Omnibus: " Ray Bradbury - The Illustrated Man" (1980)
Dandelion Wine (1)
The opening of the story, Douglas Spaulding at a window ordering the sun to rise and the people to get up and about.
Time-lapse photography is used to show the sunrise.
The sequence ends with a cut to Bradbury waking up in bed and putting on his glasses.
The film begins with a sequence form Dandelion Wine, then cuts to Bradbury getting out of bed. He tells us about Mr Electrico, and how he decided to live forever.
Next, Bradbury tells us about how he has clear memories of his birth and life as a baby, and how this inspired "The Small Assassin". He takes us on a tour of his "nest", his basement where many objects from his past are stored.
We see a car outside a garage. The garage door opens... to reveal Bradbury clambering onto a bicycle, which he proceeds to ride into downtown Los Angeles. He wheels his bike out of the elevator and into his office.
His office is just as cluttered as his basement. This is, in fact, a familiar environment to any viewer of The Ray Bradbury Theater. Bradbury tells us that he no cleaner will work for him, and that following an L.A. earthquake he was unable to get into the office because all his stuff had piled up, blocking the door.
Along the way, Bradbury tells us about how he puts his characters into suitable shoes and sets them walking. He, as a writer, follows them wherever they lead. He reads an extract from "The Handler", takes part in a dramatisation of "Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar".
He reads from his anti-McCarthy open letter to the Republican party, relating this to the origins of Fahrenheit 451. He explains how, long after it was published, he found his father characterised in Something Wicked This Way Comes. He discusses his attitude to technology, claiming to have written as many pro-technology stories as anti-technology ones.
At Disneyland, Bradbury tells us that we can learn much about solving the problems of small towns by studying Disneyland.
In one section, he steps onto a stage - it appears to be following a stage performance of one his works. He talks to the audience about the origin of "The Pedestrian".
He talks of how Dandelion Wine was the result of an accumulation of memories. Douglas Spaulding is most definitely Ray Bradbury, magician... cue Douglas at his window, instructing the world into autumn slumbers.
Ray at Home
"My first decision at the age of eleven was to become a magician. My second decision, at the age of twelve, was to become a short story writer - as a result of meeting another magician, Mr Electrico."
The Small Assassin
Baby crawls upstairs, walks into bedroom. Mother asleep.
Baby picks up clown doll, lays it carefully across the second stair down.
Baby cries from downstairs. Mother responds; trips over doll.
Clown doll looks on. Mother dead. Baby walks off..
"Well this is my nest... what is a nest to a writer? It's bits and pieces of things that changed his life forever... These things are in the cellar, because that's where you keep the naughty boy."
Omnibus is a weekly arts documentary strand on BBC Television in the UK. On 15 January 1980, it broadcast a fifty-minute film depicting Bradbury and his stories. The main features were interviews with Bradbury at his home and office, Bradbury talking direct to camera, film of him at work, including a lecture/speech - and short readings and dramatisations of some of his best known stories.
The dramatisations, most of them lasting less than a minute, are among the best ever seen, perhaps because they concentrate on the essence of the story and on visual storytelling.
Better yet is the way the dramatisations are woven into the documentary, so that for example "The Small Assassin" is dramatised to illustrate Bradbury's claim to remember the moment of his birth. Bradbury eagerly participates in these dramatisations, which gives them extra magic.
In a way, this is the definitive Bradbury. All his standard biographical material is given to us by Ray himself (there is no narrator, other than Ray himself and the odd actor reading from his books) - the Mr Electrico business, watching Lon Chaney when he was three. To the true Bradbury fan, there is probably not much here that is new information, but the way it is presented is excellent.
Dandelion Wine (2)
Click here to listen to Ray on Douglas Spaulding
Click here to read more about this film