Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Article 5413 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-3-2017
Directed by Jack Clayton
Featuring Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd
Country: USA
What it is: Horrific fantasy

An autumn circus comes to a small town and offers its residents a chance to fulfill their deepest wishes… but at a price.

The original Ray Bradbury novel proved to be a pivotal read for me in my early years; it is the novel that drew me into the world of literary science fiction and fantasy and especially the work of Ray Bradbury, so you might imagine I have strong feelings about the work. So it’s also no surprise when a movie version came out, I was definitely drawn into the theater to see it. I loved it then, and to some extent I still love it today, though I now see its flaws. The screenplay is an adaptation by Bradbury himself, and as is often the case with his work, what looks good on the printed page sometimes comes out clumsy when said out loud as dialogue. Furthermore, the movie has a little trouble balancing out the fantasy aspects with the horror aspects; this is particularly noticeable at the climax of the movie. The biggest problem I had back then involved a major difference between the movie and the book; the latter had a sequence involving the witch hunting the children in a hot-air balloon (if my memory is correct), and though I suspected this scene would have been nearly impossible to pull off in the movie, its solution to substitute a spider attack scene was very unsatisfying. However, what I loved about the movie is that it actually managed to capture some of Bradbury’s poetry and flavor visually (such as the sequence where Mr. Dark tosses the announcements of the arrival of the circus out in the street so that the wind will distribute them), and I thought Jonathan Pryce’s performance was wonderful. At any rate, my favorite moment in the movie back then remains my favorite moment now; it’s the scene in the library where Mr. Dark tempts Will’s father with youth by tearing out pages of a book to indicate the passage of time, each page glowing as it flutters off, and it is pure cinematic magic.


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