US tv miniseries (1980). NBC TV. Directed by Michael Anderson, starring Rock Hudson, Gayle Hunnicutt, Darren McGavin, Roddy McDowall, Joyce van Patten, Fritz Weaver, Nyree Dawn Porter, Bernadette Peters. Teleplay Richard Matheson, based on The Martian Chronicles (coll of linked stories 1950; rev vt The Silver Locusts 1951) by Ray Bradbury. Three 110-minute episodes. Colour.
The problems with this disappointing, expensive ($8 million) adaptation cannot be blamed entirely on Anderson's sluggish direction (see also Logan's Run) or Matheson's script (which establishes somewhat artificial continuities between the 11 stories he adapts), or even the inflexible performance of Rock Hudson as Colonel Wilder, the main linking character. Bradbury's own words, which for many readers work poetically on the page, tend to sound stilted when spoken, and clash with the realism that television seems to demand. The answer might have been to make the words more austere and find a visual poetry to substitute, but in this the production mostly fails, though some aspects (the Martians and their strange masks) are authentically otherworldly. The insistent moralizing (not untrue to the book) comes over as hackneyed and sentimental. Another director might have done better than Anderson, but the book is intractably literary and probably inappropriate for film or television. Bradbury was reported to be unhappy with the production. [PN]
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