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Things to Come(1936)
Beginning before World War II and travelling to 2036 AD, this journey predicts a host of modernities before following a rocketship to the moon. Massey is a future leader determined to restore law and order. Based on the story by H.G. Wells and written for the screen by Wells.
For more about Things to Come and the Things to Come Blu-ray release, see Things to Come Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 19, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: William Cameron Menzies
Writer: H.G. Wells
Starring: Raymond Massey, Ralph Richardson, Cedric Hardwicke, Margaretta Scott, Derrick De Marney, Edward Chapman
» See full cast & crew
Things to Come Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 19, 2013
William Cameron Menzies' "Things to Come" (1936) arrive on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the release include a brand new audio commentary with film historian and writer David Kalat; new video interview with writer and cultural historian Christopher Fraying; new visual essay by film historian Bruce Eder; unused footage with special effects by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy; experimental work by artist Jan Tichy; and audio recording taken from a single-sided 78 r.p.m. gramophone record in the collection of film historian John Huntley. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O'Brien. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Christmas Eve, 1940. The Great War begins and soon the world is devastated. Those who survive gather in small groups around large cities, such as Everytown, a place that looks a lot like London. Soon after, the Pestilence wipes out the weakest communities.
Some thirty years after the Great War, a man with a strange aircraft lands in Everytown. John Cabal (Raymond Massey, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, East of Eden) is a representative of the scientific group Wings Over the World, which is on a mission to eliminate the warlords controlling the surviving communities and unite mankind. He is introduced to The Boss (Ralph Richardson, The Fallen Idol, The Four Feathers), who quickly makes it clear that he isn't interested in participating in the group's project. Cabal is then arrested and thrown in prison. Meanwhile, an engineer (Derrick De Marney, The Girl Was Young) who believes in world peace manages to inform Wings Over the World that Cabal has landed in his community but has been arrested. The group quickly sends giant aircrafts that drop the 'Gas of Peace' over Everytown. The Boss dies during the attack, while Cabal is freed by his men. Everytown then joins the group's project.
In the year 2036, scientists have built a giant Super Gun that could send people to the Moon, but not everyone is happy with it and the technological advancements made during the years of peace. Backed by other dissidents, the sculptor Theotocopulos (Cedric Hardwicke, Suspicion, The Winslow Boy) calls for the end of technological progress - and then proceeds to destroy the Super Gun. But the current leader of Everytown, who happens to be Cabal's grandson, is determined to use the Super Gun.
Based on H.G.Wells' popular novel and produced by the great Alexander Korda, William Cameron Menzies' Things to Come is a spectacular sci-fi film with some truly fascinating observations about the future of mankind. Completed in 1936, the film essentially predicts the division which the Cold War will introduce as well as the enormous role technology will have in people's everyday lives in the years ahead. The film's final act is particularly curious as it addresses a number of real issues that have emerged since the end of the twentieth century (the questions Theotocopulos asks are particularly interesting).
Portions of the film have a preachy tone - obviously reflecting H.G.Wells' strong socialist views - but they never seriously disrupt its rhythm.
The film looks simply extraordinary. Many of the sets and decors here easily rival the ones seen in Fritz Lang's legendary Metropolis. In the final third of the film, where some of the most spectacular imagery is, there is also some fantastic camerawork. There is one particular sequence where the crowds gather on the ground level of a massive building and the camera slowly zooms over them which is quite remarkable. The aircraft designs are also stunning.
An excellent orchestral score by Arthur Bliss compliments the film. The score was an immediate success with critics and casual filmgoers and was later on often performed as a concert suite at various venues.
Note: When Things to Come reached Germany, Adolf Hitler was apparently so impressed with the imagery with the destroyed British city (Everytown) that he instructed the head of the German air force and founder of Gestapo, Hermann Goering, to screen it to his subordinates.
Things to Come Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, William Cameron Menzies' Things to Come arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit 4K from a 35mm fine-grain composite print held bu the British Film Institute. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, and jitter were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Transfer supervisor and colorist: Lee Kline.
Film scanning: Trevor Brown/Deluxe 142, London."
Though the framing is identical, the high-definition transfer used for this release is not identical to the one Network used for their Blu-ray release of Things to Come in the United Kingdom. Brightness levels have been toned down. Contrast settings on the two releases are also different (compare sceencapture #8 with screencapture #2 from our review of the Network release). Grain also appears to be marginally better resolved on the Network release. However, while viewing the film only during the nighttime sequences one could spot sporadic differences. For example, see the first attack on London (see screencapture #7) where this release looks a tad softer. Furthermore, light vertical lines and scratches are still present, but they are not any different than the ones that are also retained on the Network release. Obviously, current digital tools cannot completely remove them without seriously affecting the integrity of the image. Lastly, there are no purely transfer specific anomalies to report in this review. To sum it all up, I lean towards Network's presentation of Things to Come as being slightly more satisfying, but the difference is indeed marginal at best. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Things to Come Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
There are some sporadic clarity fluctuations, but they also appear on the Network release. Depth and crispness are not seriously compromised. Overall dynamic movement, however, is quite limited. The dialog is easy to follow. Also, there is no problematic background hiss.
Things to Come Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Things to Come Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I think that fans of William Cameron Menzies' Things to Come will have to consider getting the Network Blu-ray release of the film in addition to Criterion's upcoming release. The new audio commentary by David Kalat makes this release an essential one to own, but on the Network release there is also a terrific commentary by Nick Cooper. I feel that with the two releases one could have a very impressive Ultimate Edition of this spectacular classic film. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Things to Come Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Announces June Titles - March 18, 2013
The Criterion Collection has announced five titles for Blu-ray release in June. On June 11, the studio will release Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries (1957). On June 18th, it will release William Cameron Menzies' Things to Come (1936), František Vlácil's Marketa ...
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