Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Illustrated Man (1969)

Rod Steiger chews his own tattooed scenery as "Carl," a wandering sideshow freak cursed with body art capable of weird telepathic tricks, soothsaying, show tunes, the works. The three tales originally penned by Ray Bradbury depicted are: "The Veldt" (two children imagine a world where lions eat their parents); "The Long Rain" (astronauts seek shelter on a rain-soaked Venus); and "The Last Night of the World" (The End is Nigh, but everybody sticks to their workaday routines). The source anthology contains thirteen more stories, nearly all of which would have been better suited to cinematic drama, starting with the flight of fancy provided by "The Rocket," all the way to the spacewreck nightmare of "Kaleidoscope." Uninspired production is reminiscent of an unsold television pilot. Absolutely no help: Steiger carves ham with a bizarre hick accent and grumpy, alienating demeanor. Better to have let the tattoos do the talking. The original promotional tagline was "Don't stare at the illustrated man." Good advice.

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