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Something Wicked This Way Comes (film)

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Title: Something Wicked This Way Comes (film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Jack Clayton, Ray Bradbury, Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, Don't Look Under the Bed, Jonathan Pryce
Collection: 1980S Fantasy Films, 1980S Horror Films, 1980S Thriller Films, 1983 Films, 1983 Horror Films, Adaptations of Works by Ray Bradbury, American Fantasy Films, American Films, American Horror Films, American Thriller Films, Circus Films, Dark Fantasy Films, Film Scores by James Horner, Films Based on American Novels, Films Based on Fantasy Novels, Films Directed by Jack Clayton, Films Set in the 1920S, Films Shot in Los Angeles, California, Films Shot in Vermont, Supernatural Horror Films, Supernatural Thriller Films, Walt Disney Pictures Films, Witchcraft in Film
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Something Wicked This Way Comes (film)

Something Wicked This Way Comes
Theatrical release poster by David Grove
Directed by Jack Clayton
Produced by Peter Douglas
Written by Ray Bradbury
John Mortimer
Based on Something Wicked This Way Comes 
by Ray Bradbury
Narrated by Arthur Hill
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Stephen H. Burum
Edited by Barry Mark Gordon
Art J. Nelson
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates
April 29, 1983
Running time
95 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $19 million (estimated)
Box office $8.4 million

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 in Burbank, California. It was the final Disney film to be released under the "Walt Disney Productions" label.


  • Synopsis 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
    • Box office 4.1
    • Critical response 4.2
    • Accolades 4.3
  • Remake 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


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."



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.[1]

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, 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.[2]

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.[3]

For the original score, Clayton picked The Pumpkin Eater and Our Mother's House, but his score (considered "too dark" by Disney) was later removed and replaced.

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.[4] 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."[5]


Box office

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

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

It's one of the few literary adaptations I've seen in which the film not only captures the mood and tone of the novel, but also the novel's style. Bradbury's prose is a strange hybrid of craftsmanship and lyricism. He builds his stories and novels in a straightforward way, with strong plotting, but his sentences owe more to Thomas Wolfe than to the pulp tradition, and the lyricism isn't missed in this movie. In its descriptions of autumn days, in its heartfelt conversations between a father and a son, in the unabashed romanticism of its evil carnival and even in the perfect rhythm of its title, this is a horror movie with elegance.[6]

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 Screw some years ago, gives the film a tension that transcends even its purplest prose."[7]

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


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.


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.[8]


  1. ^ "Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)". IMDb. 
  2. ^ Weller, Sam (2005). The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury. New York: William Morrow. pp. 306–309.  
  3. ^ Something Wicked This Way Comes Q&A after screening With Shawn Carson and Barry Gordon. Vimeo. 
  4. ^ Lerouge, Stephanie Georges Delerue Unused Scores 2011 CD liner notes
  5. ^ Bradbury, Ray (2005). Bradbury Speaks: Too Soon from the Cave, Too Far from the Stars. New York: William Morrow. p. 10.  
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 29, 1983). "Something Wicked This Way Comes". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (April 29, 1983). "Disney's Bradbury". The New York Times. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  8. ^ Fleming, Mike. "Disney, Seth Grahame- Smith Making New Film Of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’". Deadline. Retrieved 2014-03-12. 

External links

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