Sergei Bondarchuk directed an 8-hour film adaptation of War and Peace (1966-67), which ended up winning an Oscar for Best Foreign Picture. When he was in Los Angeles as a guest of honor at a party, Hollywood royalty like John Wayne, John Ford, Billy Wilder lined up to meet the Russian filmmaker. But the only person that Bondarchuk was truly excited to meet was Ray Bradbury. Bondarchuk introduced the author to the crowd of bemused A-listers as “your greatest genius, your greatest writer!”
Ray Bradbury spent a lifetime crafting stories about robots, Martians, space travel and nuclear doom and, in the process, turned the formerly disreputable genre of Sci-Fi/Fantasy into something respectable. He influenced legions of writers and filmmakers on both sides of the Atlantic from Stephen King to Neil Gaiman to Francois Truffaut, who adapted his most famous novel, Fahrenheit 451, into a movie.
That film wasn’t the only adaptation of Bradbury’s work, of course. His writings have been turned into feature films, TV movies, radio shows and even a video game for the Commodore 64. During the waning days of the Cold War, a handful of Soviet animators demonstrated their esteem for the author by adapting his short stories.
Vladimir Samsonov directed Bradbury’s Here There Be Tygers, which you can see above. A spaceship lands on an Eden-like planet. The humans inside are on a mission to extract all the natural resources possible from the planet, but they quickly realize that this isn't your ordinary rock. “This planet is alive,” declares one of the characters. Indeed, not only is it alive but it also has the ability to grant wishes. Want to fly? Fine. Want to make streams flow with wine? Sure. Want to summon a nubile maiden from the earth? No problem. Everyone seems enchanted by the planet except one dark-hearted jerk who seems hell-bent on completing the mission.
Another one of Bradbury’s shorts, There Will Come Soft Rain, has been adapted by Uzbek director Nazim Tyuhladziev (also spelled Nozim To’laho’jayev). The story is about an automated house that continues to cook and clean for a family of four unaware that they all perished in a nuclear explosion. While Bradbury’s version works as a comment on both American consumerism and general Cold War dread, Tyuhladziev’s version goes for a more religious tact. The robot that runs the house looks like a mechanical snake (Garden of Eden, anyone?). The robot and the house become undone by an errant white dove. The animation might not have the polish of a Disney movie, but it is surprisingly creepy and poignant.
And if you want to see more Russian animation, click here.
Both films mentioned above will be added to the Animation section of our collection of 675 Free Movies Online.
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.