Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles (1980) Michael Anderson

The story begins in the distant year of 1976, when human kind (or, at least America) begins the first stage of Project Mars. Their goal: to one day colonise the red planet in the hopes of escaping a war torn earth. Sending ridiculously phallic spaceships and for some reason not possessing the technology to create spacesuits, it takes over 25 years before Col. John Wilder (Rock Hudson) and his crew finally succeed in returning from their mission. The task of creating a utopia away from Earth is more difficult than imagined however, as human nature and the planet's secrets take charge. The Martian Chronicles is based upon Ray Bradbury's 1950 novel of the same name. While the novel reads more like a series of short stories, Michael Anderson treats this miniseries like a flowing narrative. With only three episodes in the series, the account is disjointed and spends more time posing questions than providing answers. Anderson's efforts now suffer from having to compete with modern day special effects as well. In particular, the miniatures used are unmistakable (I swear you can see strings on the spaceships) and the set design is quite basic. While this creates an amusingly cheesy viewing experience at first, with the series running at almost five hours long, the kitsch is not enough to save this project. Aside from subtitles in various languages, this particular release doesn't offer anything in the way of extras either, unless you count being able to watch for a few obscure actors (keep an eye out for Fright Night's Roddy McDowall and A Christmas Story's Darren McGavin). There are not even trailers for other sci-fi films and the packaging is exasperatingly minimal (why not put labels on the discs?). Really, unless you have some attachment to this series, spend your time in a more productive manner: read the novel instead. (MGM)