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Something Wicked This Way Comes is a 1983 film based on the Ray Bradbury novel of the same name, starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce. Directed by Jack Clayton from a screenplay written by Bradbury himself, the movie suffered from offscreen conflicts of vision.


In a small town, two young boys named Will and Jim encounter a sinister carnival whose proprietor, Mr. Dark, lures the townsfolk to their doom by promising to fulfill their childhood desires. As Will, Jim, and Will's father, Charles Halloway, are about to find out, these wishes come at a horrific price. Will they survive?


Production History

In 1977, Bradbury sold the film rights to Something Wicked This Way Comes to Paramount. 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. 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 of Cinefantastique, 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. 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 behest.

Initial test screenings did not fare well with audiences, and Disney re-commissioned Bradbury to write an opening narration sequence and new ending. Disney also spent an additional US$5 million on refilming, re-editing, and rescoring the picture. Bradbury referred to the film's final cut as "not a great film, no, but a decently nice one."

Awards & Reception

The film was well received by critics earning a 69% "Fresh" rating at the film aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Roger Ebert gave the film a three and a half star review, calling it "a horror movie with elegence". Despite the positive press, the film only made $8.4 million at the domestic box office.

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

References in popular culture

In the original version of Epcotmarker's Journey Into Imagination ride, the words Something Wicked are printed on the spine of one of the colossal books in the Literature scene. This is both a reference to the Disney movie and an ode to Bradbury, who helped design the theme park.

The film was spoofed in an episode of the animated series Tiny Toons Adventures entitled "Something Stupid This Way Comes". Plucky Duck plays the fool and Buster and Babs Bunny have to rescue him from the evil ringmaster.

In the Venture Bros. episode "Powerless in the Face of Death," The manner in which Dr. Orpheus asks the heads about the Venture boys is similar to the questioning technique of Mr. Dark in Something Wicked This Way Comes. The image of each boy is drawn on his hands and he describes Dean as having "rusted-colored" hair (Nightshade's hair in the movie was hair "dark as night") and Hank as "towheaded" (same as Halloway).

In the Warner Brothers cartoon Freakazoid, the title character is locked in a cell with a character named Fanboy, who proceeds to discuss the film Tron, saying that it is wrongfully blamed for Disney's bankruptcy. He maintains that the real films that 'broke the bank' were The Black Hole and "Something Wicked This Way Comes."


  1. Journey Into Imagination Fact Sheet

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