The Illustrated Man DVD Review
Written by Peter West
DVD released by Warner Bros.
Directed by Jack Smight
Written by Ray Bradbury (novel), Ted Mann (screenplay)
1969, Region 1 (NTSC), 103 minutes, Rated PG
DVD released on December 19th, 2006
Movie (From Warner Publicity Material):
Rod Steiger plays the tattoo-covered title role in this fascinating vision of doom and danger based on the classic short story collection by futurist Ray Bradbury. Robert Drivas portrays a good-natured drifter who can't tear his eyes from Steiger's freakish illustrations. And Claire Bloom is the mysterious seductress who created the "art" that curses its bearer — and comes to life in a nightmarish trio of tales. Two spoiled children turn playtime into slay time (from The Veldt). Shipwrecked astronauts wander across a planet cursed by The Long Rain. And loving parents choose their children's fate when the end nears (from The Last Night of the World). Every one of The Illustrated Man's pictures tells a story. And every story ends in terror.
The late '60s and early '70s were loaded with anthology films, where separate stories are wound together by another main story. One of the best examples ever of that theme was 1945's Dead of Night. The Illustrated Man's theme is Rod Steiger's search for the woman who tattooed his body. As he tells it to a young drifter, it wraps around stories that the young man sees while staring into Steiger's tattoos. The stories are pretty short, only around 10-15 minutes each, however the main story of the search for the mysterious skin illustrator is more substantial. Ray Bradbury, who wrote the novel was pretty much at the height of his career when The Illustrated Man was released. The film was pretty successful at the time, though I don't know how it will go over with today's audiences.
I really didn't know what to expect with The Illustrated Man, it had been so many years since I had seen it that I had pretty much forgot everything about it. I was a bit surprised that I wound up enjoying it as much as I did. It's a film more about the future and the supernatural, than a "horror" movie. While there is a little blood and gore at the end, it's really tame compared to what we see nowadays. The pace of the film will keep you interested and it's the type of movie that you would want to watch when you have some time to kill. Rod Steiger's performance as Carl is reason enough to see this film alone, you'll easily see why he had three Oscar nominations and one win (In the Heat of the Night).
Video and Audio:
Presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, The Illustrated Man has not been seen in it's theatrical aspect ratio since it was released way back in 1969. Considering it's age this transfer is pretty good. The print was extremely clean, the overall picture though is a bit bright, also the colors are really not vibrant. Overall though, this is probably as good as it's going to get.
The Illustrated Man benefited from Warner not remixing it into a Dolby 5.1 track in my opinion. The Dolby 1.0 mono track is what the film's Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack was designed for and works well with the film. Now of course I had my receiver do it's THX Cinema processing for my 7.1 speaker setup. It's a clean, crisp soundtrack and kudos for retaining it in mono!
Warner dug deep into the vault and found a featurette called "Tattooed Steiger" on the tattooing process (actually the drawing of the tattoos) of Rod Steiger's body for the film. Besides that, there's a trailer for The Illustrated Man as well as one for Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning. Okay I watched the "Duke's" trailer and the film looks as terrible as you may expect it to be. So I'm taking a half star off for including it on this DVD...
Films that Peter West reviews are played on a Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi DVD player, viewed on a Mitsubishi WS-55413 HDTV and listened to on a THX Ultra 2 Pioneer Elite VSX-59TXi A/V Receiver through a 7.1 setup of JBL Northridge E series Speakers.