This is a science fiction film about the future. It is not easily recognizable as such as there are no sleek space ships and light sabers. That is because it began in the near future--1940. And 1940 was only 4 years away when the film was made. The film is remarkably preshent. The film "Things to Come" (1936) is based on H.G. Well's futuristic book of the same title. This is a very early an inflential sci-fi film. The film was produced by Alexander Korda, one of the fathers of modern science fiction. It was directed by William Cameron Menzies, noted for making epic films. The great horror at the time was the specter of another world war. The British in 1936 were disturbed by the rise of Hitler in Germany, but few British leaders were yet aware of the danger. Churchill was still out of Government and looked at as a irresponsible crank from an earlier generation, much as some Americans in 2009 view Vice President Chaney. The film is not about children, but there are some haunting images of children. At the beginning of the film there are scenes with children. It is Christmas time in Everytown somewhere near London and the South of England. Everyone is making merry despite a looming political crisis. We see a boy in a schoo cap looking at a toys. Then we see a Christmas party and children are plaving with a variety of army toys. Finally a war comes which leads to a World War lasting 40 or 50 years. No where does the idea emerge that Britain will almost lose the coming war in 9 months. The film is beautifully shot, creating haunting images. When the war comes a small boy wearing a British Army Tommie metal helmet says goodbye to his father. As the boy plays the drums and marches up and down the street the back ground show soldiers gong to war.
"Things to Come" is a science fiction film about the future. It was a very important early sci-fi film. It is not easily recognizable as such as there are no sleek space ships and light sabers. That is because it began in the near future--1940. And 1940 was only 4 years away when the film was made. The film is remarkably prescient. The film "Things to Come" (1936) is based on H.G. Well's futuristic book of the same title. This is a very early an inflential sci-fi film. The film was produced by Alexander Korda, one of the fathers of modern science fiction. It was directed by William Cameron Menzies, noted for making epic films. The film is not about children, but there are some haunting images of children. At the beginning of the film there are scenes with children which are beautifully shot. There is not hint, however, of the horrors of Communism and Fascism. They certainlly show the approaching horror of war. It is interesting that as late as 1936, Wells wa warning Brions about the horror of war and not the developing danger to national survival. Eventually we get to more futuristic depictions, but the depiction there is more mundane. And Wells actually missed the date of the first manned mission to the moon by decades.
Herbert George Wells, better known as H.G was born in Bromly, near London (1866). He graduated with a university degree in biology. Noth his middle-class background and his background in science influenced his writings. His central thesis was that science could make a better world. He also believed that humans would destroy themselves in an apoctaliptic war. He supported a range of progressive causes like women's movement--at the time the sufferage novement.
Wells wrote perhaps the gratest science fiction novel of all times--"War of the Worlds". He was author of the original story here. It was an essay, rather than an actual novel. He also wrote the screenplay, along with Lajos Biro. It was producer Alexander Korda, however, who framed the Well's story in the terms depicted in the film.
The anti-war message was popular in the 1930s. World War had been a renching experience for Europe, The battlefield casualties were horrendous. The public came to think that not only was the war a terrible mistake, but that it was brought on by arms merchants seeking to make a profit. In Germany the debate was directed by right-wing grouos on how Germany could have lost the War. In the victorious Allied countries, the debate focused on the horrors of war. Conscipravy theries flared. Many Germans blamed the Jews and Socialists. In the democracies the bankers and ibdustrialists (arm merchants) became targets. Never really addressed by the peace lobby was what Beitain and France should have done when the Germans matched knto Belgium. Thus filns with an anti-war theme fitted in with the public state of mind.
The great horror at the time this movie was made was the specter of another devestating world war and the aerial bombardment of cities. The British in 1936 were disturbed by the rise of Hitler in Germany. The saw the NAZI book burnings and Jew baiting. Hitler's frenzied speeches were show in clips as part of the news reels. Few British leaders were yet aware of the danger. Churchill was still out of Government and looked on by many as an irresponsible crank from an earlier generation, much as some Americans in 2009 view Vice President Chaney. The great irony is that the anti-war movement not only help bring on war, but nearly resulted in a new dark age. Fear of war helped guaranrtee Franco;s victory in Span when the NAzIs and the Fascists aided him. We see anti-war proaganda arguing that the way of fighting Fascism was to oppose war. That line of thought appealed to the public in 1936. (It did not in 1940 when the Panzers began to roll through French villages and the bombs started falling on London.) It also was the central reason that the British and French deserted their Czech ally at Munich. And the pacifist sentiment played a role in France's collapse when the NAZIs invaded. Pacifist sentiment also played a major role in Britain's failure to rearm in time. It is interesting that the Ban the Bomb movement in Britain after World War II failed to fess up to the responsibility of the anti-war mocement in the 1920s and 30s for nearly handing Britain over to the NAZIs.
"Things to Come" was also released in America. It played to the prevalent public attitude toward war. Across the Atlantic the same dymamic as in Britain was in play. Very shortly after the World War I Armistice, Americans began questioning the Value of entering the War. Popualisrs and isolationiss comined with the pascifists to criticize American intervention. Soon they wre calling industrialists the "merchants of death". Absent from the public discussion was what would have been the impact of a German victory. After the NAZI seizure of power in Germany (1931), Americans began to be concerned about another European war. And the vast majority of Americans were dead set against American particuption. This of ourse played into Hitler's hands, giving him the opportunity to conquer Wurope before American resources could be mobilized ahainst him. Congress even passed the Neutrality Act (1935) making it impossible to aid countries targeted by Fascist aggression. The hatred of war was a central them played by the isolationists which almost prevented President Roosevelt from using American resources to help save Britain.
American and British films were shown in Germany. This is one reason that Hollywood was slow in taking on the NAZIs. It would have closed off a profitable outlet for their films. To show a film in Germany. , you needed to get the approval of Goebbels Propaganda Ministry. Upon taking power, Goebbels made sure that filns like the anti-war classic "All Quiet on the Westen Froint" wa no longer shown. Although we do not have any information at this time, we suspect that the Ministry did not allow "Things to Come" to be shown in German theaters. Germans like other Europeans were afraid of another war. This is one of the main reason that Hitler failed to defeat President Hindenburg in the presidential election (1932). Many felt that his election met another war. And even after he seized power, Hitler had to be sensative to the vast majoeity bof Germans who opposed another war. Interestingly, he justified expanded military spending as the best way to prevent another war.
The film begins in the near future. It was shot and shown to 1936 audiences. It begins with a depiction of the near future--December 1940 to be precise. It then covers what Wells saw as the next hundred years in human history. The movie continues into the 21st century.
It is Christmas time in Everytown somewhere near London and the South of England. The film then follow Everytown over the next hundred years. The horrors experienced only begin with another world war. Te film keeps coming back o Everytown.
We are notsure who plays the children. The parts are minor ones. The main actors are Raymond Massey and Edward Chapman.
"Things to Come" is essentially a view of the world's next hundred years. Everyone is making merry despite a looming political crisis. We see a boy in a schoo cap looking at a toys. Then we see a Christmas party and children are plaving with a variety of army toys. The Christmas party scenes play out in in the home of John Cabal (Raymond Massey). Even this joyous celebration is muted by Cabal's concerns. A family friend, Passworthy (Edward Chapman), is convinced that there will be no new war. Passworthy adds thatt even if there is another war it will not be nearly as bas the Great War. He talks of great progress which occurs during wartime. He insists that in the Great War "something great had hold of us!" The camera catches him saying this on the floor by the Christmas tree with the children playing all about him with their army toys. As the party ends and Passworthy leaves, Mrs. Cabal sees searchlights breaking the blackness searching the skies. Then they hear artillery in the distance. The phobe rings and Cabal learns that Britain is mobilizing. The Germans are not named, but Hitler has alreadybmade an impressuon in Britain. The radio tells of an enemy bombing raids. Although Germany did not have a long-range bombing force, the British were convimced that the War would begin with bomving raids. Finally a war comes which leads to a World War lasting 40 or 50 years. No where does the idea emerge that Britain will almost lose the coming war in 9 months. The film is beautifully shot, creating haunting images. When the war comes a small boy wearing a British Army Tommie metal helmet appears--Passworthy's son. He says goodbye to his father. As the boy plays the drums and marches up and down the street the back ground show soldiers gong to war. In the next scene the boy lies dead in the rubble of the bombing raid. And as the War goes om the specter of poison gas is introduced. Ironicall, a year after the film was made, a German scientist discoveres Tauban--a nerve gas. Thr War continues ntil most of the people still alive are those born after the war started and no longer understand who started it or why. Econonies have ground to a halt. Manufacturing plants are destroyed or empty. Civilized society has broken down. People live in small, primitive locali communities. Thena a great plague wipes out most of the survivors (1966). Finally an unknown aircraft lands at one of these isolated outposts. The pilot tells of an group which has begun to rebuild civilization and contacting the scattered groups of survivors. The movie then follows the rebuilding of civilization. The world population builds underground cities. Scientists prepare the first hunan rocket trip to the moon (2035). At this time a popular uprising against progress breaks out. These people charge that technological progress is what caused the eaerlier wars.
The movie is set both in the present (really near future) and in the far furure. Thus we have a wide range of different codtumes. The children in Everytown wear typical 1930s clothing as the fil was made in 19300s. The boys wear short pants and knee socks even at Christmas time. This was very common at the time. When the continuing wars cause civilization to collapse we see the children in rags. The futuristic costumes of children after civilization recovers have a rather ancient Greek look. It is interesting how scifi mocie makers often find inspiration for costuming in the ancient world, often Greece. A girl is pictured in a Greek-looking costume in 2065. Her toy is a doll which makes sence because dolls are some of the toys found in accient archaeological digs. There are some toys that appeal to children throughout the years. We are not sure if Wells himself was the inspiration for the costumes. We note that similar costumes are used in the movie production of another of his books--The Time Machine.
Well had a science background, sort of. He performed poorly on an astronomical physics test and several other exams as a youth. He did finally get a university degree in niology. That shows in this films and hos books. What Welld failed tounderstand was the political issues of the day. Well like most British people believed was that the Great War as it was called was not a great mistake, but saved Europe from German domination. And he failed to appreciate that approaching was in fact Britain's greatest moment--helping to save Europe from NAZI and Communist domination--essentialy saving Western civilization. Wells missed that becaudevhe failed to see the calue of ideas like the rule of law, parlimentary democracy, and market capitalism. None of those ideas are central to any of his books. Instread he dissimilated with some of the worst ideas of all time. He interviewed Lenin, calling him "creative". He concluded that Communism was the best hope for reforming Russia. One observer points out that, "The man simply never met a collectivist movement that didn't intrigue him." [Miller] He admired Fascists, writing, "There is good in these Fascists. There is something brave and well-meaning about them." speaking of Italian Fascists in 1927." On the itherhand he throughly despised Catholicism and mocked Jewish traditions, calling them "nonsense." During the World War, another British author, George Orwell, wrote, "Much of what Wells has imagined and worked for is physically there in Nazi Germany."
Miller, John J. "War of the Worldviews: H.G. Wells was a sci-fi pioneer, but his political ideas were abominable, Wall Street Journal (June 21, 2005).
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