Something Wicked This Way Comes

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A decade before Disney produced their adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, there was an adaptation produced in Britain. This earlier filmed version of Something Wicked This Way Comes sets the story in a contemporary England rather than the farmlands of Illinois. The British Something Wicked This Way Comes (1972) must also make due with a considerably smaller budget than the better known Disney production, which has both its advantages and disadvantages.

The Jack Clayton film of 1983 is highly stylized and creates a world in the film that actualizes a distinctly American fantasy of autumn as well as a potent nostalgia for Halloweens of the past. Clayton’s film is a visually lavish rendering of small town America in the fifties and its less than idyllic underworld. The British film, shot on a shoestring budget, must dispense with visual stylization and the immersive fantasy that comes with it. Instead, television veteran director Colin Finbow (best known for his work on The Avengers) looks for the dramatic urgency that comes with cinematic realism and casts the horrors of Bradbury’s tale into the everyday world of its young characters.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1972) is as messy and amateurish as any low budget production shot in a hurry. These circumstances reiterate the legitimacy of Finbow’s more realist take on the material, but leaves the fantastic elements of Bradbury’s story in the realm of unintentionally campy artifice. Finbow’s Something Wicked This Way Comes undulates between the burgeoning tradition of British folk horror and theatrical pageantry without navigating these aesthetic shifts with any ease or reason.

Ultimately Finbow’s version fails because it is too faithful to the source material which itself is prohibitive to low budget filmmaking on this scale. At its best Something Wicked This Way Comes (1972) is an effective evocation of the autumns of one’s youth while at its worst it’s little more than an eccentric diversion. But to the credit of the cast and crew, everyone involved in the production seems to have been wholly committed and totally sincere.