Ray Bradbury

The Gold Standard: How the movies -- past and present -- changed our lives

He’s the giant of the genre, and so it means something when Bradbury says, “My favorite science-fiction movie is ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ because it’s philosophical, it’s religious. It fits together pieces of the universe.”

Never at a loss to explain what he means, the scribe continues at rapid-fire speed: “If you look at the Sistine Chapel ceiling, God reaches down through space to touch the hand of Adam, and Adam has his hand out toward God and the contact is made. That is the great thing about Steven Spielberg’s film: We are in touch with another part of the universe, and the two halves of the universe are connected. You come out of that movie changed. It is one of the greatest movie experiences I’ve ever had.”

Bradbury unabashedly loves movies and claims that they have had a major impact on his life, especially horror oeuvre of Lon Chaney. When the scribe, now 86, talks about those silent films, it’s as if they unspooled yesterday for the first time: “I was 3 when I saw Chaney’s ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ at 4 I saw ‘He Who Gets Slapped,’ and at 5 I saw ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’ ”

If they were the inspiration, then it was the original “Lost World” (1925) and “King Kong” (1933) that kicked off Bradbury’s love for dinosaurs, which in turn brought him to the movies, as a screenwriter.

“I wrote a dinosaur story, ‘The Foghorn,’ and because John Huston read that book, he hired me to write the screenplay for ‘Moby Dick.’It’s incredible: The dinosaurs I saw in the movies changed my life,” he says.

Before Bradbury scripted Huston’s 1956 whale pic, he became a huge fan of “Singin’ in the Rain,” which he calls a “great science-fiction musical.” How so? “It is science-fiction because it is about the invention of sound and how that invention changed the history of Hollywood.”

Bradbury became so psyched by Gene Kelly’s tuner that he wanted to write him a movie, and offered the filmmaker his short story “The Black Ferris.” Unfortunately, Kelly couldn’t get the money to finance the film, so Bradbury expanded the tale, penning the classic fantasy novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” which eventually did make it to the screen.

“It’s beautiful,” Bradbury says of Jack Clayton’s 1983 film version. “It follows my book and my screenplay closely.”

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