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Things to Come

Things to Come

4.1 6
Director: William Cameron Menzies

Cast: Raymond Massey, Cedric Hardwicke, Edward Chapman


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H. G. Wells was both the author of the original source -- an essay, rather than an actual novel, concerning mankind's future -- and the screenplay (in conjunction with Lajos Biro) of this epic science fiction tale, but it was producer Alexander Korda who framed the terms on which it is presented, vast and elegant, and visually striking. Opening in the year 1940, we


H. G. Wells was both the author of the original source -- an essay, rather than an actual novel, concerning mankind's future -- and the screenplay (in conjunction with Lajos Biro) of this epic science fiction tale, but it was producer Alexander Korda who framed the terms on which it is presented, vast and elegant, and visually striking. Opening in the year 1940, we see the next century of human history unfold, initially with amazing prescience. In Everytown (a stand-in for London) in 1940, the people prepare to celebrate Christmas amid rumors and rumblings of war -- forward-thinking pacifists like John Cabal (Raymond Massey) try to raise concerns amid a populace either too fearful to think about the risks, or so pleased with business conditions that they're oblivious to the downside of war. And then it comes, devastating Everytown (in scenes shockingly close to the actual World War II London blitz, a half-decade away when these scenes were written) and the country, and finally the world. After 30 years, the war goes on, except that there are no more nations to fight it, only isolated petty fiefdoms ruled by brigand-like strongmen, running gangs organized like tiny armies. Among the most ruthless and successful of them is Rudolph (Ralph Richardson), who runs what's left of Everytown. He keeps his people in line by force, and his war with his neighbors going with his bedraggled troops, while pressuring the tiny handful of scientists, mechanics, and pilots to keep as many of the aging, decrepit planes as they can operating. A few educated men around him -- whom he doesn't really trust -- try to resist the worst of his plans and orders, while going through the motions of carrying them out. And then, one day, out of the sky comes a plane the like of which they've never seen before, sleek and fast, and piloted by a mysterious man whom Rudolph orders imprisoned. It is John Cabal, older but just as dedicated to the cause of peace, and ready to fight for it. He announces the existence of a new order, run by a society of engineers and scientists, called Wings Over The World, here to re-establish civilization. Rudolph will hear none of it, thinking instead to use Cabal's plane and those of any of his friends who follow as weapons of war -- but Rudolph's wife Roxana (Marguerite Scott) sees the wisdom of what Cabal offers and helps him. The bombers of Wings Over The World drop the Gas of Peace, which puts the entire population of Everytown to sleep -- all except Rudolph, who goes down fighting and dies -- allowing the army of the Airmen to enter and free the city. Seventy years go by, during which the Earth is transformed and a new civilization rises, led by scientists and engineers. Immense towers now rise into the sky, and the population is freed from most of the concerns that ever led to it war. In fact, a new complacency starts to take hold amid a populace for whom most needs are now easily met -- all except the leaders, engineers who keep advancing, year after year, with new projects and goals. And now, having conquered the Earth and all of the challenges it has to offer, Oswald Cabal (Raymond Massey), the great-grandson of John and the current leader, is about to embark on the grandest project of all, moving into deep space. The first launch of a manned vehicle, fired by the Space Gun, is about to take place. But there is discontent being spread by the sculptor Theotocopulos (Cedric Hardwicke), who is weary and distressed from this constant push toward new advances and progress -- he wants mankind to reassert itself over this ever-advancing technology, and sees the Space Gun and all it represents as a new threat. In a speech, he exhorts the restive populace to stop the launch. They proceed, en masse, to attack the Space Gun, while Cabal struggles to beat them to their objective and take the next bold step into space. "All of the Universe," he declares, "or nothing -- which shall it be?"

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

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


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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.