2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 11: The Illustrated Man (1969)

11. SKINS & NEEDLES: Body art or body harm? When getting the mark leads to all hell breaking loose.

Beyond Bird with the Crystal Plumage, there’s one movie my mother has already brought up that she hated. And that would be this one.

The book that these stories come from has eighteen of them, but Howard B. Kreitsek and Jack Smight picked these three for the film without ever speaking to that book’s author, Ray Bradbury. The tattooed man who appears in the book’s prologue and epilogue would become this film’s main story and be played by Rod Steiger.

The funny thing is that when Steiger takes off his glove to reveal his entire hand is tattooed, it’s played off as a horrific moment. A half century after this movie was made and nearly every one of my friends has this many tattoos.

Carl the tattooed man meets Willie and uses his skin illustrations to show tales throughout time. The ink came from a mysterious woman named Felicia and at the end of the film, Willie sees his death at the hands of Carl in the only bare patch of skin on the Illustrated Man.

The stories that are told include “The Veldt,” which takes place in the future and has children who study within a virtual version of the African veldt. Soon, the lions will solve this issue of their parents. “The Long Rain” has solar rains* that drive an entire crew to madness in space. And “The Last Night of the World” predates The Mist with parents that must decide if their children should survive the end of the world.

The final story — and its bleak ending — is exactly why my mom hates this movie. The fact that she may have told me all about it when I was a kid may have given me nightmares.

This movie didn’t do well critically or financially. Rod Serling, who would be the expert on adapting short stories to film called it the worst movie ever made.

*Their spaceship is recycled from Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Escape from the Planet of the Apes.

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