Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

PG | 95 mins | Horror | 29 April 1983

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HISTORY

       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, author Ray Bradbury wrote a screenplay in 1958, based on his 1948 short story, Black Ferris, for actor-director Gene Kelly. Bradbury personally delivered the screenplay to Kelly’s home, and although the actor agreed to make the picture, he was unable to acquire financing. In 1962, Bradbury’s novelization of the screenplay was published as Something Wicked This Way Comes. Several filmmakers expressed interest in the project, including Steven Spielberg, Sam Peckinpah and Mark Rydell. The 6 Jan 1971 HR reported that Bradbury agreed to write a new screenplay based on the novel for English producer-director Jack Clayton. More than five years later, the 20 Jul 1976 DV announced plans by The Bryna Company, owned by actor Kirk Douglas, to produce the film in association with Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler, to be released by Paramount Pictures Corporation. However, on 14 Jan 1977, DV revealed that the project was cancelled by Paramount chief executive Barry Diller, despite the enthusiasm of feature division president David Picker. Location photography was to take place in Texas, with a budget of $4--6 million, “depending on casting.” The project was previously under development by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. As stated in production notes, producer Peter Vincent Douglas, a longtime admirer of Bradbury’s work, acquired the property for his father Kirk’s company following a chance encounter with Bradbury at a Los Angeles, CA, bookstore. Kirk Douglas was reportedly under consideration for a role in the film, as noted in the 8 Mar 1977 Var. Four ... More Less

       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, author Ray Bradbury wrote a screenplay in 1958, based on his 1948 short story, Black Ferris, for actor-director Gene Kelly. Bradbury personally delivered the screenplay to Kelly’s home, and although the actor agreed to make the picture, he was unable to acquire financing. In 1962, Bradbury’s novelization of the screenplay was published as Something Wicked This Way Comes. Several filmmakers expressed interest in the project, including Steven Spielberg, Sam Peckinpah and Mark Rydell. The 6 Jan 1971 HR reported that Bradbury agreed to write a new screenplay based on the novel for English producer-director Jack Clayton. More than five years later, the 20 Jul 1976 DV announced plans by The Bryna Company, owned by actor Kirk Douglas, to produce the film in association with Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler, to be released by Paramount Pictures Corporation. However, on 14 Jan 1977, DV revealed that the project was cancelled by Paramount chief executive Barry Diller, despite the enthusiasm of feature division president David Picker. Location photography was to take place in Texas, with a budget of $4--6 million, “depending on casting.” The project was previously under development by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. As stated in production notes, producer Peter Vincent Douglas, a longtime admirer of Bradbury’s work, acquired the property for his father Kirk’s company following a chance encounter with Bradbury at a Los Angeles, CA, bookstore. Kirk Douglas was reportedly under consideration for a role in the film, as noted in the 8 Mar 1977 Var. Four years later, the 4 Mar 1981 HR announced the upcoming production at Walt Disney Studios. Kirk Douglas was unable to join the cast due to a previous commitment, according to the 7 Jul 1981 DV.
       The 31 Jul 1981 HR reported a projected budget of $13.5 million, $2.5 million of which was dedicated to set construction. The fictional northern Illinois community of “Green Town” was built on an acre of the Disney Studios backlot, replacing the “town square” set that appeared in numerous Disney films. Peter Vincent Douglas explained that building the new set was more cost-efficient than adapting an existing location, and it would allow director Jack Clayton to shoot from any angle unrestricted. At the time of the article, Douglas was auditioning actors for the role of “Mr. Dark” and an “erotic, hauntingly beautiful woman” to play “Dust Witch.” Advertisements appeared in the 2 Sep and 4 Sep 1981 DV, seeking two boys, ages eleven to thirteen, for the roles of “Will Halloway” and “Jim Nightshade.” A news item in the 5 Aug 1981 Var stated that Georges Delerue would score the picture, although his name does not appear in onscreen credits.
       A studio press release announced the start of principal photography on 28 Sep 1981, and was expected to conclude in sixty-seven days. The final cost of the sets was approximately $3 million, including Green Town and interior sets on the Disney lot, and “Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival,” built on two acres of Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Newhall, CA. The review in the 4 May 1983 Var noted that some exterior sequences were filmed in Vermont. According to production notes, the carousel used in the carnival sequences was built in 1918 and restored for the film. The “soul-stealing mirror maze” consisted of more than fifty hand-cut mirrors. Six wranglers were required to control the swarm of tarantulas that overruns Will’s bedroom. Mechanical spiders, designed by Isidoro Rasponi, were employed for “particularly demanding situations.”
       On 31 Dec 1981, DV announced the completion of photography on schedule without exceeding the $16 million budget. The film’s opening, originally intended for Christmas 1982, was postponed for the completion of five additional sequences, as stated in the 29 Nov 1982 and 11 Feb 1983 HR. Among them was a computer-generated animation sequence created by the special-effects company, MAGI/Synthavision, under the supervision of executive creative director Richard Winn Taylor III. The sequence was due for completion on 1 Mar 1983. Another involved a miniature version of the carnival, which appeared to be “sucked into the clouds,” supervised by Harrison Ellenshaw. Tom Wilhite, Disney vice president in charge of production, expected the sequences to account for one fifth to one quarter of the budget, which had risen to $20 million by Feb 1983.
       Studio press releases publicized the film’s 29 Apr 1983 opening in more than 800 theaters. Bradbury was reportedly pleased with the finished product.
       The picture garnered mostly positive reviews but disappointing box office receipts. The Jul 1983 Box reported earnings of $2.4 million from 817 theaters in the first weekend, dropping to $1.3 million from 793 theaters in the second. An article in the 11 May 1983 DV predicted that Disney would likely writedown the $22 million production for tax purposes, depending on company earnings as of 30 Jun 1983. The film’s meager receipts prompted stock analyst Harold Vogel, of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, to forecast decreased profits for Disney over the next two years, driving down the price of the company’s stock.
      End credits include the following statement: "With special thanks to the people of Vermont for their help and cooperation."
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
23 Aug 1976.
---
Box Office
Jul 1983.
---
Daily Variety
20 Jul 1976.
---
Daily Variety
11 Jan 1977.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jan 1977.
---
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1981.
---
Daily Variety
2 Sep 1981.
---
Daily Variety
4 Sep 1981.
---
Daily Variety
28 Sep 1981
p. 3.
Daily Variety
31 Dec 1981.
---
Daily Variety
17 Jan 1983.
---
Daily Variety
11 May 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Nov 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 1983
p. 5.
LAHExam
18 Jul 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
29 Apr 1983
p. 1.
New York Times
29 Apr 1983
p. 8.
The Cinemaphile
Aug 1976.
---
Variety
8 Mar 1977.
---
Variety
5 Aug 1981.
---
Variety
4 May 1983
p. 10.
Variety
11 May 1983.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution Co., Inc.
Walt Disney Productions Presents
A Jack Clayton Film
A Bryna Company Production
Walt Disney Productions
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Scr
based on his novel
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Prod illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
MUSIC
Mus comp
Supv mus ed
SOUND
Sd supv
Spec sd eff created by
Spec sd eff created by
Supv sd eff ed
Dial ed
Prod mixer
Re-rec supv
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Eff anim supv
Anim prod coord
Anim
Anim
Composite supv
Scene planning
Airbrush
Spec eff consultant
1st asst dir spec eff
Addl photograph by
Spec photog eff
Spec photog eff
Spec photog eff
Spec kaleidoscopic eff by
Addl visual eff
Addl visual eff
Opticals supv
Mechanical spec eff supv
Mechanical spec eff
Mechanical spec eff
Mechanical spec eff
Mechanical spec eff
Matte artist
Matte artist
MAKEUP
Creative makeup
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Creative consultant
Casting
Scr supv
Prod coord
Prod coord
Prod coord
Tarantulas supplied by
STAND INS
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (New York, 1962).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes
Release Date:
29 April 1983
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 29 April 1983
Production Date:
28 September--December 1981
Copyright Claimant:
Walt Disney Productions
Copyright Date:
3 November 1983
Copyright Number:
PA190285
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® Cameras by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
95
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26737
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Will Halloway recalls a particular October in 1930s Green Town, Illinois, when he was twelve years old. Among the town’s memorable characters were the money-obsessed tobacconist, Mr. Tetley; Ed the bartender, a football hero before losing an arm and a leg; Mr. Crosetti, a barber who dreams of exotic women; and Miss Foley, the homely schoolteacher, once the most beautiful woman in town. Librarian Charles William Halloway, Will’s ailing father, recommends an adventure novel to his son’s best friend, Jim Nightshade. Jim declines, preferring the letters he receives from his father, Harry, who lives among African headhunters. Later, Will reveals that Harry abandoned his family and never writes to Jim. Outside their neighboring homes, the boys encounter Tom Fury, an itinerate salesman, who convinces Jim to buy a lightning rod. While the boys install the rod on Jim’s roof, a gust of wind carries a flier to them, advertising “Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival,” opening the next day. That night, Charles Halloway takes a long walk through town, despondent over his debilitating heart condition. Will and Jim are awakened by the arrival of the carnival train and run outside to meet it. Upon reaching the fairgrounds, the boys find all of the rides and exhibits in operation. They enter the fortuneteller’s wagon but are quickly frightened away by a tarantula. The fortuneteller, known as the Dust Witch, pets the spider as the boys run in terror. Charles returns from his walk at 3:00 in the morning to find his son awake, and mentions an incident that traumatized both Will and his father years earlier. Will halts the conversation, ... +


Will Halloway recalls a particular October in 1930s Green Town, Illinois, when he was twelve years old. Among the town’s memorable characters were the money-obsessed tobacconist, Mr. Tetley; Ed the bartender, a football hero before losing an arm and a leg; Mr. Crosetti, a barber who dreams of exotic women; and Miss Foley, the homely schoolteacher, once the most beautiful woman in town. Librarian Charles William Halloway, Will’s ailing father, recommends an adventure novel to his son’s best friend, Jim Nightshade. Jim declines, preferring the letters he receives from his father, Harry, who lives among African headhunters. Later, Will reveals that Harry abandoned his family and never writes to Jim. Outside their neighboring homes, the boys encounter Tom Fury, an itinerate salesman, who convinces Jim to buy a lightning rod. While the boys install the rod on Jim’s roof, a gust of wind carries a flier to them, advertising “Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival,” opening the next day. That night, Charles Halloway takes a long walk through town, despondent over his debilitating heart condition. Will and Jim are awakened by the arrival of the carnival train and run outside to meet it. Upon reaching the fairgrounds, the boys find all of the rides and exhibits in operation. They enter the fortuneteller’s wagon but are quickly frightened away by a tarantula. The fortuneteller, known as the Dust Witch, pets the spider as the boys run in terror. Charles returns from his walk at 3:00 in the morning to find his son awake, and mentions an incident that traumatized both Will and his father years earlier. Will halts the conversation, suggesting they retire for the night. The following day, the residents of Green Town converge on the carnival. Ed the bartender enters the Mirror Maze and in the reflection, sees his missing limbs restored. Mr. Tetley wins $1,000 at roulette, and a Ferris wheel ride, with the Dust Witch as his companion. Mr. Crosetti attends a performance of exotic female dancers, who surround him and remove his clothes. Will and Jim come upon a carousel, but Mr. Dark, the carnival’s owner, and his assistant, Mr. Cooger, suggest they return later, when the ride is operational. The boys remain at the fairground until evening, and witness Mr. Cooger’s transformation into a small boy as the carousel spins in reverse. They follow Mr. Cooger to the home of Miss Foley, who introduces him to Will and Jim as her nephew, “Robert.” Jim stops Will from revealing the boy’s true identity, and pulls him outside. Mr. Cooger emerges from the house, throws a rock through the window, and runs away, leaving Will and Jim to take the blame. Will tries to tell his father of the incident, but Charles dismisses it as the product of an active imagination. He continues the conversation from the previous night, talking about Will’s near-drowning in the Indigo River at age four. Charles was unable to swim, and Harry Nightshade rescued Will. As a result, Charles hated himself and Harry Nightshade. Even though he continues to regret the incident, there is no one he can blame. Meanwhile, Miss Foley’s youth and beauty are restored, but her eyesight is taken away. As she crawls along the floor begging for help, Mr. Cooger watches silently and smiles. Late that night, Will joins Jim as he sneaks back into the carnival, hoping that a ride on the carousel will transform him into an adult. As they reach the carousel, they overhear Mr. Cooger informing Mr. Dark that the boys are becoming suspicious. The proprietor orders Mr. Cooger to prevent any interference with his activities. Will and Jim proceed to another tent, containing Mr. Dark’s freak show, which now includes Mr. Crosetti as a bearded lady, Mr. Tetley as a cigar-store Indian, and Miss Foley, all in a state of suspended animation. The boys are discovered as Mr. Dark interrogates Tom Fury on the arrival of the next thunderstorm. The Dust Witch follows them home in the form of a green mist. They take refuge in Jim’s bedroom, which is filled with tarantulas until lightning strikes the rod outside. The next day, Mr. Dark parades his carnival troupe down Main Street search for Will and Jim. As the boys hide in the saloon basement, Mr. Dark questions Charles Halloway on their whereabouts. When Charles claims ignorance of the boys’ identities, Mr. Dark accuses him of wasting his life as a librarian, living vicariously through others. Charles invites Mr. Dark to visit the library, suggesting it might be educational. As the parade continues, Charles recognizes Ed the bartender, now a small boy with all of his limbs, but his attempt at speaking to the boy is met with silence. That night, Will and Jim meet Charles at the library and relate their experiences of the last two days. Charles reads them an account of carnival’s arrival in 1891 from his father’s diary, noting that Mr. Dark destroyed people by “granting their dearest wishes.” The carnival returned several times over ensuing years, and a severe storm always accompanied its departure. As Mr. Dark enters the library, Charles instructs the boys to hide in the stacks. Charles Halloway identifies Mr. Dark as one of the “Autumn People,” who “feed on the misery of others, drawn by their desires.” When Mr. Dark offers to restore Charles’ youth, Will reveals his presence by telling his father to resist. Mr. Dark drags Will and Jim from the stacks, then afflicts Charles with a sensation of impending death. Charles quickly recovers and follows Mr. Dark to the fairgrounds. He enters the mirror maze, where he is presented with images of his ill-fated neighbors, and of Will drowning in the Indigo River. Will calls to his father, prompting Charles to shatter the mirror and pull the boy to safety. As they embrace, bolts of lightning emanate from the sky. Tom Fury is released from bondage and impales the Dust Witch on a lightning rod. Will leads his father to the carousel, where Mr. Dark offers to adopt Jim as his son. Charles pulls Jim from the carousel and lightning engulfs Mr. Dark. Will cries as he tries to revive the unconscious Jim, but Charles tells his son to laugh, explaining that Mr. Dark is nourished by tears and destroyed by happiness. Will complies, and as Jim awakens, Mr. Dark is reduced to a skeleton, restoring consciousness to Miss Foley, Mr. Tetley, Mr. Crosetti, and Ed the bartender. A funnel cloud descends from the sky and sweeps away the carnival. As the sun rises, Charles, Will, and Jim run home, jubilant over the town’s liberation. Charles is able to face the future, knowing that he has given Will a memory “that will live as long as sons tell sons about fathers they love.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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