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Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983 movie poster)

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a 1983 American horror fantasy film directed by Jack Clayton and produced by Walt Disney Productions from a screenplay written by Ray Bradbury based on his novel of the same name. The novel's title was taken directly from a line in Act IV of William Shakespeare's Macbeth: "By the pricking of my thumbs / Something wicked this way comes." The film stars Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd, and Pam Grier. It was shot in Vermont and at the Walt Disney Studios inBurbank, California. It was the final Disney film to be released under the "Walt Disney Productions" label.

Synopsis Edit

In Greentown, Illinois, a small town enjoying the innocence of an upcoming autumn as the days grow shorter, two young boys—reserved Will Halloway and somewhat rebellious Jim Nightshade—leave from an after-school detention for "whispering in class" and hurry off for home. When the boys hear about a strange traveling carnival, Mr. Dark's Pandemonium Carnival, from a lightning-rod salesman, they decide to see what it is all about, but Will is fearful, as most carnivals end their tours after Labor Day. When the ominous Mr. Dark, the Illustrated Man, rides into town on a dark midnight, setting up his massive carnival in a matter of seconds, the boys are both thrilled and terrified. It seems to be just another carnival at first, but it is not long before the forces of darkness begin to manifest from the haunting melodies of the carousel—which can change your age depending on which way you ride it—and from the glaring Mirror Maze. With his collection of freaks and oddities, Dark intends to take control of the town and seize more innocent souls to damn. It will take all the wit and hope of the two boys to save their families and friends, with aid from an unlikely ally, Will's father, the town librarian, who understands more than anyone else that "something wicked this way comes."

Cast Edit

  • Jason Robards as Charles Halloway
  • Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark
  • Vidal Peterson as Will Halloway
  • Shawn Carson as Jim Nightshade
  • Ellen Geer as Mrs. Halloway
  • Diane Ladd as Mrs. Nightshade
  • Royal Dano as Tom Fury
  • Pam Grier as the Dust Witch
  • Mary Grace Canfield as Miss Foley
  • Bruce M. Fischer as Mr. Cooger
  • Arthur Hill as The Narrator

Production Edit

In 1977, Bradbury sold the film rights to Something Wicked This Way Comes to Paramount Pictures. He and director Jack Clayton, whom Bradbury had previously worked with on Moby Dick, produced a completed script. However, production never began and the film was eventually put into turnaround.

At this time Walt Disney Pictures was concentrating on films with more mature themes in an attempt to break free from their stereotype as an animation and family film studio on April 1, 1983. After the success of family-oriented fantasy pictures by competing studios, such as Time Bandits and The Dark Crystal, Disney decided to purchase the adaptation's rights and hired Bradbury to produce a new script from scratch.

The studio sought Bradbury's input on selecting a cast and director, and he suggested Clayton feeling they had worked well together at Paramount. In a 1981 issue ofCinefantastique, Bradbury stated that his top choices to play Mr. Dark were Peter O'Toole and Christopher Lee. However, Disney decided to go with a relatively unknown actor instead in order to keep the budget down, and Jonathan Pryce was eventually cast. As the film progressed, two differing visions emerged for the film, with Bradbury wishing to stay as faithful to the novel as possible, and Clayton wanting to make a more accessible and family friendly film. The two became estranged when Clayton hired writer John Mortimer to do an uncredited revision of Bradbury's screenplay at the studio's insistence.

At a Q&A session following a 2012 screening of the film, actor Shawn Carson explained that he had originally read some 10 times for the part of Will, but after a request from Bradbury, he read for and was cast in the part of Jim Nightshade instead. Although he had blonde hair at the time, and co-star Vidal Petersen had dark hair, Carson's hair was dyed jet black and Petersen's was dyed blonde to fit the new casting.

For the original score, Clayton picked Georges Delerue who had scored his films The Pumpkin Eater and Our Mother's House, but his score (considered "too dark" by Disney) was later removed and replaced. A soundtrack album of Delerue's unused score was released by Intrada Records in 2015.

Barry Gordon (who had started as assistant to editor Argyle Nelson Jr.) recalled in 2012 that after Clayton submitted his original cut, Disney expressed concerns about the film's length, pacing and commercial appeal, so the studio took it out of Clayton's hands and undertook the expensive six-month reshoot and re-edit that followed. As a result of the studio politics, Clayton was sidelined, and Nelson was let go for budgetary reasons. Gordon said that although he was originally prepared to follow Nelson and leave the production, Nelson encouraged him to stay, and Gordon edited the final cut (resulting in the film's dual editor credits).

The original themes of Bradbury's novel, the suggestion of menace, the autumn atmosphere of an American Midwest township and the human relationships between characters that attracted Clayton escaped preview audiences completely with Clayton heavily criticized. New special effects sequences were shot and a new score by composer James Horner replaced Delerue's original music. Initial test screenings did not fare well with audiences, and Disney re-commissioned Bradbury to write an opening narration sequence and new ending. Disney spent an additional US$5 million on refilming, re-editing, and rescoring the picture; they also jettisoned Clayton's original opening scene, an expensive and groundbreaking computer-generated sequence (the first of its kind in a Hollywood feature) which depicted the Carnival train arriving in the town and magically unfolding itself into place. In the final cut, only one brief CGI shot (when the boys first approach the carnival after following the train) was retained.

Bradbury referred to the film's final cut as "not a great film, no, but a decently nice one."

Reception Edit

Box office Edit

The film was a box-office bomb. It only made $8.4 million at the domestic box office against its $19 million budget, grossing less than half of its costs.

Critical response Edit

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave the film three-and-a-half stars and said

Janet Maslin said the film "begins on such an overworked Norman Rockwell note that there seems little chance that anything exciting or unexpected will happen. So it's a happy surprise when the film... turns into a lively, entertaining tale combining boyishness and grown-up horror in equal measure;" according to Maslin, "The gee-whiz quality to this adventure is far more excessive in Mr. Bradbury's novel than it is here, as directed by Jack Clayton. Mr. Clayton, who directed a widely admired version of The Turn of the Screwsome years ago, gives the film a tension that transcends even its purplest prose."

The film currently holds a 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 25 reviews.

Accolades Edit

It won the 1984 Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film and Saturn Award for Best Writing; it was nominated for five others including best music for James Horner and best supporting actor for Jonathan Pryce. The film was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and Grand Jury Prize at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival.

Remake Edit

According to Deadline, Disney is making a remake of Something Wicked This Way Comes with Seth Grahame-Smith writing the script, making his directorial debut, and producing with David Katzenberg from their producing banner KatzSmith Productions, also, Grahame-Smith wants to focus mostly on Ray Bradbury's source material from the book.

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