The Illustrated Man (1969)

illustrated man movie poster
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Interesting framework story

Poor story choices

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Illustrated Man

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  March 26, 1969

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

illustrated man rod steiger make-up tattoos

I love lounging with my skin illustrations…though I clash with the couch

A hitchhiker named Willie (Robert Drivas) encounters a man named Carl (Rod Steiger) at a lakeside camp on his way California.  Carl reveals he has a secret.  He’s covered in skin illustrations  and believes himself cursed by a woman named Felicia (Claire Bloom).  Carl believes that the illustration aren’t tattoos and tell stories to those who look at them.  Willie watches the illustrations and learns the story of a husband and wife in the future whose children have come up with a dangerous game in their virtual playroom, astronauts trapped on a planet of rain, and a family contemplating what to do as Earth prepares to die.  The illustrations tell the tales, but the horror might come from the telling.

Directed by Jack Smight, The Illustrated Man is a sci-fi thriller.  The movie adapts the stories “The Veldt”, “The Long Rain”, and “The Last Night of the World” from Ray Bradbury’s 1951 sci-fi anthology novel.  The movie was released to mixed to negative reviews.

illustrated man the veldt rod steiger claire bloom

Welcome to a VR nursery

I like anthologies a lot because a “bad” story can often be followed up by a “good” story and with a number of stories, the bad can often override the good.  The Illustrated Man only has a few stories and all are ho-hum.

I do find the storytelling in The Illustrated Man interesting.  The filmmaker decides to place all three lead actors not only in the framework story but in the stories themselves.  Usually anthologies have entirely new casts, but the movie makes bridges between the stories and the characters by tying the two…unfortunately, the framework story is more interesting.

‘The Veldt” is probably the most famous story of all the film.  It has been adapted multiple times including for The Ray Bradbury Theatre (Season 4.11).  It is interesting in that it basically creates a virtual world way before its time.  “The Long Rain” has a great concept, but doesn’t seem to go anywhere and “The Last Night of the World” is completely unexplored.  They weren’t the best story choices.

illustrated man the long rain rod steiger robert drivas

Venus is wet

Visually, the movie is kind of interesting.  It has that ’50s/’60s future in the sci-fi portions but stylistically look but more of a late ’60s film.  The artwork appearing on Rod Steiger’s body took hours to put on him and actually look really amazing considering that they aren’t just decals.

The Illustrated Man isn’t a very good film, but it has a classic feel to it.  The movie is almost a horror film, but doesn’t quite cross over to the horror spectrum because of its choices of stories.  It might have been better served if they had picked more of Bradbury’s horrific stories to give the film more atmosphere or if it had added one more tale to the collection.  The Illustrated Man fails to thrill or wow, and it is a shame.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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