THE ILLUSTRATED MAN
The short story is a form where Ray Bradbury tends to work best rather than at novel length. The Illustrated Man adapts several of the short stories from Ray Bradburys 1951 short story collection of the same title. However, the film is a disappointment. While its ambitions are in the right place, the film attaches itself to Bradbury with a singularly pedestrian regard.
With The Veldt the filmmakers do the near impossible they take a foolproof story and screw it up. The premise of the story is deadeningly simple parents get virtual playroom for the kids, kids become obsessed with the African scenario and in a twist ending the parents fatally find out that the lions are real. The twist is something that should come with either a piquant drollness or else as a sinister surprise but the episode here gives the twist away from the start. The adaptation is clod-fisted and the piece moves toward the ending devoid of suspense or build-up. The episode is padded out with dull lectures where characters stand about and tell each other what future life is like and considering that this is a standard issue antiseptic white vacuform plastic future, this proves dreary. The episode does feature what must be the very first screen appearance of the concept of Virtual Reality, even before such a term was ever coined.
The Long Rains is the best episode mainly by default. Venus looks unworldly, all twisted roots and rocks and photographed in monochrome grey. The monotonous downpour of rain on the soundtrack wears on ones nerves in this regard, the episode does an effective job of portraying the fraying effect the rain has on the astronauts sanity. The story is only flawed by having to work Claire Bloom in at the end (all the characters in each story are played by the same actors) What is she doing there in the survival shelter? Is she from another expedition? A prostitute? If the latter, as seems to be the case, it seems difficult to conceive why someone would stay on such an inhospitable world beset by so few expeditions purely for the astronauts pleasure.
The Last Night of the World is so slight it seems forgotten by the time the film is over. The pastorality of it is incredibly bland people live in a tent, herd animals graze outside and everyone wears flowing silks and Grecian-styled costumery. Amid this, the sight of Rod Steiger prancing about in boxer shorts looks faintly ridiculous. You also wonder why doesnt Robert Drivas appear if The Long Rains was altered out of shape to include Claire Bloom then why couldnt he have been wound in here as a neighbour come to discuss the situation or some such? That said, the storys fault is more Ray Bradburys than the films it was a very slight idea on the page and probably an ill choice for an adaptation.
The most interesting part of the film is actually the linking story. The dialogue is good and Rod Steiger gives a gruff, brooding performance in the title role. In fact, the film gives the linking idea much more substance than Ray Bradbury did on the page. The idea of the illustrated man was a slim concept in the book the framing device takes up less than two pages and it has been considerably embellished here. The illustrations, which required something like an eight-hour makeup job for Rod Steiger, are beautifully stylized. In the end though, The Illustrated Man is a failure in adapting the stories the poetic essence of Ray Bradbury is missing and all the filmmakers have added is a lumbering heavy-handedness.
Other Ray Bradbury screen adaptations are: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) from his short story The Foghorn; the alien invader classic It Came from Outer Space (1953) from his original screenplay; Francois Truffauts adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 (1966); the dreary tv mini-series The Martian Chronicles (1980) from his classic book; the tv movie The Electric Grandmother (1980); the screenplay for the fine Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) from his own novel; his screenplay for the animated adaptation of the classic comic-strip Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989); the tv anthology series The Ray Bradbury Theater (1986-92) where he adapted his own stories and hosted the series; the screenplay for the animated childrens film The Halloween Tree (1993); Stuart Gordons adaptation of The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998) about a seemingly magical suit; A Sound of Thunder (2005) based on Bradburys classic time travel story; and Chrysalis (2008) based on a Bradbury short story.
The Veldt later became the framing device around which another Ray Bradbury anthology, the Russian-made The Veldt (1987), was set. The Veldt and The Long Rains later received superior adaptations as episodes of The Ray Bradbury Theater. A potential remake of The Illustrated Man has been announced by Zack Snyder.
Jack Smight also directed the serial killer black comedy No Way to Treat a Lady (1968), the worthwhile Frankenstein adaptation Frankenstein: The True Story (1974) and the post-holocaust film Damnation Alley (1977). Jack Smight is probably otherwise best known for the Paul Newman thriller Harper (1966) and big-budget films of the 1970s such as Airport 1975 (1974) and Midway (1977).
Clip from the film here:-