A marvellous neglected gem of a movie. Rarely shown on TV and never given a UK DVD release, this is arguably the best, certainly the strangest and by far the scariest film the Disney studio has ever produced. Based on a Ray Bradbury story, and with a sparkling script by Bradbury himself, the action is set in the early 50s American mid-West where, as in David Lynch movies, the glowing surfaces of things hide an insidious darkness. In this case the darkness comes to town in the form of the aptly named Mr. Dark and his travelling carnival (think Tod Browning's 'Freaks' and you won't be far wrong), with Mr. Dark chillingly portrayed by Jonathan Pryce. Two young boys risk becoming caught in his wicked web as, one by one, the townspeople are subverted and transformed.
The film deals with big themes: the nature of childhood, the divide between parents and children, the deceptiveness of recollection, the power of self-image, the traps set for us by our own desires, the redemptive qualities of love, hope and courage ... and all within a tightly told, beautifully photographed, brilliantly acted and truly spooky narrative. And look out for my personal favourite character: the delightfully weird Seller of Lightning Rods. Wow!
It's hard to praise this film highly enough. My kids and I love it and have watched it again and again since they were very young (I was lucky enough to have taped one of its rare outings on TV). They are now well into their teens and still love it. It is genuinely frightening, but also deeply uplifting. So, come on Disney, how about a UK release?