John Gosling: Freelance Writer

The Martian Chronicles.

My article about The Martian Chronicles, featuring an extensive interview with Ray Bradbury, was published in the May 2000 issue of SFX magazine.

Mr Bradbury and I talked at length about the many attempts to adapt the novel to various media, from the EC comic books, to radio shows like Dimension X, and his thoughts on the version finally brought to the small screen by producer Charles Fries. I was also able to talk to Mr Fries about the making of the mini series, and his own viewpoint on the relative merits of the Martian Chronicles and the reaction of Mr Bradbury to the finished product.

Below find some choice snippets derived from my research.

As the main thrust of my article concerned the attempts to film The Martian Chronicles, I was able to come up with an extensive timeline for their (arrested) development, which for your information, I summarise below.

The Unseen Chronicles.

1951. Fritz Lang of Metropolis fame expresses an interest.

1953. Director John Huston indicates in a letter to Bradbury that he would be interested in soliciting studio involvement in an adaptation. The two later collaborated on the script for Moby Dick but nothing more was done with The Martian Chronicles.

1957. Kirk Douglas' Bryne production company takes out an option for a half hour television series. After the option lapses, Bradbury breathes a sigh of relief, citing the poor standards of television at the time as reason enough for saying "thank god that was never made."

1961/2. Bradbury writes a 158 page script for producer Julian Blaustein, whose previous genre effort was the superb "The Day The Earth Stood Still." Blaustein is replaced within a year by John Houseman, who had worked with Orson Welles on his War of the Worlds radio broadcast. The project then collapses due to financial problems.

1964. Gregory Peck is actually signed to star as Colonel Wilder. Bradbury writes a detailed treatment and artist Mike Minor, who would carve out a later career as a Star Trek designer, contributes over a thousand story board drawings. Alan Pakula and Richard are attached as producer and director. Though a start date of late 1965 is announced, the project looses momentum and dies.

1975. Producer David Wolper announces plans for a 3 hour mini series with (so it is said) a script provided by Bradbury. Neither Bradbury or Wolper can recall the project, so take with a pinch of salt.

1999. Universal commission 10 scripts over a three year period, several by Bradbury. He calls the rest "really truly dreadful, horrible scripts" and exhibits little optimism for the project. Steven Spielberg looked at Bradbury's first draft 3 years ago but declined. For now its back to the drawing board.

As part of my extensive research into The Martian Chronicles, I found many fascinating and often forgotten documents, one of which was a comic book adaptation that appeared some 20 years ago in West, a supplement of the Los Angeles Times.

This has hardly seen the light of day since, and it therefore seems only reasonable to reproduce the images here, if only for the sake of posterity. Warning, these are quite hefty file sizes in order to retain clarity.

Cover of West Magazine

1st page
2nd page
3rd page

I am still keen to learn more about this subject, so if you have any information or interesting items for sale, please let me know.

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Contact me at jd.gosling@btinternet.com