Things to Come (1936) is H. G. Welles’ interpretation of his book, a Utopian future where war & poverty are wiped out. Starring Raymond Massey.
Things to Come (1936) starring Raymond Massey
Things to Come is landmark collaboration between writer H. G. Wells (Island of Lost Souls), producer Alexander Korda (The Thief of Bagdad), and designer and director William Cameron Menzies (Gone with the Wind), Things to Come is a science fiction film like no other, a prescient political work that predicts a century of turmoil and progress. Skipping through time, Things to Come bears witness to world war, dictatorship, disease, the rise of television, and finally, utopia. Conceived, written, and overseen by Wells himself as an adaptation of his own work, this megabudgeted production, the most ambitious ever from Korda’s London Films, is a triumph of imagination and technical audacity.
Things to Come is an interesting movie, showcasing H. G. Welles’ vision of the future. In some ways, that vision is disturbing. But first: the acting, sets, etc. are all first rate. Raymond Massey portrays various members of the Cabal family over multiple generation, and does an excellent job. As does the rest of the cast. The movie deals with multiple time periods:
The “present day” start of the movie. The world is on the brink of war. John Cabal (Raymond Massey) fears what will happen, but his friend Pippa Passworthy (Edward Chapman), believes war will not come, but if it does, it will accelerate technological progress. In a sense, they’re both right. War does come, but unlike what actually happened, this war lasts decades, with devastating consequences.
Humanity has bombed itself back to Medieval living conditions. Various warlords have carved out their own little fiefdoms, and fight each other for land, drinkable water, etc. A very dystopian existence. By 1966 a global plague has wiped out half of humanity. Things that we take for granted, such as airplanes, are now considered technological marvels, that the various barons think will turn the tide in the war against each other.
John Cabal has somehow managed to forge a group of high technology airmen, “Wings Over the World”. They’re going from fiefdom to fiefdom, offering the people a bright tomorrow, a technological Utopia. And the backstabbing barons (focusing here on “the Chief” and his wife) effectively take themselves out of the picture.
100 years in the future, it’s an even more unlikely Utopia. Civilization has advanced due to technology where illness and want have been wiped out, and people live in vast cities underground. It’s very much a Flash Gordon-type future. And the “next step” that the Cabal family envision is a journey to the moon, to be followed by traveling to the stars. But a great many of the citizens don’t want that. But so what? The scientific overlords do. And they run everything, a “benevolent dictatorship”.
Editorial review of Things to Come courtesy of Amazon.com
In the British city of ‘Everytown’, John Cabal (Raymond Massey) cannot enjoy Christmas Day, 1940. There is news everywhere of possible war. John’s over-optimistic friend, Pippa Passworthy (Edward Chapman), believes war will not come, but if it does, it will accelerate technological progress. But war does come and lasts for decades. By 1960, the world is plunged into a Dark Age and is in ruins. In 1966 a biological weapon called the “wandering sickness” is used and kills half of humanity and extinguishes entire governments.
By 1970, John Cabal forms a civilization of airmen called, ‘Wings Over the World’, which renounces any kind of war. Cabal explains his plans for global consolidation by ‘Wings Over the World’. By 2036, mankind lives in modern underground cities, including everyone in the new city of ‘Everytown’. All is not well, however. There is opposition to Cabal’s idea of progress, and the citizens revolt against the new technological advances. This is a fascinating look into the future, and an amazing story written by H.G. Wells. An absolute classic!
Cast of characters
- Raymond Massey (Abe Lincoln in Illinois; Arsenic and Old Lace) … John Cabal / Oswald Cabal
- Edward Chapman (A Stitch in Time) … Pippa Passworthy / Raymond Passworthy
- Ralph Richardson (Tales from the Crypt; Rollerball) … The Boss
- Margaretta Scott (Where’s Charley?; All Creatures Great and Small) … Roxana / Rowena
- Cedric Hardwicke (On Borrowed Time; Lured) … Theotocopulos
- Maurice Braddell … Dr. Harding
- Sophie Stewart (Devil Girl from Mars) … Mrs. Cabal
- Derrick De Marney … Richard Gordon
- Ann Todd (The Seventh Veil) … Mary Gordon
- Pearl Argyle … Catherine Cabal
- Kenneth Villiers … Maurice Passworthy
- Ivan Brandt … Morden Mitani
- Anne McLaren … The Child
- Patricia Hilliard … Janet Gordon
- Charles Carson (Curse of the Fly) … Great Grandfather
- Patrick Barr … World Transport Official (uncredited)
- Noel Brophy … Irishman (uncredited)
- John Clements … The Airman (uncredited)
- Anthony Holles … Simon Burton (uncredited)
- Allan Jeayes (Dead of Night) … Mr. Cabal (uncredited)
- Pickles Livingston … Horrie Passworthy (uncredited)
- George Sanders (Village of the Damned) … Pilot (uncredited)
- Abraham Sofaer (The Greatest Story Ever Told) … The Jew (uncredited)
- Terry-Thomas (Munster Go Home!) … Man of the Future (uncredited)