Summary of the Movie "The Illustrated Man"

by Brian Vaughan

"The Illustrated Man" began as a story by science fiction writer Ray Bradbury and was later made into a film by director Jack Smight. The film version carried the same general plot as Bradbury's book, as the main character is covered in tattoos from neck to toe. All of them have meaning and he must track down the artists to figure it all out. The main character, Carl, is played by actor Rod Steiger.


The movie starts out with the main character Carl and his dog approaching a young man named Willie who is camping on his way to a temporary job at a dairy farm. Things start out friendly before Carl grows angry at Willie's sunny disposition and naivety. Carl takes off his gloves to reveal that he has tattoos covering his hands. He asks Willie if he has seen a house labeled "Skin Illustrations" and explains that he must find it to get revenge on the woman who tattooed his body. Carl elaborates on his story, saying that the woman's name was Felicia and he met her because he was lonely.

Meeting Felicia

Carl tells Willie about his first encounter with Felicia. She tattooed a rose on his hand telling them he would always have a rose from Felicia with him. Carl tells the stranger that sometimes when you look at the illustrations on his body, you can look into the future. He then talks about how he and Felicia were transported to a future world in which they had children as she created one of the illustrations. Carl became disenfranchised with this future world where nightmares could become real. He wakes up from his future dream wanting to leave Felicia's house and she urges him to stay because of how beautiful she will be when the illustrations are done.


Willie begins to see futuristic visions once he looks into the illustrations on Carl's body. First, he sees a vision in which he and Carl are both serving in a military group. The entire group becomes angry with one another as they are stranded in cold, rainy weather conditions. Willie's vision shifts to the future world where Carl and Felicia live together. He sees a vision in which Carl has killed his own children and wakes up from it angry at Carl. Carl explains that he has not killed anyone, but if he ever finds Felicia again in real life, he will kill her.


Willie starts to lose his trust in Carl and thinks his whole story is false. Carl tells him that he wouldn't be able to see visions in the illustrations if all of his story wasn't true. While Carl is sleeping, Willie sees a vision in his skin that he is being strangled by Carl. Willie panics and bashes Carl over the head with a rock. Willie runs off, terrified by what he has done and confused by all he has seen. Carl slowly gets up and the movie ends with a shot of Willie continuing to run away from the scene of his crime as Carl's dog chases him.

About the Author

Brian Vaughan is a freelance writer based in Springfield, Mo. He has been writing short stories, reviews and essays for over eight years and is currently pursuing a degree in professional writing at Missouri State University.