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Image Entertainment presents
H.G. Wells' Things to Come (1936)

"Our revolution didn't abolish danger or death: it simply made danger and death worthwhile."
- Oswald Cabal (Raymond Massey)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: March 03, 2001

Stars: Raymond Massey, Margaretta Scott, Edward Chapman
Other Stars: Raplh Richardson, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Maurice Braddell
Director: William Cameron Menzies

Manufacturer: Wamo
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suitable for all audiences but young children)
Run Time: 01h:32m:45s
Release Date: February 27, 2001
UPC: 014381987928
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B-C-C- D

DVD Review

H.G. Wells' Things to Come paints a frightening picture of the intense destruction and dreadful calamities caused by a massive world war. An unseen and technologically superior enemy attacks the town, and the result is chaos and fear. During these moments, little hope exists for the human race and the future appears bleak.

Released in 1936, Things to Come was miles ahead of its time with daring (and surprisingly accurate) predictions of the future. Although our society has yet to face calamities on the level of this story, the possibility always rests in front of us. After the dreadful war, a deadly plague arises and spreads unchecked throughout the world. The subsequent scenes are extremely sad and depressing, with people murdering plague victims to save their own skins. Is this the end for the human race? Fear not, wayward soul, for hope arrives in the form of John Cabal (Raymond Massey), a mysterious imposing figure who arrives in an unknown aircraft. However, his brand of new world order may bring in a new form of tyranny.

John Cabal presents the message that progress is aligned with the creation of new machines. The battered world will rise again, and the efficiency of grand machines is the key to "restoring order and trade." Director William Cameron Menzies appears to share this theory, and he frames Cabal as a giant, almost god-like figure among the smaller villagers. His character always occupies the center of the frame, and rousing music blares in the background to support his powerful words. This new order impressively presents the power of humans to create amazing machines, but it contains several notable problems. Cabal speaks of unity and order, but he never speaks of individuality and creativity. People appear secondary to the works of huge machines that overwhelm their personalities, and it has echoes of communism. Also, women appear to lack a major role in this regime, which is composed almost entirely of men.

Things to Come stands as the Armageddon or Independence Day of its time period. It contains vast, gigantic sets and showcases top-notch and impressive special effects. Unfortunately, it also contains wooden characters who spout laugh-inducing and ridiculous lines. For a lengthy period of time, I had a difficult time recognizing or identifying with any characters in the story. Even the major Cabal characters are so one-dimensional about progress and the future that they lack basic human traits. When the plot reaches its ultimate destination, the grandiose Everytown in the future, people still lack defining characteristics. The effects in the final act are wonderful, especially in a scene where Passworthy (Edward Chapman) presents his speech in front of throngs of listeners. He stands on a giant screen in front of the masses, and an astounding effect projects him as a huge entity .

Based on a novel by science fiction guru H.G. Wells, Things to Come predicts the modern airplane and our landing on the moon. The set design and costumes are inventive, and the story takes a surprisingly strong stand on the future of humanity. Do we have to deny our individuality to achieve progress? I don't believe so, but Welles appears to align himself with that theory. While it lacks personality and compassion, this story does present an interesting look at one possible future for the human race.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The back of the DVD case mentions the "pristine new film-to-video transfer from original source materials." Unfortunately, this black & white full-screen transfer is far from pristine. Plenty of defects and specks of dirt appear on this print, and problems occur with the brightness levels several times. It also contains several major glitches that have no place on a DVD release. I understand the limitations of this time period, but Things to Come is primarily a visual film, and this transfer hurts its overall effectiveness.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: This mono audio track is an extremely quiet transfer that obviously stems from poor source materials. The sounds often vary considerably in clarity and tone, and it distracts from the viewing experience. The dialogue is fuzzy, and a consistent humming sound exists in the background for much of the film. While the sound capabilities of this era are obviously limited, the immense scope of this story requires a greater audio transfer than this shabby one. It sounds no better (and possibly worse) than the usual VHS audio tracks from this time period.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The lone extra feature on this disc is a lengthy four-minute theatrical trailer. It contains various scenes from the film with a booming voice speaking several times over them. Silly promotional title cards such as "So exciting, it leaves you breathless," are also used. This trailer has very poor sound quality, and includes an antiquated visual transfer.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

H.G. Wells' Things to Come is a masterful achievement of technical filmmaking and features astounding images that still appear impressive today. However, it removes the personality and compassion from its characters and stresses the creation of greater machines. Also, this Image DVD nearly removes the force of this intriguing vision with an atrocious transfer and equally bad audio track.


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