Things to Come (1936) - Wings Over the World

Based on H.G. Wells book The Shape of Things to Come (1933), Things to Come (1936) was the most expensive and most ambitious science fiction film of the 1930s – and despite the explosion of pulp SF magazines over the next 15 years, it was the last science fiction film of any importance until the 1950s.

The film is divided into three parts and begins in 1940 in the English city of Everytown, it accurately predicts the development of a world war which sees devastation across much of the globe. The scene then shifts to the 1970s where a new society is forming in the shattered remains of the cities left over from the decades-long war.

The emerging society living in the ruins of Everytown are ruled over by “The Boss” a cruel dictator played by Ralph Richardson, but everything changes when the technologically aided Cabal (Raymond Massey) arrives in his futuristic aeroplane. He tells them he comes from a peaceful scientific community called Wings Over the World and their mission is to restore law and order, he uses 'Peace Gas' to bring the unruly people of Everytown under control and sets about building an ideological society of the future

The story then takes a further shift forward in time to 2036, where an elitist utopian state has formed on the ruins of the old world. The new world order is decidedly undemocratic, and a technological upper class makes all the important decisions. Against this background Cedric Hardwicke’s humanist sculptor argues for a return to a less sterile life. However, there is hope for the future, as this peaceful society sends a man and a woman to the stars in search of possible transcendence.

H.G. Wells was closely associated with the film and if there is one good thing about his script, it is a positive and confident vision of a technological future when the ruling technocrats have built a gleaming white utopia and an attempt is being made to send people into space using a "space gun", despite opposition from effete "artists" who are still maintaining that "there are some things Man is not meant to know".

Cabal: (Raymond Massey) delivers the films famous concluding speech, as he declares of Man: ". . . and when he has conquered all the deeps of space and all the mysteries of time, still he will be beginning."

Passworthy: “But... we're such little creatures. Poor humanity's so fragile, so weak. Little animals.”

Cabal: “If we’re no more than animals, we must snatch each little scrap of happiness, and live, and suffer, and pass, mattering no more than all the other animals do or have done. It is this, or that. All the universe or nothing. Which shall it be, Passworthy? Which shall it be?”

H.G. Wells belief that the future of humanity lay with the technocratic elite seemed oddly old-fashioned even in 1936. But the visual drama (supported by Arthur Bliss's majestic music score) is exhilarating: the special effects were by Hollywood experts Ned Mann and Lawrence Butler, and the director William Cameron Menzies was one of the great production designers of the time, most famously for Gone With the Wind (1939).

There is a confidence about the films predictions that has an inspiring effect on the viewer. Things to Come was a financial failure on release but it remains one of the most important films in the history of SF cinema for the boldness of its ambitions and for the eagerness with which it projects spaceflight as the next step in man’s evolution.

A digitally remastered edition of the film has been released on DVD along with a colorized edition. Fans of the film might want to check out the UK Network DVD which also includes a "Virtual Extended Version" utilising photos and script extracts from missing or cut scenes, the running time of the extended version is a whopping 134mins.

The Critics Wrote –

“Tremendous, awe-inspiring, challenging, imaginative and technically magnificent - but, viewed in the light of sheer entertainment, far too prolix in its argumentative vision of the future.” (News Chronicle)

“I must immediately declare that no American picture I have seen, except perhaps King Kong, has equalled the technical achievements of Things to Come. The awe of it all is over-powering.” (The People)

“A leviathan among films... a stupendous spectacle, an overwhelming, Dorean, Jules Vernesque, elaborated Metropolis , staggering to eye, mind and spirit, the like of which has never been seen and never will be seen again.” (Sunday Times)

"Intolerably prosy and grotesquely unconvincing. I was confirmed in a former suspicion, namely, that the future is the dullest subject on earth...” (Mark van Doren, Nation)

“Incomparably the greatest technical achievement of filmcraft to date, and in scope and sincerity sets a mark for film producers to aim at for many years to come.” (Morning Post)

“An amazingly ingenious technical accomplishment, even if it does hold out small hope for our race... The existence pictured is as joyless as a squeezed grapefruit.” (Don Herold)

Comments 23 comments

J.S.Matthew profile image

J.S.Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Great Review!

JSMatthew~


Apostle Jack profile image

Apostle Jack 5 years ago from Atlanta Ga

You forgot about the spiritual.They are coming also.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Nice review Steve, I have seen this movie numerous times and it is a classic....I have always found it amazing that each time I watch it....we are closer to 2036....and how the movie's future is compared to our reality. Easily my favorite Massey movie.....this movie was made in Korda's peak time.....great hub with interesting facts and as always a great selection of photos...voted up


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks guys.

Cogerson, selecting the images is a big part of the fun. I had a folder with about 20 pictures including a spectacular poster which was just too darn long for the hub, sadly I didn't use it. Maybe I'll do a hub on classic movie posters and include it then, ;)

My favourite Raymond Massey movie? Probably 'A Matter of Life and Death', fantastic film and worthy of a future hub. Cheers.


KellyE1967 profile image

KellyE1967 5 years ago

I will have to check this one out.


RussBGrant profile image

RussBGrant 5 years ago from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

This sounds great, I'm going to have to track down a copy. I've only seen the 70's one, "The Shape Of Things To come", it was not so good!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

I've never seen the 70's version. I think it was made for TV?

I should have mentioned that the region 2 DVD contains an extended version on disc 2 which uses text and images to present a more complete version before the film was edited down to 90mins. The "Virtual Extended Edition" runs 134mins.

Here is more info on the R2 DVD.

DISC ONE:

*The Film

Audio commentary by film expert Nick Cooper

Comprehensive image gallery, including many rare stills (9:01)

Merchandise image gallery (5:48)

US re-release trailer (4:07)

DISC TWO:

"Things to Come: Virtual Extended Edition" (134:17)

Ralph Richardson interview by Russell Harty in 1975 (41:02)

"On Reflection: Brian Aldiss on H.G. Wells" documentary from 1971 (23:26)

"The Wandering Sickness" original 78rpm recording (4:18)

24-page "Viewing Notes" booklet by Nick Cooper


RussBGrant profile image

RussBGrant 5 years ago from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

According to IMDB, the 70's one was made in Canada, which explains why you might of thought it a TV movie. :P


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Congrats on a 100 score on your hub...great job.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks but which hub Cogerson, this one? I only see 59 on the hubscore. Am I looking at the wrong place?

Looking at all my hubs currently the highest scorer is The Fly with 78. My hubscores change all the time tomorrow another will be at the top. There should be an overall greatest hub rating. :)


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

This Wings Over The World hub was just at 100 when I sent the comment...it is now down to 59 again.....I do not understand....I have not done illegal drugs in years...lol....so I take my compliment back...sorry for the confusion....your hub should be a 100


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Maybe hubs can rocket to 100 for a few seconds before dropping back down? I have to keep checking just in case? Take a snapshot before it's gone? :)

Cogerson, what they should have done here is have the hubscore system as it is but also have next to it in parentheses the highest score that particular hub had ever achieved. That way you'll know which of your hubs reached the top or highest and which were low scorers.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

I think hubpages likes to have their numbering system completely confusing and unexplainable.....I have one hub that ranges from 71 to 88.....it goes all the up to 88....then back down to 71....repeat process...over and over. And your overall score is even more confusing.....one day I had 800 hits on hubs, about 50 comments, hub scores were on the upward trend.....and my overall hub score went from 86 to 78 on that day....I sent hubpages an e-mail trying to understand why it was going down so fast....and they came up with....1. delete my squidoo account 2. my pictures were too big 3. the titles of my hubs were too similar 4. stop following people..... 5. pick different subject matters. So I followed their advice and my overall score went to 65....so I went back to the way I did things when I did not know what I was doing...and the score started going back up....sorry for this rant on your hub


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Whoa that's weird, what has the size of the pictures have to do with the hubscore dropping? People complaining? Or is hubpages just giving you random advice? Stop following people? I thought they encourage that?

I'm only following a handful of people, maybe I should branch out more, get to know more hubbers. I dunno.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Well I pretty much follow about the same amount that follow me....which is about 190 people.....but I would say only about 30 of them seem active...the rest seem hit or miss..probably miss when they realize that they are not going to get rich on hubpages.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

See we started talking about hub scores are your score just went down.....I am sorry hub page people....I love your number system....lol


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

How does that work Cogerson I don't have a clue, is it a living breathing thing? It's all automated isn't it? Why do the scores rise and drop? It might be random? There are people who write a few lines of poetry and have scores nearing 100...

Tomorrow I'm posting dirty limericks... hahaha!


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

A great review on the beginning of the golden age of SF,thanks for sharing Steve.;)


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thank you Mentalist acer. Classic sci-fi isn't the most popular of topics but it's the one I'm interested in. :)

I've only recently discovered your fascinating hubs, the videos are great too. The Large Hadron Collider on there somewhere?


Atson 5 years ago

It was the zombie apocalypse that took them down in the Great War before the gas of peace.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

I'm sure it was Atson thanks for posting.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Just rewatched this classic film yesterday. I once again am impressed with Raymond Massey...he essentially plays three different parts in the movie...and does them all very well. Still give the movie and your hub a thumbs up.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thank you Cogerson, Massey played Lincoln in a film a few years later, and many people remember him from the 60's tv series Dr. Kildare.

I notice we were commenting on the hubscore system... six months later and we're no nearer to figuring out how it works. :)

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