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George McWhirter Fotheringay, while vigorously asserting the impossibility of miracles, suddenly discovers that he can perform them. After being thrown out of a bar for what is thought to be a trick, he tests his powers and eventually sends a policeman to Hades by accident. Worried, he sends the police officer to San Francisco, and seeks advice from the local clergyman, Mr Maydig. Maydig, after having Fotheringay's powers demonstrated to him, quickly planning for reform of the world by means of miracle, but eventually Fotheringay orders a miracle which, due to clumsy wording, backfires. He relinquishes his power and returns to the time before he had it. Written by
Anthony Pereyra <email@example.com>
H.G. Wells' timeless parable on power and the human condition
I have to admit to a soft spot for this film, which is very probably the best movie version of an H.G. Wells story ever done. Not surprisingly, the writer was still around when it was made and was involved in the production.
Today many people regard Wells as a "science-fiction" writer, but he was also a historian and philosopher. "The Man Who Could Work Miracles" is more of a fantasy/parable on the subject of power and the human condition than it is science fiction. Nevertheless, Alexander Korda had his production company go all out in the depiction of the film's "miracles". They are still effective despite the fact that this film dates from 1936.
The story of what happens when an anonymous nobody is suddenly given absolute power to do anything still resonates. The setting may be 1930s England, but the attitudes of the sort of characters with whom the protagonist interacts would probably be little different today. After all, businessmen still think like businessmen, bankers like bankers, clergymen like clergymen, policemen like policemen, and soldiers like soldiers. In that regard the world hasn't really changed all that much, a fact that would have come as little surprise to Wells.
Considering the plethora of special effects, it seems somewhat surprising that this film has never been re-made. That's not to say that this production could probably be bettered. Roland Young is spot on as the "common vulgar fellow" upon whom absolute power is suddenly and randomly bestowed. The only possible complaint with casting him in the part is that he may perhaps have been a bit too to play someone the other characters are constantly addressing as "Young Man". The other members of the cast are likewise excellent, particularly Ralph Richardson in a hilarious turn as "Colonel Winstanley", the character who inspired cartoonist David Low's "Colonel Blimp".
To anyone who has never seen this movie, I can only recommend that you take the first opportunity that presents itself to see it. Despite the passing of years since it was produced, "The Man Who Could Work Miracles" remains unique.
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