on 7 April 2016
THINGS TO COME [1936 / 2012] [Blu-ray] A Mighty Challenge To The World! Sweeping Across The Screen 100 Year Ahead of Its Time!
A future history as scripted by the visionary writer H.G. Wells, “Things To Come” set a high benchmark for science fiction with its fantastic design, gigantic sets and spectacular special effects. Acknowledged as a landmark within the genre, Oscar-winning William Cameron Menzies creates an astounding vision of post-war desolation and utopian futurism.
Starring Oscar-nominated Raymond Massey as John Cabal and his descendants and the award-winning Ralph Richardson as The Boss, ‘THINGS TO COME’ showcase a gorgeous, and instantly recognisable, score by Arthur Bliss. Presented for the first time in High Definition, this version of ‘THINGS TO COME’ has been painstakingly restored from the remaining film elements and represents the most complete version known to exist.
It is Christmas 1940 and the people of Everytown, unprepared and ill-equipped, find themselves at war against an enemy who has been planning such a conflict for years. The land is devastated by the horrors of aerial bombardment as the war drags on for thirty years, causing a period of despair, with feudal tyrants ruling a downtrodden populace suffering famine and pestilence. Can the human race rise above its desperate circumstances and build a scientific utopia?
FILM FACT: All of Theotocopulos's scenes were originally shot with Ernest Thesiger in the role, but H.G. Wells found his performance to be unsatisfactory, so he was replaced with Cedric Hardwicke and the footage re-shot. Terry-Thomas, who would become known for his comic acting, has an uncredited appearance as an extra in the film, playing a "man of the future." It was his seventh film appearance.
Cast: Raymond Massey, Edward Chapman, Sir Ralph Richardson, Margaretta Scott, Cedric Hardwicke, Maurice Braddell, Sophie Stewart, Derrick De Marney, Ann Todd, Pearl Argyle, Kenneth Villiers, Ivan Brandt, Anne McLaren, Patricia Hilliard, Charles Carson, Patrick Barr (uncredited), Noel Brophy (uncredited), John Clements (uncredited), Anthony Holles (uncredited), Allan Jeayes (uncredited), Pickles Livingston (uncredited), George Sanders (uncredited), Abraham Sofaer (uncredited) and Terry-Thomas (uncredited)
Director: William Cameron Menzies
Producer: Alexander Korda
Screenplay: H.G. Wells (1933 novel)
Composer: Arthur Bliss
Cinematography: Georges Périnal
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Mono Audio
Running Time: 96 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 2
Studio: United Artists / Network
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: One of the most characteristic aspects of science fiction in the 1930s is its being influenced by another fantastic genre horror, so intensively that in many cases it is hardly possible to establish a dividing line between these two categories of fantastic creation. There are very few science fiction films which are exclusively devoted to considering scientific and societal evolution in terms of an extrapolation into the future. An exception is the Britishh film of 1936, ‘THINGS TO COME.’ The book on which the film is based, “The Shape of Things to Come,” is a speculative continuation of H.G. Wells's “The Outline of History” and is, according to the author, "basically an imaginative discussion about social and political forces and possibilities." The story of the film covers a period of 100 years of civilization. It begins in 1940, in a time permeated by fear of an imminent war which finally explodes and lasts 25 years. During that period, the entire globe is devastated and almost all of mankind exterminated. However, the human will and spirit remain active, and so at the end of the book, in 2040, a completely different world is depicted, in which human hardships have been eliminated and man is assured of all his material as well as mental needs. Progress is unrelenting as mankind plans to leave Mother Earth and take over the universe.
Released in 1936, ‘THINGS TO COME,’ and adapted by H.G. Wells from his own 1933 science fiction novel “The Shape of Things to Come,” was the most ambitious production to date from Alexander Korda's London Films, and cemented its reputation for producing intelligent drama on an epic scale.
H.G. Wells's work fascinated and still fascinates readers by its original images of the future. Wells himself, however, valued more highly his scientific studies than his fiction, and so the speculative aspect of Things to Come receives more attention than the story. The plot of the film proceeds from Wells's assumption that a war will mean the end of the Western civilization. The structure of the story is based on a conflict of two forces always present in humanity's evolution. One of them represents chaos and regression and encourages man's barbaric nature; and the other represents order, healthy reasoning, and scientific progress. When these forces collide, science and intellect win although this victory will always be threatened by other pressures, due to our imperfect understanding of how best to invest our human resources.
‘THINGS TO COME’ was an ambitious project with a vast scope - covering a century of future history and a scale to match: enormous sets, particularly in the sequences set in 2036, thousands of extras, and imaginative design and editing. Several of the performances are equally impressive, notably Raymond Massey as the messianic Cabal and Ralph Richardson as the thuggish 'Boss', a role he modelled explicitly on Mussolini and the Italian dictator's response was to ban the film outright in Italian cinemas.
However the human story at times feels overshadowed by the design, with the ending, particularly, lacking impact. The film's overwhelming seriousness is a problem, although understandable given the immediate fear of war. But it still has moments of real power, including a subtle and moving scene in which an airman [John Clements] offers his gas mask to a young girl whose town he has just attacked, as well as the dazzling montage of the re-building of Everytown.
‘THINGS TO COME’ offered a very different vision of the future to Fritz Lang's German classic ‘Metropolis’ , to which it was inevitably compared; H.G. Wells was scathing in his criticism of Lang's film, which offered a portrait of a world enslaved by science. By contrast, H.G. Wells saw science as a promise of mankind's salvation. But one comment that no one else has mentioned in any of the film reviews I have read, especially about this very prophetic H.G. Wells ‘THINGS TO COME’ 1936 film, is that you see near the end of the film one male and a child watching a Flat Screen Widescreen Television of times of old in how people use to live in buildings different to the year 2036, so how in 1936 would they have known that we would have this type of television in the 21st century, now that is something to think about and someone must have been able to realise that is how television would progress in the future.
The design of the film ‘THINGS TO COME’ presented one of the greatest challenges, particularly the representation of the fabulous Everytown of the future. H.G. Wells approached legendary artist Fernand Léger, architect Le Corbusier and Bauhaus legend László Moholy-Nagy before finally settling on in-house talent in the form of Vincent Korda and his own son Frank Wells. Some 90 seconds of Moholy-Nagy's apparently designs made the final cut, but he is not credited.
Because ‘THINGS TO COME’ dares to attempt something that no film before and few films since have even tried: enormous in scope, it tries to encompass the whole of mankind’s foreseeable future into a single comprehensible narrative. Its cast is literally every human being on earth. The only other sci-fi film I can think of those even attempts such a long view is ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ Besides that, the fil is often visually striking, and for a film from 1936 to appear visually stunning nowadays is quite an achievement. There are dozens of memorable images throughout the film which will be carried away by the viewer for a long time to come.
The ‘THINGS TO COME’ film is certainly less glossy and shallow than much of Alexander Korda's output, but was not a great success, perhaps because the real threat of war was something people preferred not to be reminded of. Regardless, its relative failure probably confirmed Korda in his preference for lighter subjects. A second Alexander Korda/H.G. Wells association collaboration produced the film ‘The Man Who Could Work Miracles’ [1937 which was directed by Lothar Mendes, and was notably more whimsical in tone.
Blu-ray Video Quality – ‘THINGS TO COME’ Blu-ray is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with a 1080p image transfer, courtesy of the British distributors Network. There are dramatic improvements in every single area we typically address in our reviews. Detail and especially clarity are very good. The daylight footage in particular often looks spectacular, especially the larger panoramic shots. The night-time footage also conveys surprisingly good depth. I was particularly impressed by the excellent balance between the greys and blacks and take a look at our screenshots and notice how the blacks and greys never overwhelm each other. Furthermore, there is a layer of fine and well resolved grain throughout the entire film. More importantly, however, there are no traces of problematic lab tinkering, because this Blu-ray release truly is a prime example of how when an older film is left to breathe the results are very impressive. Finally, occasionally there are tiny light vertical lines or very small scratches that pop up here and there, but it is quite obvious that enough was done to remove as many of them as possible without affecting the integrity of the film. A few minor transition issues are present as well, but again, considering the fact that different elements were used to assemble this version of the film; the final result is indeed enormously satisfying. Indeed, this is one truly fabulous restoration. Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – ‘THINGS TO COME’ Blu-ray is presented with only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc 2.0 LPCM Mono Audio. Network has also provided optional yellow English SDH subtitles for the main feature. There are some minor fluctuations in the mid and high-frequencies, most likely inherited and impossible to fully address with current digital tools. Depth and crispness are not compromised, but occasionally the dialog is not well rounded. Generally speaking, Arthur Bliss' famous orchestral score is stable, though its dynamic intensity is quite limited. There is no heavy background hiss. All in all, the audio appears to have been optimized quite well, likely as best as possible.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
DISC ONE – BLU-RAY:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with ‘Things to Come’ expert Nick Cooper: Here Nick Cooper welcomes us to his audio commentary on the 1936 film ‘THINGS TO COME,’ and where he points out that the proper Title of the film is H.G. WELLS’ ‘THINGS TO COME,’ which reflects H.G. Wells big influence and involvement in the film and his stature as a writer at the time the film was made. When we get to the start of the film where we get the wording “Everytown” appears, Nick points out that is obviously based on London. We get to see all the people walking about, but in the background we constantly get the warning that WAR is looming and at the time he wrote the novel, H.G. Wells thought that the 2nd World War will eventually happen. We find out from Nick that the original length of the cinema release in 1936, with the rough cut was supposed to be 130 minutes long, but the British Board of Censors in 1936 certified it for 117 minutes long, but for a long time there was only a print available in the UK that was just under 93 minutes, but with this Blu-ray release there are four reinstated scenes, which takes this USA release to just over 96 minutes. Essentially the film suffered from development nightmares, where H.G. Wells brought out a draft script that was totally impractible, so was made to produce a second screenplay that is what we view with this Blu-ray. The reason the film is much shorter, because it was felt that the 1936 film was very ground-breaking and the audience at the time would not of enjoyed the longer version, but in bringing this 1936 film to the screen it was felt that H.G. Wells was showing his belief that this is what would happen after a devastating war on the scale witness in the film and H.G. Wells also thought that society would organise itself in the way it is portrayed in the film. When we see the futuristic planes flying over “Everytown” there was an initial discussion on how the planes should be flown, especially whether they should have propellers, or should they be jet powered or even rocket power, but felt audiences would not accept advance driven aeroplanes, so decided to go with propellers. With the building of the “New Everytown” we get to see machinery working and the effects were very ground-breaking for audiences in 1936. When H.G. Wells wrote the screenplay for ‘THINGS TO COME’ he was paid £10,000, which into days money it would be equivalent to £500,000, which was originally for a four film deal, for his collaboration, but in the end only two films were made and that was ‘THINGS TO COME’ and ‘The Man Who Could Work Miracles.’ Finally, we come to this audio commentary with Nick Cooper, which I fond rather dull, especially he is far too soft spoken and in the end I found it slightly boring and he tended to waffle a lot on stuff that did not interest me, I also had to crank the sound up, which didn’t help my enjoyment of this audio commentary, but despite this, there were hints of interesting information of behind-the-scene information of the making of the film ‘THINGS TO COME.’ But all in all it was okay, but when I view this Blu-ray again, I certainly will not be listening to this audio commentary.
Special Feature: Comprehensive Image Gallery  [1080p] [17:22] Here we have a collection of 249 stunning rare black-and-white images courtesy of ‘THINGS TO COME’ expert Nick Cooper. The collection contains rare images from the film as well as scenes that were shot but either no longer exists or never made it to the original theatrical print. Various photographs are grouped together with short text-format descriptions.
Special Feature: Merchandise Image Gallery  [1080p] [8:37] With this second collection of 166 unique rare black-and-white and colour images from ‘THINGS TO COME’ which again comes from expert Nick Cooper's personal archive of memorabilia. The collection contains promo materials, magazine supplements, press materials, sheet music, trade adverts, posters, and a lot more.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [1.33:1] [4:07] This is the USA re-release of the Original Theatrical Trailer for ‘THINGS TO COME.’
DISC TWO – DVD:
Special Feature: ‘THINGS TO COME’ – Virtual Extended Edition  [590i] [1.33:1] [94:00] Though this restored version of ‘THINGS TO COME,’ presented on this DVD disc, is the longest-running print known to exist, compared to its original theatrical run-time that was significantly longer. Though this DVD version is now lost. Additionally, there were a number of scenes that were either filmed and not used or not filmed at all. This “Virtual Extended Edition” of ‘THINGS TO COME,’ is an expansion of the print on this disc in such a way as to include cue-cards at various points detailing additional dialogue and scenes. This is not a “Director's Cut” of ‘THINGS TO COME,’ or even an attempt to reconstruct the original theatrical version. A viewing option allowing for the inclusion of text and images from long-missing and un-filmed scenes to present a tantalising “What If?” in attempt to show what possibly could have been . . . But what I can say is that for this particular film version of ‘THINGS TO COME,’ released on this DVD is truly excellent and stunning quality. But after viewing it, I can see why they released the shorter very 0f 96 minutes, as it tended to drag on far too long, and is very wordy, so I feel the shorter version is the best viewing experience.
Special Feature: Sir Ralph Richardson interview with Russell Harty  [590i] [1.33:1] [41:02] Eccentric acting great, Sir Ralph Richardson, talks with host Russell Harty on the British talk show in London on the 26th September, 1975, Sir Ralph Richardson went on London Weekend Television and gave an interview with Russell Harty, which he gave his finest stage performances in this jolly romp of a TV special, and he sure showed that he was a freewheeling and free-associating, seeming artless in his candour, yet laying artful diversionary smoke screens whenever anything central to his privacy appeared to be threatened. We were watching a master mesmerist. We find out that when he was a young child he was always very seriously ill and hardly went to school, but when he did he hated it. At the time of this TV broadcast, Sir Ralph Richardson was appearing in a Harold Pinter play entitled “No Man’s Land” at The National Theatre in London. Sir Ralph Richardson informs us that he is not happy with his looks and says, “I have seen better looking hot cross buns.” Russell Harty asks Sir Ralph Richardson about all the countries he has performed in and what ones were the happiest to perform in, and Sir Ralph Richardson says that he enjoyed working in Australia and found it very charming, he also enjoyed working in America several times, but would not like to live there, because he loves where he lives in London overlooking Regents Park. We find out that Sir Ralph Richardson admires Engineers, because they are able to build things and are very clever, he also admire Explorers as they will go to places deep underground that he would never ever dare to do so and finds them fascinating to talk to. As we get near to the end of the interview, Sir Ralph Richardson brings up a poem that Russell Harty quoted at Sir Ralph Richardson’s home and was by John Keats entitled “Ode to Autumn” and happened to bring it with him and Sir Ralph Richardson decides to read the full poem in front of the audience, and was a fitting end to one of the most interesting and fascinating interview with this brilliant and eccentric acting great Sir Ralph Richardson.
Special Feature: On Reflection: Brian Aldiss on H.G. Wells  [480i] [1.33:1] [23:36] This is a rare filmed documentary and was originally broadcast on ITV on the 28th February, 1971. Here we find Brian Aldiss outside the last house at Hanover Terrace that H.G. Wells lived in before he passed away, which is opposite Regents park in London. Brian Aldiss talks about when H.G. Wells was growing up as a young child and was very think and sickly child and was afflicted by Tuberculous. But over his many years when he started to become a writer of his novels, he was very prophetic in all of his novels, but was also a human dynamo, and a great ladies man, and the public put H.G. Wells on a pedestal in the same ways as Charles Dickens. Although H.G. Wells travelled all over the world, it was his London home that he preferred to be in and loved the best, but at the same time thought London was a complete muddle. H.G. Wells was born in London Borough of Bromley and his parents Sarah Neal and Joseph Wells. His father, Joseph, owned a shop but made more money coaching and playing professional cricket. After an injury prevented Joseph from playing cricket, Sarah, Herbert’s mother, worked as a maid and housekeeper. A working wife ended the family’s claim to middle-class status. H.G. Wells made much of this, perhaps exaggerated, his family’s struggles, and his characters often struggled with the conflicts of social respectability, personal satisfaction, and happiness. It is almost impossible to overstate the influence H.G. Wells had on the emerging field of science fiction. Trained in science and as a teacher, Wells was also intensely political: he was a socialist, a radical, and a supporter of a planned world state. In his fiction, Wells often combined his pedagogical tendencies with his political concerns, but that in no way affected the creativity and high literary value of his sci-fi writing. Among his genre-defining works are a time travel novel “The Time Machine,” a riveting classic about interplanetary warfare “War of the Worlds,” and some genuinely creepy novels exploring the social implications of scientific exploration “The Invisible Man,” “The First Men On The Moon” and “The Island of Doctor Moreau.” To earn a living, Wells began teaching. In 1886 he met his cousin Isabel Mary Wells, whom he was to marry in 1891. Wells’s relations with women were always problematic. His libido was strong, and although short (around 5 feet 6 inches) and a bit pudgy later in life, his chestnut hair and blue eyes were striking. Women were attracted to him, but he found respectable behaviour difficult. Within one year of his marriage, he was enthralled by a student, Amy Catherine Robins. In 1895 his marriage ended in divorce, and he married Robins, whom he always called Jane. This marriage lasted until her death in 1927, but Wells had many affairs, most notably with Rebecca West, Moura Budberg, and Odette Keun. These relationships resulted in several illegitimate children. He frequently attacked restrictive sexual mores in his fiction. His novel Ann Veronica , for example, was criticized because the heroine finds unwed bliss with her science teacher. The conventional view was that she should have suffered for such immoral behaviour. He addressed this theme repeatedly but perhaps most effectively in “The Passionate Friends” . Wells continued to teach and earned a bachelor of science from the University of London in 1890. He also wrote more and more, first stories and articles, then the Text-Book of Biology, which was published in 1893. Wells moved steadily toward being a full-time writer. With four books, 1895 proved to be the breakthrough year. Most important was “The Time Machine,” for its satiric treatment of human foibles viewed through the eyes of a traveller and the struggle between the Eloi and Morlocks found by the traveller in the future has also been portrayed as a socialist class struggle. Whatever it’s ideological focus, it was a good story that sold well and gave H.G. Wells and his new bride the beginnings of financial stability. Of the other books published in 1895, “The Wonderful Visit,” the tale of an angel that appears in a small English village, is the most well-known for its comments about hypocrisy and people’s failings. As we enter the 1930s, H.G. Wells becomes a big celebrity and met people like Franklin D. Roosevelt [32nd U.S.A President] in the White House, chatting with Vladimir Lenin, arguing with George Bernard Shaw and visiting the Kremlin in Russia to discuss the future with Joseph Stalin. In his later years, H.G. Wells found that he could bridge the gap from Victoria Society to the modern ideals, and was a total visionary, because he worked for the League of Nations Union that was an organization formed in October 1918 in the United Kingdom to promote international justice and human rights, which was finally adopted by the United nations after H.G. Wells passed away. If you want to find out why H.G. Wells was ahead of his time, one should read his novel “Babes in the Darkling Wood: A Novel” that was published in 1940. A very interesting fact we find out, is that H.G. Wells wrote over a 100 books, most have never been reprinted, he also did lots of activities to keep on the move, but the negative side of his character is that he was always borrowing money, which people seemed to oblige. Men and Women had a great love for H.G. Wells, far beyond his personal acquaintance and beyond normal readership., because they found him witty and honest, as well as an optimist. As we get near to the end of this fascinating insight into the world of H.G. Wells, Brian Aldiss sums up this prolific writer by saying, “H.G. Wells died in 1946, just after the Atomic Bomb was dropped on japan, which was one of his prophecies, where the world is at the end of its tether, which he wrote in his last book. The end of everything we call life, is close at hand, and cannot be evaded.” Well it was true for H.G. Wells, but not for the world, he has gone, but the rest of us are still muddling along.
Special Feature: The Wandering Sickness – Original 78rpm Recording [Audio only]  [590i] [1.33:1] [4:18] This unique single-sided acetate gramophone disc, formerly in the collection of an ex-London Films employee, was used to record an extract from the novel “The Shape of Things To Come,” describing the symptoms of the "Wandering Sickness," followed by a reading from the shooting script of the disease's first appearance in the film. The intended purpose of the recording in unknown, one possibility being that it was used to “brief” the numerous extras during filming scenes in the film. At the same time you get to view some black-and-white still images from the film ‘THINGS TO COME.’ Unfortunately there is a lot of surface noise. This acetate 78rpm resides in the archive of Nick Cooper and is used here with his kind permission and assistance.
PLUS: A really nicely designed reversible Blu-ray Cover.
BONUS: Beautifully designed extensive 32 page booklet that has been expanded from the DVD by Nick Cooper entitled “VIEWING NOTES,” with the subtitled essay “THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME.” It also contains lots of rare sepia photographs from the film and a nice reproduction of the Cinema poster.
Finally, this is a tremendous release of William Cameron Menzies' ‘THINGS TO COME’  by British distributors Network, and one that will definitely appear on my Top 10 list at the end of the year. Not only is the technical presentation very impressive, but the supplemental features are simply outstanding. Whatever one makes of the message here, the visual impact of the film is undeniable aided by a bombastic score from composer Arthur Bliss. The war scenes are suitably devastating, and the miniature work is effective and impressive given the resources of the time, while post-apocalyptic humanity struggles for survival amid artfully designed ruins. You have some really interesting and fascinating special features. In addition, there is the beautiful 32 page booklet with fantastic writings on the film. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom