US movie (1983). Disney/Bryna/Buena Vista. Pr Peter Vincent Douglas. Dir Jack Clayton. Vfx Lee Dyer. Screenplay Ray Bradbury, based on his Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962). Starring Mary Grace Canfield (Miss Foley), Shawn Carson (Jim Nightshade), Royal Dano (Tom Fury), Richard Davalos (Mr Crosetti), Jack Dengel (Mr Tetley), Bruce M Fischer (Mr Cooger), Pam Grier (Dust Witch), Vidal Peterson (Will Halloway), Jonathan Pryce (Mr Dark), Jason Robards (Charles Halloway), James Stacey (Ed). Voice actor Arthur Hill (Narrator). 95 mins. Colour.
Sometime in the October Country of Bradbury's youth, in the middle of the night, Dark's Pandemonium Carnival comes to a rural US small town. Best friends Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway recognize Wrongness in the air, and their snooping reveals more: barber Crosetti is granted his erotic Dreams, money-obsessed cigar-store owner Tetley wins $1000, schoolmarm Foley has her youth and beauty restored, one-legged Ed, once a football hero, regains his lost leg . . . but all pay a terrible price. The two lads also see the carnival's owner, Mr Dark, run the carousel backwards to transform hefty barker Mr Cooger into a sinister child and torture lightning-rod seller Tom Fury in an electric chair to try to find when the storm is coming, for lightning will drive away the carnival's darkness and rain wash it clean. In short, the boys see too much: Mr Dark instructs the Dust Witch to use her magic Ring to send her spectral Spider army to round them up – unsuccessfully. Of course, no adult will believe the boys – until Mr Dark foolishly reveals too much to librarian Charles Halloway, who discovers that this October carnival has brought misery to the town before . . .
Bradbury's original Dark Fantasy was somewhat ponderous and formless, but had the advantage of his lyricism to generate brooding atmosphere; the movie, deprived of this, does its best with moody shots, lighting and (somewhat inadequately) music, but the end result, though laden with fantasy, falls short. The overall effect is of a helterskelter ride on a rainy day: breathtaking but cold, and you don't get anywhere. [JG]