From the mind of science-fiction giant Ray Bradbury springs what is perhaps his most epic vision. Capturing mankind's first venture into the colonization of another planetand its tragic first contact with another species"T... more »he Martian Chronicles" is a stunning achievement that will take you from the edge of your seat'to the stars. Earth is on the verge of extinction. To survive, mankind must find another place to live. But when three expeditions to Mars, headed by Col. John Wilder (OscarĀ(r) nominee* Rock Hudson), find suitable conditions for relocation, humans pour in bythe shipload, bringing the old evils of Earth with them! As Wilder begins to heed the lessons of the dying Martian civilization, can he save humanity from repeating its doom? *1956: Actor, Giant« less
I remember the eerie foreign images this burned into my young brain when it originally aired. Based on a bunch of short stories Bradbury wrote, all centered around the same subject matter, which is first contact scenarios: the fertile ground of many an author. Still remember the hollow, lost feeling towards the end, when all the colonies are turning into Martian ghost towns.
This is now available on Blu-ray, which I have yet to see. For some reason, the blu title is not on SADvd's database yet. Have lost count of the number of times I've seen this.
Michael Brown | 09/22/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
I've a soft spot for this one, having watched it the first time around in 1980 (which is when it reached the UK). No doubt that it's the power of Ray Bradbury's original stories that carries it.
In a sense, you've got to switch off your brain to enjoy this. Or perhaps I should say you should switch of your Left Brain: the logical, analytical part. For example, we all know now that people can't breathe on the surface of Mars without space suits. Let it go! If you can't do that then don't bother with this DVD. Switch on your Right Brain (imagination) and you've a chance of enjoying this... just a chance though!
First, let's get the bad stuff out of the way. The special effects are bad. I know that they didn't have CGI etc then, but this was 2 years after Star Wars, or in a TV sense, a year after Battlestar Galactica. I'd have expected a major US network to have at least bettered Dr Who or Blake's 7 standards; but they didn't.
The pace is very slow. Sometimes that lets the stories unfold at a natural pace, but a lot of the time, you're tapping your fingers, thinking "get on with it!". In this regard, Bradbury was scathing in his comments at the time: "it's boring, they've made it boring", he said. And he had no doubt where the blame lay, saying that Michael Anderson had directed it "underwater". He wasn't wrong.
And often, the acting doesn't help. Rock Hudson has never been the most exciting actor in the world, and he's particularly dull here. Sure, he does integrity and trustworthiness just fine, but there were times that I felt his character needed a little more fire in his belly and Hudson doesn't provide it. The rest of the cast is variable, to put it mildy. At one end, Bernie Casey is just fine as Spender, and Nicholas Hammond, best remembered as a rather plastic 70s Spiderman, is equally good as the leader of the second expedition. At the other end, Roddy McDowell is just plain irritating as Father Stone.
Now the good stuff!
The sets are great, and the Martians themselves are wonderfully "other wordly", helped by the fact that they are used sparingly.
Plotwise, there's some good changes been made. I know that people here have referred to Bradbury's work as a "novel" but it's not: it's actually a collection of loosely connected short stories. Screen writer Richard Matheson sensibly drops some of the more unworkable original stories, such as "Way Up In The Middle Of The Air" (negroes in the American South climb into a spaceship to escape their white oppressors) and also the original second expedition story, where the earthlings' "first contact" is with a Martian lunatic asylum!.
His masterstroke is to unify the work by beefing up the role of Colonel John Wilder (Hudson) so that he appears in nearly all the stories. (In Bradbury's book, Wilder appeared in only two of them). In one story, this change actually manages to improve on the original. I refer to the story (spoiler ahead!) of the Martian who changes shape, according to the wants and desires of the human person that's nearest to him. In the mini series, the Martian ends by changing back to his actual form, because he bumps into Wilder (not in this story in Bradbury's book). Wilder is the only person on Mars that actually wants to meet a real, live Martian.
A sentimental 4 stars."
Not Scientifically Correct ... But Tir Is Still Captivating
J. C. Urbaniak | Oswego, IL USA | 09/17/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the 1980 mini-series based on the Ray Bradbury novel on 2 DVDs and is nearly 300 minutes long.
If you can get past the weak special effects, scientific errors, and obviously incorrect timeline, it is an interesting and captivating story despite all that.
Mars is apparently a lot more hospitable than we were led to believe as astronauts walk about the planet in unprotected leisure suits. Large fluffy clouds, occasional rain storms, and canals (yes...they are back), also defy current science of what Mars is like.
In this story the first manned flight to Mars also takes place in 1999!!! In 2004 we are not even close to this milestone. But it's not a documentary and in 1980 after the Apollo successes, perhaps the Mars flight seemed almost imminent.
Sci-fi films should perhaps avoid hard dates as they really age the production once the time is past.
But Rock Hudson, Darren McGavin, Bernie Casey, Roddy McDowell, Fritz Weaver and others give good performances as humans trying to understand, adapt, and live in a new alien environment.
And most importantly, they try to coexist with the native inhabitants who, of course, rightly regard them as alien invaders.
The video transfer is acceptable and the electronic music score is interesting. No extras at all unless you count scene selection and subtitles.
The ending seems to fizzle somewhat but may appeal to some.
Certainly worth having for science-fiction fans and especially so if you like Ray Bradbury and/or Mars (or Tir as the Martians refer to it)."
Eerie and thought-provoking, if uneven
Gordon Cameron | Los Angeles | 07/22/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw the "Martian Chronicles" miniseries as a child -- before reading Bradbury's book -- and it's made an indelible impression on me. Many of the special effects don't hold up, and the pacing of some of the scenes is glacial. I can understand Bradbury's criticism that the miniseries was boring. But the score is wonderful, and the production design is unforgettable -- the geometric structures of the Martian cities, the frightening masks that the Martians wear, etc. Despite the lapses in effects and budget, and the obviousness of the location shooting (no red sky, etc.), the miniseries achieves a distinctive look and feel. There is nothing else like it in sci-fi television.
Some of the sequences simply don't work. I always fast-forward through the endless scenes of the two priests wandering in the desert looking for glowing spheres; and the "Genevieve Selsor" sequence with Bernadette Peters is uninteresting as well. But the adaptation of "And the Moon Be Still As Bright," with Bernie Casey indelible as Spender, still works. In a later segment, Wilder's nighttime meeting with a ghostly Martian from the past (or future?) retains an elegiac tone, and provides a pretty good manifesto on how life ought to be lived. Elsewhere, there's a sand-ship chase sequence that looks cheesy, but those spooky zoom shots of the masked Martians as they pursue Sam Parkhill still unnerve me. Parkhill's discovery of nuclear war on Earth -- viewed through a telescope -- is a memorable moment, powerfully scored. And the "second expedition" sequence, with the astronauts somehow finding themselves in Green Bluff, Illinois, rather than on Mars, reaches a climax that is still downright frightening.
It's hard to say how much of the miniseries I am viewing through the lens of nostalgia -- I am, perhaps, being more forgiving than it deserves. But to those seeking offbeat sci-fi offerings, this is worth a look."
** Not for Star Wars Fans! **
Christine M. Tynes | Virginia Beach, VA | 01/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am a classic Ray Bradbury Sci-Fi enthusiast. The way that man can explain the way a cool Martian breeze smells just does something to me! Bradbury transports me there ... and this mini-series, while very dated, is classic Bradbury. If you like the old Sci-Fi stuff and are a Ray Bradbury fan, then enjoy. You will love it. If you want to see light sabers or warp drive, then don't even go there."
Bradbury didn't like it - but I do.
Mark Weller | 11/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When I was at the San Diego Comic Con during the summer of 2006, I attended a panel where Ray Bradbury was speaking. He touched on a lot of topics, and I recall him murmuring some disapproval at the 1970's Martian Chronicles series starring Rock Hudson. Notwithstanding the author's views - I actually really liked this mini-series. Maybe it was the direction, the subject matter or the location for the filming, but this show managed to hit a very odd note of alienation and desolation that built upon the events depicted in Bradbury's celebrated novel. There are moments in this admittedly "TV movie of the Week" quality production that are very eerie, evocative and memorable. On the whole, when I saw this years ago it left me feeling frustrated and a little depressed for the sad state that human, and Martian, affairs had come to. In other words, I loved it."