42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2001
This is based on H.G Wells novel of the same name. It is split into three sections - the "present" - an English metroplois called "Everytown" at peace, but with war coming. Then the war itself, and finally the far future (still in our own future).
The "Present" is 1936 - Raymond Massey plays a man with a far-seeing spirit, aware of what effects a war will have and talking in oratory tones to his friends and family. When the war comes, it is totally believable - London in the Blitz, seen a few years before it happened. There are several excellent scenes - artillery being set up in town squares, bombs falling on cinemas (remember that this was watched from those originally), the death of children under rubble. There is a sequence where an enemy pilot gives up his gasmask to save a child from his own gas, after his plane has crashed.
The second section is thirty years after the start of the war - England has splintered into separate city-states, little more than tribes. They now fight each other, believing that's how it has always been. Ralph Richardson plays the "Chief" of one tribe, who came to power by his ruthless attitude towards sufferers of a late-war plague. The "Chief" meets Massey's character - a visionary from a state far to the north, trying to re-establish order and a world state. In the conflict - of wills only, not fists - Richardson dies - as does his state.
The third section is with the descendants of the original families, now looking at the first moon rocket. The public are driven to rise up against this kind of progress, stampede for the rocket base.
All-in-all, an excellent view of the way the world could have developed from 1936 onwards. It sags at moments - Wells used the Massey character as a mouthpiece, and his viewpoint is fairly myopic, and given in a preachy, unbelievable style. It's not the film at fault though, and still enjoyable.
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 12 July 2010
I have this move in a few other editions on DVD and this is the best copy picture wise, hats off, but they obviously messed the sound up badly in the processing.
All through the movie there is an added flanging effect not heard on my other copies (even though they are probably from degenereated 16mm copies). The background noise sounds like a bumble bee in a long pipe. -An extremely annoying, garbling and hypnotic side effect.
The sound is plain awful, and it has nothing to do with the DVD-player (as someone suggested).
It is obvious that the restoring engineer can not handle digital editing effects. I am pretty sure that he/she/they added some editing plugin and then mixed the delayed and processed sound with the unprocessed (which is a big no-no) and got these terrible flanging/reverb effect.
I spent several hours trying to cancel out this bad side effect, but it can only be done partially. It is obvious that there is more than one of these delay effects layered over each other also they vary dynamically. The main one has a fixed delay of x samples, that does not vary at all through the movie, proving that it has been added in the digital editing, after transfer from the original film.I suspect it has to do with noise reduction, that they tried to touch up by mixing with some of the untreated sound. Obiously they were too dumb to understand and deaf to hear what happened. Bloody amateurs if you ask me.
I had a long conversation with Network and they finally gave up the arguing when I presented short sound clips from their version with a clip from an older DVD (probably from a 16mm copy!). It is quite obvious that the sideeffects are not there in the degraded(!) 16mm copy. So how could it be in the 32mm original!
They also said that they'd take the DVD back and that they just bought the rights to sell it on DVD and that it was the BRITTISH FILM INSTITUTE that did the actual restoring. If it is them they obviosly hired darn incompetent people. That is for sure.
I kept the DVD, though, because the picture is pretty good. I took the sound of what I think is from that 16mm copy (another DVD), processed it to get rid of the audio compression added in that copy and edited it in with the Network DVD picture.
I guess I now own the best audio/video combo of this movie (not counting the not accessible 32mm original)...
It is darn irritating to know that the movie has better sound on the 32mm film source, but that someone screwed it up completely and the unprocessed sound will probably never be accessible for someone like me to enjoy. I doubt there will be a another restauration made and that is a great pity.
It would have been a lot better if they had not processed the audio at all. Incompetent bastards.
-Sorry for the hard words, but in this case I don't think they are too hard...
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
At the time this movie was made (1935) many British studios were churning out quota quickies, cheaply made movies that were guaranteed distribution because the British government, concerned by the dominance of Hollywood movies, had decreed that British cinemas should show a given quota of British-made movies. The result was the law of unintended consequences - low budget efforts that were pretty feeble but didn't lose you money. Two studios bucked the trend with lavish productions - Gaumont British and Alexander Korda's London Films. And was there any movie of the 1930s that was more ambitious and spectacular than Korda's Things to Come? I first saw this movie as a kid when it was first shown on TV circa 1957 and although most of the movie's ideas went over my head the awesome spectacle left a lasting impression, as did Arthur Bliss' great music. Having seen this DVD release I can confirm that the spectacular sequences have lost none of their visual power - the Christmas-time prelude mixing yuletide revelries with forebodings of war, the destruction of Everytown, the building of the underground city (a visual and musical tour-de-force) and the detonation of the space gun. Alas the passing years magnify the faults. H.G. Wells vision of the future was a curious mixture of spot-on and wildly off-beam, but that's you're average visionary for you. If only Wells had been less concerned with "big ideas" and more concerned with establishing flesh-and-blood characters and a gripping story line. Raymond Massey had read Wells' original book and was well aware that the clunking script conveyed none of its qualities and yet he still delivers a performance that is stagey and hammy as does Ralph Richardson who I've always found less than convincing as the dictator of Everytown (in fairness to these fine actors Wells' ponderous and preachy dialogue does not lend itself to natural performances.) And 50 years on I still find myself asking questions like who exactly are the enemy, why is the organisation that eventually restores civilization based in Basra (of all places!) and why is Everytown rebuilt as a subterranean city? Perhaps these things were made clearer in Wells' novel (which I confess I haven't read) and in the 30 or so minutes of running time lopped off the movie shortly before its premiere (signs of frantic last minute tinkering are evident in the opening credits where Margaretta Scott, who plays the dictator's moll, is credited with playing two roles, as did Massey and Edward Chapman, but her final scenes in the Everytown of the future, as Massey's estranged wife, are missing. And when actor Ernest Thesiger turned up to the premiere he was shocked to find that all of his scenes had been reshot with Cedric Hardwicke.) And then there's that curious phenomonen of English accents which 70 years after the film was made now sound so dated to us whereas American accents sound pretty much unchanged. But whatever the faults, I know that if I'd sat and watched this movie in a cinema in 1936 it would have scared the daylights out of me.
I recorded this movie off the TV about 12 years ago and there's no doubt this remastered version with some lost footage inserted is infinitely preferable to previously available versions. I encountered no significant problems with either the picture quality or the sound, I found just one ot two scenes sub-par. There are some valuable extras. Movie buffs will appreciate the alternative version of the movie with the action interspersed with caption cards supplying the dialogue of the lost scenes.It has to be said that much of this dialogue is ponderous, didactic and quite unnatural and clearly demonstrates why Wells wasn't a man of the cinema and why the scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. They would have aided the viewer's comprehension but at the risk of trying his patience. There's also an informative essay on the making of the movie by Nick Cooper although in my view he takes a rather lenient view of Wells' incessant meddling in the production (and refers to Cedric Hardwicke as Edward.)The only dud is Russell Harty's interview with the aged and eccentric Richardson which is not devoid of interest but of no relevance to the movie.
If you want to acquire Things to Come this release in my opinion is easily the best to date and I give it top marks. (Mr Cooper has taken issue with me on the matter of how far Wells interfered in the production - click onto the comments if you're interested.)
A final note about the music. Arthur Bliss' score is, in my opinion, one of the finest movie scores of all time, indeed it has virtually acquired the status of classical music, but the surviving cut of the movie doesn't always do it justice, the famous march, for example, being heard only in fragments. Bliss composed much of the music and the tracks were commercially released before production began and these can now be obtained on the inexpensive Naxos label (linked with other golden movie oldies like the Warsaw Concerto.)Inevitably the sound is a tad muffled and boxy but the choral climax still creates that unique frisson I experienced as a kid watching the movie for the first time. A more extensive selection in a fine modern recording is available on the Chandos label. If the movie stirs you, buy them both.
Postscript. Revisiting my review after a couple of years I note that Amazon are mixing up reviews for the Network/Granada 2 disc black and white version originally released in 2007 (the subject of my review) with the Ray Harryhausen colourised version which is well done but lacking the additional scenes and extras. Readers should excercise care when placing an order to ensure they get the version they really want.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2011
Things To Come (Special Edition)  [DVD]
I won't take the time to review the film here, just the product. If you are a fan of Things to Come, the UK 2-disc Special Edition (Network, 2007) is really the only one you want to buy until an inevitable new restoration for Blu-ray is announced. The picture quality is very good, and this is the most complete version available. I look forward to a future updated high-definition restoration so that the many remaining lines and imperfections can be digitally removed. Although the disc boasts just such a digital restoration, there are many signs of age and damage still evident throughout the film.
Disc 1. The restored film and audio commentary. There is an audio commentary by Nick Cooper that, while technically informative, is delivered in a low, mumbling, monotonous tone that took me three sittings to complete. It is truly unfortunate that Network decided not to give subtitles for either the film or the audio commentary.
Disc 2. Bonus Features. A couple of very interesting features. A Ralph Richardson chat show appearance. Only tangentially relevant to Things to Come, but if you like Richardson, you'll enjoy. The other video highlight was a fascinating 1975 short by Brian Aldiss on Things to Come. The Virtual Extended Edition allows you to rewatch the film, while filling in some of the missing scenes with photographs or text -- a great bonus. I would have chosen to have Cooper deliver his audio commentary over the Virtual Extended Edition, so that he could have discussed the more complete version presented there. Both the audio commentary and the Extended Edition will appeal to cinephiles only, so they might as well have been paired. An old audio recording outlining the wandering sickness was a real gem to include.
23-page booklet that is well researched and informative. This is always a nice gift for film fans and a rare inclusion that demonstrates Network's commitment to this project.
There is simply no comparable edition to the Network 2-disc SE at this time, making this version the hands-down winner at this point. What's missing? Subtitles for the feature are required. Subtitles for the audio commentary would have been a nice touch too, so that you can watch the film with a textual commentary if you choose. The contemporaneous Things to Come (Digitally remastered in colour) [DVD]  offers none of these bonus features but presents the colorized version. For the non-purist, that is a nice alternative viewing experience, so I don't regret buying that edition as well.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I finally got round to seeing this and am ashamed that I left it so long. This is what the golden age of cinema is all about. Based on the legendary sci-fi classic by H.G. Wells who also wrote the screenplay, this is set originally in 1940 and an unidentified enemy is about to unleash war on `Everytown' which is a substitute for London - complete with the Underground. This was released in 1936 when the Germans were helping the fascist Franco unleash a wave of terror on Spain and air raids on Guernica not to mention what was unfolding in China. As the scenes of aerial bombardment begin they are strangely prophetic of what is to befall London within five years, so the impact of this can only be imagined on the audience with the benefit of hindsight.
I was gob smacked at how accurate it was. The Characters in this surround John Cabal (the absolute legend that is Raymond Massey) who is a spirited pacifist and the coterie of inhabitants. Once the war comes it does not stop. The film is set in three time zones, the initial out break of the war and then taking us through decades of fighting, where mankind is quite literally bombed back to the dark ages. Then we hit 1966 and with the ending of everything except aggression, medicine is all but non existent and a strange plague befalls the Earth, this is `The Wandering Sickness' and as the previously mentioned Dark Ages, this is like the Black Death and wipes out half of humanity. Everytown is now in ruins but is used as a microcosm of what is taking place in the rest of the World.
Soon the disease burns itself out and what emerges and dictatorial leaders that rule their fiefdoms, in this case it is Rudolph, played completely over the top by the marvellous Ralph Richardson who is now at war with neighbouring tribes. The future comes in the shape of a strange aeroplane which leads us on to the final of the three parts of the film and the existentialist dilemmas of progress versus contentment.
This is visually stunning especially given when it was made, depending on the version you get, the sound quality is a bit dated too, but a fully restored version is available which is umpteen times better, so if you are buying then that is the one to go for. There are some brilliant touches in this, almost iconic shots, such as the child buried under the rubble, the cinema blowing up, the Rolls Royce being pulled by horses and the scenes of the future where fashion has been lost along with old world architecture - marvellous.
This is for all serious fans of cinema and especially those with an interest in the history of cinema, I was transfixed and I know this will be one of those rare films that stay with me for a long while I utterly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 November 2011
Just here to echo RogerJoensson's review - the restored picture of this SF classic is superb given its age, but to my far-less-than-perfect-ears the audio frequently sounds like it's being relayed through a warbling frog that's simultaneously being gargled by a flatulent bulldog. There's a severe reverb effect going on, which frequently makes voices incredibly difficult to distinguish over the background hum (and there are no subtitles available either). This is present in the soundtrack itself (I watch these things through my computer and went to the bother of pulling the audio to bits to figure out what's wrong with it) and I've not found any post-processing that'll negate the frankly incompetent audio mix. Like him, I'm going to have to source an unprocessed soundtrack and combine it with this video to get a "cinematic" version of this little gem.
Make no mistake though, I won't be returning the DVD since the sound is at least serviceable and if you're on the fence I wouldn't suggest missing out on a great film solely because of it (judging from the comments a lot of people don't notice the poor sound anyway), but it's a shame that in doing such a great job on the image restoration that the sound has been messed up. As a brit SF fan I also found the commentary and extra features on the second disc very interesting, and it's a shame in these days of CGI-anything-you-want that there are few studios displaying the amount of ingenuity apparent here.
A great film for all fans of SF, marred by a dodgy audio job.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2010
Alexander Korda's "Things to Come" is a film condensation of H.G.Wells's long dissertaion/novel "The Shape of Things to Come". There are strong performances throughout, although a bit histrionic by today's standards, by such luminaries as Ralph Richardson, Raymond Massey and Margaretta Scott. But it is the special effects that astound; from the bombing of Everytown in 1940 (prophetic indeed as the film was released in 1936) to the breathtaking panoramas of a 23rd Century world - and all before CGI was even thought of. Strange how the costumes and make-up are solidly 1930's, just as the cast of 'Star Trek' looks relentlessly 1960's on TV today. "Things to Come" is a true classic from every cinematic point of view.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2010
Things To Come (Special Edition)  [DVD]
I must agree with the review by Roger Joensson that the sound is not as good as it could be on this release. It has that odd "listening through a cardboard tube" quality that reminds one of the early attempts on video releases to create a stereo sound from a mono source, however I did not find it as distracting as Mr. Joensson.
But, FINALLY, we have a print, although still incomplete, that runs longer than any other available. I once saw a print this complete on a U.S. television station in the 1980s, and have been on the lookout for a video release of a matching length since then. Every video version I tried was always missing the same scenes, UNTIL NOW. The picture quality is quite good, and I highly recommend this particular version for those who might be undecided on which version to get.
Disc two attempts to give you an idea of what the complete film might be like, by showing the film again, but with the insertion of title cards containing the missing dialouge, plus a few stills when available, at the points where the scenes would have occured. As opposed to the reconstructions of such films as LOST HORIZON and A STAR IS BORN however, where at least portions of the soundtrack still existed, these bits of stills and words are silent and really bring the film to a standstill. It's nice as an historical reference work, but not as entertainment.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Things to Come is an unusual film with an unusual history. It plays on several levels, the most important being its anti-war message. H.G. Wells, from whose book The Shape of Things to Come this film was adapted, was a man deeply opposed to war. As the twentieth century progressed, Wells worried greatly about the future of man and society; he studied the past, publishing the impressive nonfiction book The Outline of History, and he began imagining the future - as it might be and how he might like it to be. His embrace of science remained true, but it was a more tenuous embrace, one espousing both fear and hope. Things to Come, released in 1936, takes up these ideas - some of them, anyway, as some of the more controversial aspects of the novel The Shape of Things to Come were ignored in the emphasis on the horrors of war.
The movie opens on a Christmas night in 1940; the residents of Everytown argue the possibility of war among themselves, only to have the holy night shattered by a bombing attack on the town. The world quickly descends into major warfare, and we are treated to a number of images of the spreading conflict. The war is made to look as frightening as possible, featuring frightened masses, decimated buildings, and the curse of gas warfare. Then the movie shifts to the year 1970. Three decades of constant warfare have brought civilization to its knees, and the Wandering Sickness has wiped out half of the human population. Local warlords rule their own little fiefdoms, and the Chief we are introduced to is still dangling the prospects of peace in order to sell continued warfare. The weapons of mass destruction are in short supply now; his only mechanic has been unable to repair the few remaining airplanes, and there is no petrol for them even if they could get airborne. Into this backwards world of modern barbarians comes John Cabal - arriving in a modern airplane, of all things. Cabal represents Wings Over the World, a new society made up of airmen and scientists committed to remolding the world (and social order) and eliminating war. The Chief, naturally, rejects Cabal's overtures, refusing to give up his hard-won authority and martial aspirations. Cabal's friends soon come to rescue him, flying in on a fleet of impressive airplanes armed with "the gas of peace."
The final third of the movie takes place in the year 2030. John Cabal and his scientists succeeded in their mission to reshape human society under their influence. The futuristic city is impressive - immaculate, gleaming white, and technologically rich. Cabal's ancestor now holds the position of authority, and he is totally committed to a new course of space exploration. The "Big Gun" is built and ready to send two intrepid young explorers around the moon. You might expect the citizens to be shining, happy people - but they're not. One man in particular, an artist named Theotocopoulos, leads a reactionary people's revolt against the follies of "progress." He says the time has come to rest on society's laurels, not waste the people's money and energy on frivolous projects such as the Big Gun. Suddenly, it's a race against time to fire the Big Gun before it is destroyed. The drama draws a sharp line between the two choices for the future. Cabal actually comes across here as slightly mad in his final "Which will it be?" moral speech, daring to dream of conquering the entire universe in the name of science, resulting in a sense of ambivalence toward science I found a little confusing.
The filmmakers had no fear of melodrama, as several scenes essentially drip with sappiness. The dialogue is somewhat stilted, as the important characters, particularly the Cabals, give speeches rather than merely speak. As for the look and special effects of the film, we're talking about some amazing stuff for the year 1936 - the film company spent a bundle on this film, and it shows. The scenes of warfare are particularly impressive -so impressive and disturbing that the movie-going public did not really warm up to the film - after all, the horrors of war were still rather fresh on their minds. As things turned out, Things to Come would play better to future generations than to its contemporaneous one. What does the film's lack of success in 1936 mean to you, the viewer? More than you might think. The film was not preserved the way it might have been, and the prints that fell into the public domain were of disappointing quality. I can't speak to the merit of this DVD, but I can say the print of the film I saw was exceedingly dark, making much of the first third of the movie very difficult to see.
This film is a true time capsule, though, and it works much better than most "prophetic" movies of its kind. Much of the acting and dialogue appears quite dated, but the themes of this movie are eternal - in fact, they are probably more important and applicable now than they have ever been. Its endorsement of a one-world government will not go over well in many places (especially my house, as the very idea is anathema to me), and I find its rejection of warfare quite naïve (especially in the world of today), but this is a very important, instructive look at man and society (as well as an underappreciated masterpiece of science fiction).
59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2007
This first portion of the review applies only to the Network/Granada remastered 2-disc set.
This is an important movie in the history of cinema and a decent DVD is needed in view of the many poor-quality versions available. Unfortunately, this is not it.
The first impression is encouraging - nicely presented 2-disc set with an excellent booklet of informative notes. The contents list of the second disc raises expectations - interviews with Ralph Richardson and Brian Aldiss.
To be fair, the visual appearance is not bad. The scratches and fuzz of other currently circulating versions have gone and the optical "print" is crisp and bright, though there is still too much flicker than would be expected from a good remastering, let alone one "painstakingly restored in High Definition".
But the sound is absolutely abysmal, so bad as to prevent any real enjoyment of the film. It is badly muffled, boomy, echo-y and accompanied by overwhelmingly loud background roars and hums. At times it is so bad that the dialogue cannot be heard. The important film music by Sir Arthur Bliss is especially badly served - it is so muffled and boomy as to be impossible to hear properly, let alone enjoy. It is obviously not the fault of the original film sound track because the same faults exist (admittedly to a lesser extent) in the accompanying special features disc. The beginning of the second half of the interview with Ralph Richardson is particularly bad and the interview with Brian Aldiss has a continuous background roar which occasionally makes him impossible to hear.
To put out a DVD "remastering" with sound faults like this, when today even old mechanically-recorded 78s can be made to sound presentable is unforgivable. I would imagine Dolby would be horrified to see their logo on the case.
It is disgraceful that the opportunity to create a definitive record of this important movie for posterity has been wasted. And also disgraceful that I have laid out £16.98 on this atrocity. Network/Granada (whose names appear on the case and are therefore presumably responsible) should be thoroughly ashamed.
Since writing the above, I have complained to Sony UK who imediately and without question sent another copy, saying that my original must have had a "one-off fault".
The replacement has far less bass boost on the sound track. Dialogue and music can be heard, though at times indistinctly. It is a big improvement, but still nowhere near the sound quality one would expect of a film "remastered in High Definition" and carrying the Dolby logo. There is still no excuse, given the number of sound recording experts around capable of extracting excellent quality from old recorded media.
Amazon is lumping together reviews of this Network remastered 2-disc set with reviews of Ray Harryhausen's colourised version, which must be very confusing for anyone coming fresh to buying a DVD of this classic movie.
Since writing the above review of the Network version, I bought the Harryhausen colourised version so that I could watch the film without the awful sound. I was prepared to be sniffy about the colour - you know, classic film buff's admiration of the purity of the black and white image and all that. Well, the colourised version is fine. If you expect the super-saturated Technicolor colours you are accustomed to, you probably will be disappointed, because colourising an existing b&w image doesn't work like that. It produces a more natural, watercolour-like image which I find more lifelike. While I frankly prefer the original b&w, I find this version very acceptable. Furthermore, the image is very stable, without all the flickering and rapid changes in brightness of the Network 2-disc version. Most of all, the sound is good, in contrast to the appalling sound of the Network b&w remastered version.
If you just want to watch Korda's classic version of H.G. Wells' 'Things to Come', and you are not bothered about all us geeky classic film buffs nerdy prejudices, the Ray Harryhausen colourised version IS THE ONE!