Tonight on GlitchTV: Forgotten SciFi
POSTED ON 12/13/2005 | PERMALINK |
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Things to Come (1936): 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. (creative commons licensed)
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