Us Earthmen have a talent for ruining things 0.5 Stars

In 1980 Ray Bradbury’s classic science fiction tale The Martian Chronicles was adapted for a TV mini-series. Rock Hudson headlined this three-night made-for-TV event, and it’s really saying something that I don’t think I ever heard anything good or bad about it until now. It must have quietly broadcast, took its lumps, and faded from view. Apparently it was made for Canada, and I can find American TV listings but I never saw it.

Earth is nearing all out war, and in a bid to save ourselves Humanity sends 2 scouting parties and they are each immediately wiped out without reporting back. Col. John Wilder (Hudson) brings a bigger crew and strange things begin happening to them immediately. One member, Major Jeff Spender (Bernie Casey), begins acting as tho he is channeling the defunct Martian race, and begins taking his team out via a strange gun type weapon. Wilder and his lieutenant, Parkhill (Darren McGaven) manage to subdue Spender and return to Earth. Earth somehow is untroubled by this and sends a fully colony worth of people of all walks of life to begin prepping Mars for hundreds of thousands more to follow. Events on both Earth and Mars continue to unravel.

The Martian Chronicles (1980)
Released: 27 Jan 1980
Rated: N/A
Runtime: 360 min
Director: N/A
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Cast: Rock Hudson, Gayle Hunnicutt, Bernie Casey, Christopher Connelly
Writer(s): N/A
Plot: In the 21st century, Earth begins the colonization of Mars. However, things do not go as planned, at first due to the hostile Martian natives and later because of the self-destructive Earthmen.
IMDB rating: 6.7
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Kino
Distributed By: Fox
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 4 Hr. 53 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Keep Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 6/26/2018
MSRP: $34.95

The Production: 1/5

I watched all 5 hours of The Martian Chronicles so you don’t have to.  I literally spent 5 hours saying “That is so dumb”, “That is a terrible idea”, “Man cocaine had to have had the entire production crew in its grasp”, and “No, they really aren’t going to spend an entire episode showing the first date between the last man and woman on Mars”.  And every time I was wrong.

The special effects are 70s TV quality, terrible.

The editing is worse, lingering way past when the action has happened and often having the camera zoom off onto insignificant and out of focus details.

The story is remarkably boooring.

The music manages to be both hippy dippy and narcotic induced synth / theremin sci-fi floof.

And then somehow Bernadette Peters somehow shows up from out of nowhere, with her boobs barely contained in her dress, and proceeds to ruin whatever screen charm she might have had a chance to show.  Her vapid persona only seems to highlight the rampant misogyny that has come part and parcel with the first hundred years of science fiction.

Ed Wood himself could not have made a more scientifically haphazard and unwatchable mess.  It would be perfect fodder for Mystery Science Theater but I doubt even they could stand sitting through five hours of this.  I found nothing redeeming in it at all, and think less of Ray Bradbury’s writing because of this production.

Avoid.

Video: 1/5

3D Rating: NA

It’s 1.33 formatted from the original broadcast.  There’s a ton of grain, even in scenes where you might not expect to have it. The sets are kinda cool but other than that there’s not much good to report here.

Audio: 2/5

Broadcast stereo in DTS format.  It perfectly captures the terrible music and jarring dialogue.

Special Features: 1/5

My favorite Martian: a 15 minute interview with the main Martian, James Faulkner.  Faulkner gives spinning this experience the old college try, but it’s clear he knew the production was a forgetable mess.  “It should be in the Smithsonian”, yeah right.

And 5 other Kino film trailers.

Overall: 1/5

If nothing else, The Martian Chronicles provides a clear nadir from which television has climbed.  TV used to second class or worse, compared to today where TV is where we find some of our most compelling stories.

I can’t recommend TMC to anyone except for absolute Bradbury nuts or those who want to witness just how bad 70s TV could be.

B07C5H8DT2

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Sam Posten

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zoetmb

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I watched this when it was originally broadcast and while I no longer remember specifics, I remember liking it. But maybe that was in comparison to the other crap on TV at the time. I had previously read the book so I would guess that I thought it was consistent enough, otherwise I would have hated it. But maybe if I saw it again after all these years, I might agree with this review.
 

nara

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I think this review is overly critical. The program is very much of its time and should be judged accordingly.

I’d read the book when I first saw this many years ago, and I enjoyed it for what it was.
 

Sam Posten

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I think this review is overly critical. The program is very much of its time and should be judged accordingly.

I’d read the book when I first saw this many years ago, and I enjoyed it for what it was.
There were many terrific mini series in the late 70s early 80s. There was terrific sci-fi on TV. This does not match the quality of either.
 

John Sparks

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I have all three on DVD: V-THE ORIGINAL MINISERIES; V-THE COMPLETE SERIES and V-THE FINAL BATTLE. I think I'm covered until I die!
 
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AndrewCrossett

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I remember seeing this when it aired and enjoying it. I was 14 years old at the time and it motivated me to go buy the book, which led to me becoming a lifelong Bradbury fan.

I don't know how it would hold up today, but I know that nostalgia gives me a lot of extra tolerance for the stuff I remember from that era. It's why I love the original "Heavy Metal" movie even though I recognize that objectively, it wasn't an especially good movie.

I will probably pick this up. I do hope that it's release will help motivate somebody to do a new adaptation of it, faithful to the stories and executed with more current SFX technology (which, let's face it, will probably look ridiculous to viewers 40 years from now.)
 
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John Sparks

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Even though I bought the DVD to see if I understood it more than when it originally watched it, I still didn't.
 
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Richard V

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Ummm, seeing a cloud filled sky on a supposed Martian landscape at the very beginning of the show kinda took me outta it immediately.
 
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Sam Posten

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Ummm, seeing a cloud filled sky on a supposed Martian landscape at the very beginning of the show kinda took me outta it immediately.
The water streams did that for me. But that was after about 40 minutes of expository and confusing space launches that failed to set up a meaningful plot. I get that the idea of a chronicles is supposed to present a number of interwoven perspectives and disjointed narratives, but they went a loooong time before you could figure out what the long term idea was going to be.
 
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Paul_Warren

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Its not that bad at all. Typical sci-fi from the era it was made & Rock Hudson's star quality carries the series. Also quite an unusual series with some atmospheric moments (many remind me of the TOS later episodes). They showed this on TV in the UK when it first came out I seem to remember seeing it back then.