The Martian Chronicles – Bluray Review

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

Published by

Sam Posten

editor,member

49 Comments

  1. You know for all the stupid things this bargain basement production does, its still better than that abysmal Fahrenheit 451 movie that aired last month on HBO.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. nara

    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.

  5. 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.)

  6. Richard V

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. Sam Posten

    LMAO, savage.

    Well to be fair, you disliked the series so much that you had very little interest in giving an objective review of the picture and sound quality, which is what most of us come here for since we generally already have an opinion on the content itself.

  9. It's obvious the reviewer hated this program. And he explained why. I'm OK with that. It was his first experience with it and can't compare it to Night Of Broadcast or the previous DVD in terms of picture and sound. I'm sure fans who remember it fondly and had the DVD will eventually chime in with their opinions. My blu ray should arrive this week and I'll give it a go if no one has done so by the time I watch it.

    I personally devour anything written by Richard Matheson and enjoy watching Roddy McDowall and Fritz Weaver in anything.
    [​IMG]

  10. Mark-P

    Well to be fair, you disliked the series so much that you had very little interest in giving an objective review of the picture and sound quality, which is what most of us come here for since we generally already have an opinion on the content itself.

    The picture and sound quality reviews stand as noted. As objectively as I can state: It is a terrible conversion of broadcast quality TV, with high grain factor and limited resolution. The sound is broadcast quality stereo converted to DTS. The musical soundtrack is horrible. The dialogue is boring but well imaged, if that's your thing.

    What else could you possibly say about it?

  11. Paul_Warren

    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.

    I double dog dare you to watch all 6 hours of it again =)

  12. Sam Posten

    The picture and sound quality reviews stand as noted. As objectively as I can state: It is a terrible conversion of broadcast quality TV, with high grain factor and limited resolution. The sound is broadcast quality stereo converted to DTS. The musical soundtrack is horrible. The dialogue is boring but well imaged, if that's your thing.

    What else could you possibly say about it?

    That's a little better. You added that the resolution is limited which you didn't say in the review. I guess "the sound is broadcast quality" means that the soundtrack is just fine, though I have my doubts that this mono production is actually presented in stereo. The comments about the music and dialog are once again about the content, not the quality of the soundtrack. 🙂

  13. I saw it when it first aired and hated it. It bears as much relation to the original as Roy Rogers did to the moon landing.

    Drek from the word go. If anything, this review is actually kind. I didn't see any 0 scores.

  14. I remember watching this "thing" unfold on NBC back in 79-80 when it aired. As I recall, NBC was in the throws of one of its worst periods ratings-wise, and its programming was suffering from the likes of SUPERTRAIN and PINK LADY AND JEFF. Their big hit that year was LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE.

    My family tended not to watch much on NBC for all of the years I was growing up in the 50s and 60s. There were a few exceptions, but I always seemed to have found most of my favorite programs on CBS. ABC was a secondary haven, but NBC – always a last choice, so perhaps I had a natural bias against this show.

    NBC had canceled STAR TREK a decade ago when this aired, and I probably still maintained a grudge. Nevertheless, I loved science fiction and was prepared for something great. I remember that watching the first episode, I was struck with one word – cheap. We'd all seen STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and even BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and they all looked better than this.

    I think I started watching the second episode and probably fell asleep. I tried to catch up with the third episode, but my heart wasn't in it. These are 40-year old memories I'm going by, but I think this review cements in my mind that I do not need this in my collection at all.

  15. When this mini series was first put on DVD, I bought the boxed set from the downtown Toronto A&A records. As I waited for my wife, who was shopping for clothes, I opened it.

    Melted to disc 2 was a stick of plastic the size of a pencil! I immediately returned to the store. They told me I could only return it for an exchange because I had opened it! It was the last one in the store! After much arguing about how stupid this was, and a talk with the manager, I left the store with my money.

    I smiled quietly to myself a few years later when the chain went bankrupt.

  16. read the book twice. Bradbury was a gift to the world. prob my favorite writer.

    yeah, cheesy tv movie. loved it when it first aired. didn’t finish last time I tried to watch but plan to go again some time. sad to hear the blu ray stinks. will stick with my dvd.

  17. Lord Dalek

    Charles Fries was no David L. Wolper. I'll tell you that much.

    Charles Fries spent so much of his budget on an enormous sign on the top of his building with his name on it. I know it cost him a fortune because in 1990 a VP at ABC said, and I was in the room, that if Charles spent only half the money he spent on his big sign, the production value of his movies would increase substantially. I agreed at the time when I found out what he was paying because I felt like I was being underpaid to support his gigantic sign.

    It's one thing to have a big ego. It's another thing to have a big ego to the detriment of your productions.

  18. My copy of the Kino blu-ray arrived yesterday. I haven't had time to watch, but I did sample the picture. This is a solid upgrade from the DVD. Color, detail and black levels are all improved. I was expecting a lot of grain, but the work of Academy Award winning cinematographer Ted Moore looks great here.
    View attachment 47530 View attachment 47531
    If you've seen the mini series before, you won't be disappointed. It's not a let down by any means. If you are new to the story know this. This is not a special effects bonanza. In spite of the title, this is a story about humanity. If you are fond of classic Twilight Zone I think you will find much to enjoy here. Part One is very reminiscent of a Richard Matheson story from the fourth season, "Death Ship". I'm glad I made the upgrade and hope this helps in some small way.

  19. My copy of the Kino blu-ray arrived yesterday. I haven't had time to watch, but I did sample the picture. This is a solid upgrade from the DVD. Color, detail and black levels are all improved. I was expecting a lot of grain, but the work of Academy Award winning cinematographer Ted Moore looks great here.
    View attachment 47530 View attachment 47531
    If you've seen the mini series before, you won't be disappointed. It's not a let down by any means. If you are new to the story know this. This is not a special effects bonanza. In spite of the title, this is a story about humanity. If you are fond of classic Twilight Zone I think you will find much to enjoy here. Part One is very reminiscent of a Richard Matheson story from the fourth season, "Death Ship". I'm glad I made the upgrade and hope this helps in some small way.

  20. Blimpoy06

    I personally devour anything written by Richard Matheson and enjoy watching Roddy McDowall and Fritz Weaver in anything.

    Matheson was a genius. Just last night I watched his "A World of Difference" Twilight Zone episode. Brilliant.

  21. Blimpoy06

    My copy of the Kino blu-ray arrived yesterday. I haven't had time to watch, but I did sample the picture. This is a solid upgrade from the DVD. Color, detail and black levels are all improved. I was expecting a lot of grain, but the work of Academy Award winning cinematographer Ted Moore looks great here.

    Thanks for posting a true screen grab, not a contaminated photo off your screen. I've seen what I needed to see. The price has dropped some. I'm going to wait and see if it drops some more, then this is a no-brainer purchase for me. Price and picture quality were the only blocks for me. Now it's just price.

    I appreciate your informed opinion.

  22. Read the book a hundred years ago before the tv show aired and loved it.
    The show didn’t have the same feel as the book.
    Something was missing in translation.

    I still enjoyed the show.
    Bought the dvd and bought the Blu-ray.
    I don’t have the same issues with the pq and sound that Sam does.

    This release is exactly what I expect it to be.

  23. I always loved the first part. A lot a lot a lot. I was sick as a dog the night it originally aired. I stayed home from school the next day. We had recently gotten a VCR so I was able to watch part 1 over and over when my friends were at school.

    I went around saying, "I'm the last Martian."

  24. BobO’Link

    I'd be interested in your comments on this one once you've watched it. I recall it being somewhat "meh" when I saw it during its original airing and have been waffling on making the purchase. I know you have an affinity towards it so will likely be somewhat biased – but I also trust your overall assessment of these type productions based on your changed feelings towards LIS (which I still happen to like – well most of it).

    I think if you have a nostalgia for The Martian Chronicles, you should buy it. It looks very very good but not really great. The sound is better. The details in Mr. and Mrs. Kay's house are great. I don't like the way commercial breaks were handled: abrupt black between sequences. The subtitles are often mistimed with the dialogue.

    But here's my thing. I met my late great best friend about three weeks before this aired. He turned me onto it, helped explain what was cool about it–so many of my memories about watching it take me back to those days with him. It seemed like Lennon got shot right around that time too. I remember my friend was devastated.

    That said, I usually only watch part 1. Part 2 and 3 are watchable, but it's part one I really love–enough to double dip on the BD.

    Bottom line–if you have the DVD watch it again. If you love the show, buy the BD. If you don't have the DVD, my instincts tell me you shouldn't buy the BD. Something should be pulling you to buy it.

    But that first part written by Richard Matheson…I just really like it. I enjoy Bernie Casey as Spender and Rock Hudson is great to watch.

    If you're still on the fence, check out some Amazon reviews. This miniseries is not complete crap, but I would also say it's probably either a nostalgic thing or an acquired taste.

  25. I remember watching this when it first aired, but I had forgotten all the details. Some months ago, it was shown on Comet TV. I was intrigued when the sexy Martian woman appeared, but I found the rest of it very dull. Not worth buying.

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