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Things to Come

Things to Come

4.1 6
Director: William Cameron Menzies, Raymond Massey, Cedric Hardwicke, Edward Chapman

Cast: William Cameron Menzies, Raymond Massey, Cedric Hardwicke, Edward Chapman


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Filmed on an epic scale, producer Alexander Korda's Things to Come was adapted by H.G. Wells from his own prognosticative 1933 essay The Shape of Things to Come. Covering 94 years -- from 1940 through 2036 -- the film is set in the London-like metropolis of Everytown. Despite the strenuous efforts of such intellectual pacifists as John Cabal (Raymond


Filmed on an epic scale, producer Alexander Korda's Things to Come was adapted by H.G. Wells from his own prognosticative 1933 essay The Shape of Things to Come. Covering 94 years -- from 1940 through 2036 -- the film is set in the London-like metropolis of Everytown. Despite the strenuous efforts of such intellectual pacifists as John Cabal (Raymond Massey), a second world war is declared. The special-effects scenes of the bombing raid on Everytown are all the more remarkable when one compares this footage with scenes from the actual London Blitz, which was still four years in the future. The war drags on for nearly three decades, spreading disease and devastation throughout the land. By 1966, Everytown has returned to the Dark Ages, with the brutish Boss (Ralph Richardson) holding court over the bedraggled survivors. A few scientists hold on to the belief that the world might still be saved through technology; their prayers are answered when an aged John Cabal, piloting a bizarre-looking aircraft, lands in Everytown. Representing a foresighted organization called Wings Over the World, Cabal declares that a new civilization can rise phoenix-like from the ashes of the old -- if only the people will put their faith in science. The Boss tries to prevent Wings Over the World from usurping his power, only to die from exhaustion in the effort. An eye-popping, reel-length montage depicts the technological advances made by Cabal and his ilk over the next 70 years. When next we see Everytown, the year is 2036. This is a Brave New World of automation, artificial sunlight, and state-of-the-art telecommunications. Still, there are those who don't like all this progress, chief among them disgruntled sculptor Theotocopulos (Cedric Hardwicke). Believing that humanity has been sacrificed for the sake of technology, Theotocopulos leads an attack on a missile base, where a huge cannon-like device prepares to hurl the first manned spacecraft to the moon. The film closes with the great-grandson of John Cabal (again Massey), gesturing toward the heavens, predicting the wonders to come: "All the universe...or nothing. Which shall it be?" Though its special effects and production design are undeniably impressive, Things to Come seldom involves us emotionally. Perhaps Theotocopulos was right all along: humanity does fly out the window when machinery takes over. Despite its air of detachment, Things to Come is a monumental film achievement, enhanced beyond measure by Arthur Bliss' grandiose music score.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Things To Come came about because of a multitude of forces and events. Producer Alexander Korda's wanted to dramatize the future -- as projected through the imagination of author H. G. Wells -- in the same terms that he had dramatized the past, in movies such as The Private Life of Henry VIII. And author H. G. Wells -- by then more of a political philosopher than a best-selling author -- was intrigued by the idea of putting his visionary work on the big screen. Additionally, Wells saw an opportunity to outdo a then-recent attempt at science fiction -- Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) -- that he had ridiculed; what he turned in was a script that asked many of the same questions, about how man and technology can and should interact, without the religious symbolism that crops up throughout Thea Von Harbou's screenplay for Lang's movie, but peopled, nonetheless, by characters intended to voice and embody various philosophical ideas and accepted human traits. Korda gave Wells a level of control over the movie that was unprecedented for an author or even a screenwriter (and Wells was both) -- right down to the casting of roles (and recasting them after they were filmed) -- but the movie still ended up with many of the attributes associated with Korda's London Films. These include exceptionally high production values, striking sets and costumes, and a carefully laid out script with a handful of major actors in finely wrought roles -- as great and would-be great men -- surrounded by fine character players. Indeed, in these areas, and also that of music -- with a score authored by no less a figure than Sir Arthur Bliss -- the movie's credentials and attributes were impeccable. And visually it is a stunning work, and the portrayals of various iconic and symbolic characters makes the movie seem all the more profound and important, in this setting. But for all of that grandeur of gesture and dialogue, and its visual opulence, and extraordinary special effects, Things To Come was a critical and box office disappointment, a curiosity that left viewers and reviewers of the time cold, principally because it failed to deliver in one essential area: drama. Wells may rightfully have found fault with some of the logic, science, engineering, and ideology of Lang's Metropolis, but the characters in that movie, whatever their dramatic shortcomings, at least displayed some emotional resonances, with each other and to the audience -- not so the characters in Things To Come, who are almost self-consciously iconic and symbolic, rather thsn dramatic. Director William Cameron Menzies was one of the cinema's great production designers -- in fact, the man who defined the job -- but working within the contraints of what author H. G. Wells would allow, was unable to deliver a dramatically satisfying film. What Menzies, Wells, and Korda between them devised was a technically beautiful, visually stunning movie that was so dark emotionally, and devoid of emotional life at its center, that audiences couldn't resonate to it in the least. Raymond Massey and the rest of the cast try hard, within the limits of the script, but only Ralph Richardson, in the role of the brutish, fascistic Rudolph, and Margaretta Scott as his ambitious and far-sighted wife Roxana, bring much that is emotionally identifiable and resonant to their roles, which are confined to the middle of the picture. (Scott had a second role, in the last third of the movie, as the descendant of her earlier character, but it was cut out during the final edit before release, though stills of her in that part survive, as they do of Ernest Thesiger in the role of Theotocopolus, played in the final cut of the movie by Cedric Hardwicke). In most of the rest of the movie, the technical side and the special effects overpower most of the portrayals, and what warmth there is in the viewing mostly comes from Bliss's score, which is more complex than most people give it credit for being -- it is grandiose, yet there are sections, such as the chorale/march depicting the entry of the airmen into the ruined, postwar Everytown, that are also profoundly and memorably beautiful. Audiences in 1936 were dazzled by the special effects but put off by the movie's seeming lack of emotional reference points; modern viewers, however, with different expectations, and looking at the picture as a fascinating period piece, seem to appreciate it somewhat better, even if the final question that it asks is one that we're still wrestling with, of where and how humanity and technology can meet and reconcile.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Madacy Records
[Dolby Digital]

Special Features

Sci-fi Oscar winners; Sci-fi films; Special FX; Challenging trivia

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Raymond Massey John Cabal,Oswald Cabal
Cedric Hardwicke Theotocopulos
Edward Chapman Pippa Passworthy/Raymond Passworthy
Ralph Richardson Rudolph
Margaretta Scott Rowena,Roxana
Maurice Braddell Dr. Harding
Sophie Stewart Mrs. Cabal
Derrick de Marney Richard Gordon
Allan Jeayes Mr. Cabal
Ann Todd Mary Gordon
Pearl Argyle Katherine Cabal
Anthony Holles Simon Burton
Kenneth Villiers Maurice Passworthy
Ivan Brandt Morden Mitani
Patricia Hilliard Janet Gordon
Patrick Barr World Transport Official
Charles Carson Great Grandfather
John Clements The Airman
Paul O'Brien Actor
George Sanders Pilot
Abraham Sofaer Watsky

Technical Credits
William Cameron Menzies Director
John Armstrong Costumes/Costume Designer
Lajos Biro Screenwriter
Arthur Bliss Score Composer
Lawrence W. Butler Special Effects
Edward Cohen Special Effects
Charles Crichton Editor
Rene Hubert Costumes/Costume Designer
Jane Huizenga Production Designer
Alexander Korda Producer
Vincent Korda Production Designer
Francis D. Lyon Editor
Ned Mann Special Effects
Muir Mathieson Musical Direction/Supervision
Georges Périnal Cinematographer
H.G. Wells Screenwriter
Harry Zech Special Effects

Scene Index

Side #1 --
0. Scene Index
1. Intro [11:21]
2. Destruction [11:20]
3. Illness [11:21]
4. Interrogation [11:20]
5. Prisoner [11:20]
6. The Rescue [11:21]
7. Rebellious [11:20]
8. Uprising [11:21]


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Things to Come 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Things to come's title is the only thing wrong with this movie! It is really about a science/tech society that comes about when the old industrialism destroys itself through war(it practically predicts ww11!). Although it predicts world war two, it predicts the war lasts for decades like the old medieval wars, but that is o.k. because it is sci-fi besides, if it had successfully predicted that, Wells would have been even more right than he already is! The film gives the emotions of war, and the emotions of rational people in the face of irrational society about to destory itself! I don't know anything more emotional! The acting is better than in Superman Returns! The movie flows better than Superman Returns! The film goes on to watch society smoothly and successfully transition to advanced technological society as if all political decisions were to be made logically. Of course, this is a dream sci-fi film. Maybe if war lasted as long as he has it, a scientific group could have taken control, but I guess now we'll never know! The film continues to discuss the philosophy of life and point out that the human species is technologically dependent and about exploration if it is to survive. This movie's special effects, directing, acting, and ideas are amazing for a 1930's film! - especially considering few films have ever considered the understanding of the role of science and technology in the human condition like this one. In this day and age of humanity arguing for going back into the trees and/or world war 111 for a christian armegeddon, this is the greatest film ever!
DebbiHB More than 1 year ago
Strange but good movie This is one of the strangest movie I have seen. It had a very strange story line that I was interested in watching till the end to see how it unravels. The movie is about a guy who finds a portal to John Malco Read MoreStrange but good movie This is one of the strangest movie I have seen. It had a very strange story line that I was interested in watching till the end to see how it unravels. The movie is about a guy who finds a portal to John Malcovich's brain. Anyone who goes into the portal can watch what John Malcovich is doing and ''be'' John Malcovich for 15 minutes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hugo-Z-Hackenbush More than 1 year ago
This films only redeeming quality is its science fiction visual effects, which are still inferior to Metropolis, a decade earlier. The acting is awful, and well the script....Wells whole purpose is to convince the audience that the world should be ruled by a bunch of unelected technocrats. Why? to Wells, the individual is incapable of self government, or even electing some one to representive himself. Mankind can only be saved by science! Specifically, self appointed scientist who know what is best for the rest of us. Sound familiar? Of course in the film, everyone ends up living in a sterile futuristic underground city, but at least we're safe aren't we? While watching, I kept thinking how this film must have been looked at in 1936, when it premiered. Nazi Germany was re-arming and threatening, the Soviet Union was trying to export Marxism, and the worlds economy was still in shambles. And yet the message of this film is :submit. Only through submission will there be peace.In the film, everyone is equally culpable for mankinds disasters. Everyone except the scientist, the men of letters and learning, who like a kindly all knowing Big Brother, direct every action, thought and future. To question them is madness, for they always know best.