After The Invisible Man and Island of Lost Souls (read my review here) were adapted for the screen from his novels, HG Wells (pictured below) turned his hand to screenwriting for Alexander Korda’s film version of his 1933 novel, The Shape of Things to Come – a prophetic view of the future spanning the years 1940 to 2036.
The story begins in 1940 with the opening of World War II and then shifts to 1970 where a desolated Everytown (looking like an Alan Moore inspired alternative London) is ruled over by Ralph Richardson’s cruel Boss. A pilot (Raymond Massey) then arrives with a peace gun and turns the city’s inhabitants into good citizens. Following a stunning montage sequence (the film’s highlight), the story shifts to 2036 in which Everytown has become a peaceful technological utopia controlled by a pompous ruler (Massey again) who wants to colonise the Moon. When a sculptor (Cedric Hardwicke) incites a riot by modern-day Luddites after pleading an end to progress, the rocket – manned by a modern-day Adam and Eve – is promptly launched ahead of schedule. The film ends with the ruler making a speech about man’s need to be the master of his own destiny.
Although it didn’t set the box-office alight and is slow at times, Things to Come, remains one of the most important of all sci-fi films. While Wells’ visionary ideas now appear dated, it’s Vincent Korda’s art direction that’s the real reason to watch this film again. The wonderful abstract design of the gigantic sets and spectacular special effects make this vintage sci-fi’s visual splendor comparable only to the Fritz Lang’s ground-breaking Metropolis (check out the Masters of Cinema’s reconstructed version here), which was filmed almost a decade previously.
This new version of Things to Come has been restored from the remaining film elements and represents the most complete version known to exist. Special features include a 1975 interview with Ralph Richardson, audio commentary, extensive booklet, trailer and stills gallery.