Based on H.G. Wells's speculative meditation on the price of progress, this 1936 English science-fiction epic shows the painterly touch of director William Cameron Menzies, an American whose career in art direction and pro... more »duction design, as well as uncredited directorial work, attached him to such visual triumphs as Gone with the Wind, Alexander Korda's sumptuous 1940 Thief of Baghdad, and Menzies's better-known SF achievement as director, the original Invaders from Mars. Things to Come traces a generational saga that begins, presciently, with a global war that outlives its own political purpose, unraveling society to a Balkanized world of isolated communities. In the wake of a subsequent, devastating plague, a new technocracy arises, evolving toward Menzies's striking vision of vast, subterranean cities, rendered in matte paintings building on then-contemporaneous art-deco "streamlined" aesthetics. Driven more by theme than plot, Things to Come lacks the sheer momentum of other Wells classics brought to film (The Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, and The Time Machine, among them); but Menzies's bold look and a strong cast including Raymond Massey, Ralph Richardson, Cedric Hardwicke and a young Ann Todd explain the film's enduring appeal. --Sam Sutherland« less
"NOTE: Unfortunately, I think the new colorized Harryhausen version has the same problems. See more below.
"Things to Come" was the "2001" of its day.
In the late sixties, I saw a clean print of this movie in a New York theatre and it blew me away. Although it is in black-and-white, it is visually spectacular; the story is exciting; and it has a wonderful score. The sound was mono optical sound, but it was crisp and clear and capable of delivering the impact of the Arthur Bliss music.
For years, I've owned a disappointing VHS copy, which looks as if it were made made from a dirty, blurry, over-contrasty 16mm print, and the sound quality is poor. I've yearned to see a clean copy.
So when I got my DVD player, one of the first things I did was to buy this release, which says that it "features a pristine new film-to-video transfer from original source materials."
I am sorry to say it looks EXACTLY like the cruddy old VHS version, and the mushy sound is completely unworthy of the composer and music director.
So, I don't know what to say. If you've never seen the movie _Things to Come_, I recommend the movie highly. But the image quality and sound on this DVD have, alas, that "lousy old 16mm print look."
UPDATE: I'm afraid I think the "Harryhausen" colorized version is just as bad. My remarks above were written about an earlier DVD, Alas, and to my great disappointment, apart from being colorized, I'm afraid that they do. My review was for an earlier DVD edition.
I had great hopes for this new release with the Harryhausen name, and I'm aware that apparently other reviewers' opinions differ from mine. I think they must never have a 35mm print of this film, though.
Black-and-white films from the late thirties are technically every bit as good as "Casablanca" or "Citizen Kane." This DVD still looks to me like a bad 16mm print. I'm not a purist, but the film grain is coarse and obvious. The framing is not steady. The exposure varies, giving an irregular flickery effect. It's not exactly blurry, but it's not as crisp and sharp as any ordinary DVD of any ordinary 1950 black-and-white movie. Comparing it to the earlier DVD, I'm not sure what "restoration" was done except for colorization.
I'm glad that people find this version enjoyable to watch, but _Things to Come_ is a minor landmark in cinema history, and a major landmark in science fiction cinema history. Like 2001, this film was a visual spectacle and low picture quality greatly reduces its impact. It deserves better than this."
Incredible Film Marred By Poor Print
Daniel P. Smith | 07/03/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Two stars for the film print used on this DVD -- but FIVE STARS for the original film itself. The film "Things To Come" has been called cold, distant, intellectually contrived ... but it is truly one of the most remarkable early films, predicting the rise of savior technology from the ashes of terrible world wars. Like "Contact," "Things to Come" explores the Cartesian division between science and faith, exploring the schism between universal technology and provincial tribalism. Its views of the perfect technocracy of 2036 must be viewed in the context of the 1936 film, but it also weirdly echoes today's "information age" progress. It is most unfortunate that this great film is so badly marred in this DVD edition by such a terrible print. Much of the sound is muffled; the brightness of the print pulsates perceptably; and even the famous ending (the last, wordless, mouthed line) is cut because the film print on which it was taken was tattered. Do NOT waste your money on even this inexpensive version. It is a shame that people -- especially young people who may never have seen this masterpiece -- will view this marred version. DVD companies should stop rushing into production the worst of these film prints! and only produce the finest -- "all or nothing, which shall it be?...""
A Good Movie Made Unviewable
Daniel P. Smith | 04/25/2000
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Having seen Things To Come on VHS, I looked forward to buying it on DVD. When I received it, however, the reproduction was so poor as to render it essentially unviewable. In the initial scenes the images are so murky that I was often unable to make out the faces of the principal characters. I only knew who was speaking because I'd seen the movie before. In all scenes the image is extremely fuzzy, looking exactly like the background when a camera is tightly focused on a face in the foreground. Sadly then, this DVD is worthless and you should wait for a better version. Note that the movie itself is a science-fiction classic, and ought to be seen by anyone interested in the part of the genre that was not usually shown in drive-ins. Note carefully, however, that most of the reviews are based on the VHS version, not the DVD. These reviews of course give no hint of the unacceptably low technical quality of the current DVD release. Just as an aside, I hope I'm not one of those people who spots a speck of dust and declares the room filthy. I'm actually being kind to the folks who made this DVD!"
Buy the VHS From Englewood!
Daniel P. Smith | 10/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have loved "Things To Come for over twenty years and have taught it in my classes. It is slow and talky for many viewers, but it is also indisputably a great film---in fact, with "2001: A Space Odyssey" and a few others, it is that rarest of works: a genuine, serious science fiction movie.However, be warned. Most of the public domain prints out there are simply horrible, as many of the reviews on this page attest. I have viewed numerous prints of this film and had long ago given up hope of ever seeing the movie in anything resembling reasonable condition---and then came the Englewood Entertainment video, with its glorious "neon" packaging. The picture has been cleaned up a good deal, and is much less shaky and spliced than other versions;but the glory of this edition is the soundtrack. Major work has been done here, eliminating hiss and pops and rendering the dialogue easily comprehensible for the first time in my lifetime and revealing the fully rich beauty of Arthur Bliss's magnificent score. You simply have not seen "Things To Come" until you've seen the Englewood print! Perhaps someday the British will take it upon themselves to restore "Things To Come" to its full glory, with a complete 113-minute print (the Englewood is the standard 90-or-so minutes).That will be a great day for fans of science fiction film. But until then, Englewood has rendered a tremendous service to lovers of this movie. Get it. Cherish it."
This is the DVD edition to buy
C. S. Junker | Burien, WA USA | 03/05/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Please note that some of the reviews below refer to the two previous DVD releases, both of which are low-priced (one is the double-feature that also includes "Journey to the Center of the Sun"). Picture and sound quality on these other releases is poor; however the Image release, priced at around ..., features a new transfer that boasts a clear sharp picture through most of the movie and an improved soundtrack (on the cheap editions, the dialogue was frequently unintelligible). If you are a fan of this movie, this is the DVD version you should buy.I agree with some reviewers that Wells's vision of the future is fascist in some respects. The vaulting ambition of human PRO-gress depicted in this movie is inspiring to a degree, but is laid on pretty thick. Viewed in the context in which it was made, this is a very enjoyable film, featuring some first-rate production design and visual effects, particularly for the time, along with a lantern-jawed performance by Raymond Massey that is stirring if not always believable. This is a worthwhile film for all science fiction fans, in my opinion, and should be seen at least once. If you're going to buy it on DVD, though, I recommend you spend the extra bucks and buy the IMAGE version."