Thursday, July 26, 2007

Vision of... the future?

Another of Ray Bradbury's famous friends is comedian Stan Freberg, best known for his parodies. At some point in the dim and distant past, Bradbury and Freberg worked together on a TV commercial...for prunes. This commercial has recently popped up on Google Video (among other places). It's amusing for its apologetic Bradbury performance, but also for its rather well conceived representation of a typical science-fictional future family; almost indistinguishable from those seen in supposedly serious adaptations of Bradbury's stories.

Here's the video:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Conference Presentation

I nearly forgot to blog this one...

On Saturday I presented another conference paper on Ray Bradbury. This one, at the second Edge Hill Short Story Conference, was about three Bradbury short stories which have been adapted many times for radio, film and television: "Mars is Heaven", "Zero Hour" and "The Veldt".

The aim of the paper was to gather some thoughts on why some stories retain their popularity through repeated re-tellings. There are two areas that intrigued me when I was doing the research for the paper, and I hope to follow up on these at a later date.

The first is that some of the stories work reasonably well even when stripped of their original background or "landscape". This thought occurred to me when listening to various cold-war era radio adaptations of "Zero Hour", which still work (just) without the science fictional background elements that feature prominently in Bradbury's short story.

The second is that Bradbury's poetic prose style - throwing out metaphor after metaphor in the white heat of progressing the narrative - invites an "inner life" for the story in the mind of the reader. This, I believe, is part of Bradbury's appeal to his readers. And since each reader will conjure up subtly different mental images as they read, so (possibly) the stories invite multiple, variant adaptations.

I am currently working on some more Bradbury papers (don't ask me how I find the time) for the proposed New Ray Bradbury Review. I understand that this is likely to see print early next year.

Old Friends...and more

Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen, friends since their teens, yesterday signed books together at the Mystery & Imagination bookstore in Los Angeles.

Both Rays were born in 1920, and both were members of the same LA science-fiction group in the 1930s...where they mingled with the likes of Robert A. Heinlein, Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton and many others.

In 1953, Ray H. made a film based on a Ray B. story - The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. In 1990, Ray B. made a fictionalised version of Ray H. into a character in his novel A Graveyard for Lunatics.

Nowadays, Ray Harryhausen makes his home in England, but the two Rays still meet up from time to time. The photo above (click to enlarge) was sent to me by John King Tarpinian, a regular insider at Mr B's book signings. Many thanks, John.

The Planetary Society recently sponsored a performance of Green Town by Ray Bradbury's theatre company. You can read about this - and listen about it - on this page on the Society's website.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

When Alfred met Ray...

Well, I've never been too sure whether Alfred Hitchcock ever met Ray Bradbury, but Mr B certainly worked for Mr Hitch on many occasions: he contributed several scripts to Hitch's TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

By all accounts, Hitch was quite hands-off when it came to his TV show. He diligently and good-humouredly did his bits to camera (scripted by someone else), and made a point of directing a few episodes of the shows each year. For the most part, however, the actual producing work was done by his trusted collaborators Joan Harrison and Norman Lloyd.

Bradbury began writing for the screen in the 1950s, and selling work to the Hitchcock series helped him develop as a screenwriter, and no doubt prepared him in some way for his own monumental weekly anthology series, Ray Bradbury Theatre.

You can read a little more about the Bradbury-Hitchcock collaborations on my Hitchcock series pages.

And if you make your way over to GUBA, you will find that two of the Bradbury episodes are available online:

  • The Jar - adapted by James Bridges from the Bradbury story - is one of the best-remembered of all Hitchcock TV shows
  • The Life Work of Juan Diaz - adapted by Ray Bradbury from his own short story - is the episode Bradbury is most pleased with. This is his last Hitchcock script, and shows that he can handle teleplays just as well as short stories.
Be warned, though: GUBA links tend not to last very long (particularly if the video clip has been uploaded without approval of the copyright holder). Get them while you can!