremely crappy 2005 movie version of the time-travel tale ‘A Sound of Thunder’, which bears little resemblance to its source. Unfortunately, that’s the case with most of the Bradbury stories that have made their way to screen in some form. Thankfully, the prolific author’s true legacy in print will outlive the hash that Hollywood has so frequently made of his words.

[Source: CNN]

5 comments

  1. EM

    Much of Bradbury’s appeal is in the wordsmithy of his prose—so, quite a lot is inevitably lost in screen translation. Fahrenheit 451 seems to me to be one of his more filmable stories; ironically, Truffaut’s version left me cold. Sometimes I hope for a new version that I would like—but given the subject matter, maybe it’s better to actually read the book anyway. I don’t go so far as to memorize it, though.

  2. An incredible author and a huge part of a golden era of science fiction. Fahrenheit 451 is a well known stand out, but some of his short stories, such as those included in the Illustrated Man, and the Golden Apples of the Sun are a font of the genre, much like the Sound of Thunder.
    The film adaptation of the Illustrated Man, starring Rod Steiger, is available on DVD, but just pales as an adaption.
    The first episode of the three part Martian Chronicles really drew me in, but by the time the story comes back to these elements, two parts later, the story had dragged on for too long .
    The Simpsons short, Time and Punishment, from the Treehouse of Horror V on the Simpsons Season 6 dvd set, was wonderfully set up along the concepts of the Sound of Thunder.

    I will say that when Bradbury left science fiction for a ten year period, his writing became much more wistful, each story trying to recapture some special feeling or moment from a younger life. Meanwhile, he became a living legend of sci-fi, a reputation that he seemed to chaff against. “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” as a book, comes off as an attempt to allow for supernatural elements in this hyper wistful style.

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