Something Wicked This Way Comes

Frustrated by Hollywood’s adaptations of his work, writer Ray Bradbury decided to pen the screenplay of his book “Something Wicked This Way Comes” himself. A quirky mix of Earl Hammer and Rod Serling, “Something Wicked” emerges as a folksy tale about a small town that receives a visit from a mysterious traveling carnival.

somethingwickedthiswaycomesEven though the screenplay still has some wonderful Bradbury flourishes, it has been tidied up to accommodate the Disney factory, which produced and released the film. After years off the market, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” has been re-released by Anchor Bay Entertainment through a marketing arrangement with Walt Disney. The DVD offers the best possibly presentation, including a stereo soundtrack that is effectively creepy, and a decent picture delivered in the film’s original widescreen ratio.

Not a great film by any means, “Something Wicked” still emerges as an entertaining effort. Newcomers Vidal Petersen and Shawn Carson are engaging as Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, best friends living in the small town of Green Town, Illinois. Set just after the turn of the century, life in Green Town is slow and simple. Everyone knows everyone else, and you can’t walk through the quaint town square without a dozen people saying hello to you. Will’s dad Charles (Jason Robards) is the local librarian, a learned man who started his family late.

Jim’s dad has left the roost, leaving him to tend to his flighty mother (Diane Ladd). There’s little excitement in Green Town until a carnival sets up shop just outside town. At first glance Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival looks like your typical carnival, but something dark and mysterious is going on behind the scenes. Enter Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce), a mysterious and malevolent man who hides a very “dark” secret. He and his horde have come to Green Town to feed off the citizen’s greed and collect their souls, and the only ones who can stop him are Will and Jim. That is if they can get anyone to believe them. Filmed on Disney’s back lot, the film has a distinctive studio look that works in its favor. It reminded me of a “Twilight Zone” episode. Even though some of the special effects are cheesy (the carnival from a distance looks like a cardboard cutout with lights), the premise is actually chilling to a point.

Director Jack Clayton (“The Innocents,” “The Great Gatsby”) infuses the film with a constant sense of dread, while some of the images are truly frightening. Pam Grier has some delicious moments as the Dust Witch, a woman who can do some really freaky things. One of her triumphs is a tarantula attack that still raises the hair on the back of my neck. The performances are decent, especially Robards and Pryce, who square off as representatives of good and evil.

Petersen and Carson manage to avoid the cloying child curse, while supporting characters Ellen Geer and James Stacy add to the colorful background. The film looks good, and features a haunting score by James Horner. I imagine the film would have been a little more effective had the studio allowed the filmmakers to push the horror elements a little more.


VISION: [ ] 20/20 [ X ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

The digital transfer looks solid, but the original negative has some issues. Delivered in the film’s original 1.66:1 widescreen ratio, the images look sharp, with decent color saturation and flattering flesh tones. The blacks are durable, but a dirty negative doesn’t allow for clean whites and shadows. Some flecking dots the landscape, with has good depth of field and okay attention to detail. No real compression artifacts to speak of.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Buoyant Dolby Digital 4.0 Surround soundtrack more than gets the job done. Nice stereo effects and lots of rear speaker action keep things lively. Dialogue mix is good, while all ends of the sound spectrum sound clean. Rear speakers pump out crystal clear musical cues and creepy ambient noise with assurance. Basses are light, but middle and high ends purr.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ X ] Poor

No closed captions or subtitles.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

Exciting, animated main and scene access menus, with moving images representing the various scenes. The DVD also include the film’s original theatrical trailer.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

For some reason, the film seems to work better on the small screen than the large.

VITALS: $24.98/Rated PG/94 Minutes/Color/17 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#DV10891




HMO: Anchor Bay Entertainment

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