A global war begins in 1940. This war drags out over many decades until most of the people still alive (mostly those born after the war started) do not even know who started it or why. Nothing is being manufactured at all any more and society has broken down into primitive localized communities. In 1966 a great plague wipes out most of what people are left but small numbers still survive. One day a strange aircraft lands at one of these communities and its pilot tells of an organization which is rebuilding civilization and slowly moving across the world re-civilizing these groups of survivors. Great reconstruction takes place over the next few decades and society is once again great and strong. The world's population is now living in underground cities. In the year 2035, on the eve of man's first flight to the moon, a popular uprising against progress (which some people claim has caused the wars of the past) gains support and becomes violent.Written by
Kevin Steinhauer <K.Steinhauer@BoM.GOV.AU>
Things to Come is that rarity of rarities, a film about ideas. Many films present a vision of the future, but few attempt to show us how that future came about. The first part of the film, when war comes to Everytown, is short but powerful. (Ironically, film audiences in its release year laughed at reports that enemy planes were attacking England--appeasement was at its height. Wells' prediction was borne out all too soon.) The montage of endless war that follows, while marred by sub-par model work, is most effective. The explanatory titles are strongly reminiscent of German Expressionist graphic design. The art director was the great William Cameron Menzies, and his sets of the ruins of Everytown are among his best work. Margaretta Scott is very seductive as the Chief's mistress. The Everytown of the 21st century is an equally striking design. The acting in the 21st century story is not compelling--perhaps this was a misfired attempt to contrast the technocratic rationality of this time with the barbarism of 1970. Unfortunately, the model work, representing angry crowds rushing down elevated walkways, is laughably bad and could have been done much better, even with 30s technology. This is particularly galling since the scenes of the giant aircraft are very convincing. This is redeemed by Raymond Massey's magnificent speech that concludes the film--rarely has the ideal of scientific progress been expressed so well. Massey's final question is more relevant now than ever, in an era of severely curtailed manned spaceflight. The scene is aided by the stirring music of Sir Arthur Bliss, whose last name I proudly share.
Unfortunately, the VHS versions of this film are absolutely horrible, with serious technical problems. Most versions have edited out a rather interesting montage of futuristic workers and machines that takes us from 1970 to 2038. I hope a good DVD exists of the entire film.
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