Things To Come, 1936

Things To Come
Things To Come

We all get asked about what our favourite film is. My answer is always, that I don’t have one, movies are like books or chocolates, depending on the time and taste we come across on or two every-so- often which makes us stop and think. I was fortunate enough as a kid/young adult to come across three movies, in some ways similar, in others quite different. Those movies; Casablanca (Curtiz,1942) Roma, Città Aperta (Rossellini, 1945) and “Things to Come” (Cameron Menzies, 1936) all left me wanting to know more. I can remember at different times watching, as a kid, both Things to Come and Roma, I did not know about them before hand, but once I had seen them, they left a mark. As an adult, our paths crossed again and I got to know and appreciate them. These are the movies which first found me and gave me an appreciation of cinematography as an art and medium for an author’s vision.
I was affected by the brutality and shear dystopia of the vision set out by Wells, Korda and Cameron Menzies, it was dark and as a kid, the stuff of nightmares, the bombing of the city initially and then with the sleeping gas by Wings over the World, left me with a chill I can still remember the best part of 30 years later. The poignancy of the air raids stuck with me, perhaps because I was (still am) a child of the cold war, and we grew up with the sword of nuclear conflict hanging over us.

The film opens in an English town/city, at one time it has the magnificent architecture of a capital but also the feel of a small English town, the name of the town is: “Everytown”. This unromantic view for a naming sets the tone for what we have ahead.

It is the Christmas period and our hero John Cabal (Raymond Massey, How the West Was Won, 1962) is talking with two guests, they turn to the subject of possible war. The discussion shows that opinion is divided between the friends . The conversation looks to the future history which may come given the on-going situation, it is even felt by some there that war might be good for society generally, spurring-on technological development. Our host Cabal is a pacifist and does not accept the benefits of war. The theoretical discussion is thrown in to sharp relief when later on Everytown is subjected to what can only be described as a Blitzkrieg attack using planes and tanks reducing the town to rubble.
Looking at these scenes of destruction we might be tempted to guffaw at the special effects and models, but we need to remember this was a ground-breaking vision in 1936, get past the limitations of the period and watch the movie, you will be rewarded for it. We might also not appreciate the forward looking nature of the story itself. We need to remember that the movie is from 1936, the vision from the book even earlier. This movie looks at the world around it and guesses to the future in store, unfortunately it was not too far wrong. The movie is as visual as it is vocal, it is probably the first film, the cinematography of which, left a mark on me. At the time there would have been no other movie which pulled the fears of the time in to such a neat package, giving us a glimpse of what the fears of the time were like. We can contrast it with movies like “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” (1943) which although filmed in war time, sought to show how an individual’s respect for another can overcome the evils of war, society was never allowed to descend to total self-destruction, it is a romanticised comedy of sorts. Things to Come makes no attempt to lighten the message, continuously bringing home the horror of the situation.
The war is not a short affair, dragging on for decades through the 50’s and 60’s, it is total war bringing in everybody including pacifist Cabal who we see later  in uniform as a pilot. Even here we see the struggle of humanity over the destruction. Massey shoots down an enemy bomber pilot, but then lands to offer him help. The pilot is dying and as they talk a young girl comes across them, the gas and poison of the attacks is also falling around them, the pilot gives the girl his mask, Cabal rescues the girl and takes her back in his aircraft, leaving the pilot his gun, who after reflecting on saving the girl and in all probability killing her family, shoots himself.
As the war progresses into the 1960’s the cause of the conflict has long since been lost to the fug of war and history. Just as we thought things could not get any worse a new evil is visited upon Everytown , biological warfare in the form of a plague which causes the Wandering sickness, we are never told who the enemy was that unleashed this. Over half the surviving population of the world is wiped out. Any semblance of national government is also gone. The war has reversed and destroyed the technological advances made up until the war started.
The scene next brings us to about 1970, Everytown is in the hands of “The Boss” (Ralph Richardson, Doctor Zhivago, 1965), he is every bit the medieval warlord. Firm and vicious, he has controlled the plague by shooting anybody suffering from it. We see he has designs on a nearby group, the Hill People, he wants to take their coal and shale to make fuel for his surviving planes and grow his little empire. He is a despot in the classical sense.
Into this wrecked Everytown flies a modern aircraft far beyond the biplanes of The Boss, piloted by Cabal himself. He tells us of a new civilisation growing in Basra, Iraq. It is made up of surviving “Engineers and Mechanics” who have come together to form a new society, a new world order, based on science, technology and learning. Cabal is taken captive and forced to work on the Boss’s biplanes to service and repair them. He is assigned another to work with him, Gordon (Derrick De Marney), who escapes using the repaired aircraft. He flies to the new society, calling itself “Wings over The World”.
Our next view of Everytown is it being attacked by this new society, this time the gas used is a sleeping gas, when the population reawakens The Boss is dead. As the decades pass we move in to the middle 21st century around 2036. Society has advanced quickly, learning and growing through science and exploration. This has not all been perfect, this quick advancement puts strain on society.
The strains rise to a popular uprising against a planned rocket launch to the Moon. Faced with the danger to the mission the chairman of the ruling council, Oswald Cabal, John’s grandson (and also played by Massey) pulls forward the launch. These people are seen almost as luddites. Addressing the crowds towards the end of the movie he asks “All the universe – or nothingness, which shall it be?”
It is probably hard to underplay the part this movie should play in cinema history, The vision is clear and shocking, no more shocking for the vision itself, even before Poland in 1939 or even the Spanish Civil War which was only gathering pace in 1936 we are shown the destructive nature of Blitzkrieg. We are shown the destruction of society and humanity’s descent to a new Dark Age. Much has been made of the technological advances made by society as a result of WWII. Wells, Cameron Menzies and Korda gave us a new vision which was scarily accurate. We see how eventually a new society is born based on the advances of science, however all is not perfect, order and control seem perfect, but are they? There are few movies which despite being nearly 70 years old can still pack the same punch as they did when first out. The message of Things to Come is as valid now as it was in 1936.

books or chocolates, depending on the time and taste we come across on or two every-so- often which makes us stop and think. I was fortunate enough as a kid/young adult to come across three movies, in some ways similar, in others quite different. Those movies; Casablanca (Curtiz,1942) Roma, Città Aperta (Rossellini, 1945) and “Things to Come” (Cameron Menzies, 1936) all left me wanting to know more. I can remember at different times watching, as a kid, both Things to Come and Roma, I did not know about them before hand, but once I had seen them, they left a mark. As an adult, our paths crossed again and I got to know and appreciate them. These are the movies which first found me and gave me an appreciation of cinematography as an art and medium for an author’s vision.
I was affected by the brutality and shear dystopia of the vision set out by wells, Korda and Cameron Menzies, it was dark and as a kid, the stuff of nightmares, the bombing of the city initially and then with the sleeping gas by Wings over the World, left me with a chill I can still remember the best part of 30 years later. The poignancy of the air raids stuck with me, perhaps because I was (still am) a child of the cold war, and we grew up with the sword of nuclear conflict hanging over us.

The film opens in an English town/city, at one time it has the magnificent architecture of a capital but also the feel of a small English town, the name of the town is: “Everytown”. This unromantic view, naming sets the tone for what we have ahead. It is the Christmas period and our hero John Cabal (Raymond Massey, How the West Was Won, 1962) is talking with two guests, they turn to the subject of possible war. The discussion shows that opinion is divided between the friends . The conversation looks to the future history which may come given the on-going situation, it is even felt by some there that war might be good for society generally, spurring-on technological development. Our host Cabal is a pacifist and does not accept the benefits of war. The theoretical discussion is thrown in to sharp relief when later on Everytown is subjected to what can only be described as a Blitzkrieg attack using planes and tanks reducing the town to rubble.
Looking at these scenes of destruction we might be tempted to guffaw at the special effects and models, but we need to remember this was a ground-breaking vision in 1936, get past the limitations of the period and watch the movie, you will be rewarded for it. We might also not appreciate the forward looking nature of the story itself. We need to remember that the movie is from 1936, the vision from the book even earlier. This movie looks at the world around it and guesses to the future in store, unfortunately it was not too far wrong. The movie is as visual as it is vocal, it is probably the first film, the cinematography of which, left a mark on me. At the time there would have been no other movie which pulled the fears of the time in to such a neat package, giving us a glimpse of what the fears of the time were like. We can contrast it with movies like 2The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” (1943) which although filmed in war time, sought to show how an individual’s respect for another can overcome the evils of war, society was never allowed to descend to total self-destruction, it is a romanticised comedy of sorts. Things to Come makes no attempt to lighten the message, continuously bringing home the horror of the situation.
The war is not a short affair, dragging on for decades through the 50’s and 60’s, it is total war bringing in everybody including pacifist Cabal in uniform as a pilot. Even here we see the struggle of humanity over the destruction. Massey shoots down an enemy bomber pilot, but then lands to offer him help. The pilot is dying and as they talk a young girl comes across them, the gas and poison of the attacks is also falling around them, the pilot gives the girl his mask, Cabal rescues the girl and takes her back in his aircraft, leaving the pilot his gun, who after reflecting on saving the girl and in all probability killing her family, shoots himself.
As the war progresses into the 1960’s the cause of the conflict has long since been lost to the fug of war and history. Just as we thought things could not get any worse a new evil is visited upon Everytown , biological warfare in the form of a plague which causes the Wandering sickness), we are never told who the enemy was that unleashed this. Over half the surviving population of the world is wiped out. Any semblance of national government is also gone. The war has reversed and destroyed the technological advances made up until the war started.

We all get asked about what is our favourite film. My answer is always, that I don’t have one, movies are like books or chocolates, depending on the time and taste we come across on or two every-so- often which makes us stop and think. I was fortunate enough as a kid/young adult to come across three movies, in some ways similar, in others quite different. Those movies; Casablanca (Curtiz,1942) Roma, Città Aperta (Rossellini, 1945) and “Things to Come” (Cameron Menzies, 1936) all left me wanting to know more. I can remember at different times watching, as a kid, both Things to Come and Roma, I did not know about them before hand, but once I had seen them, they left a mark. As an adult, our paths crossed again and I got to know and appreciate them. These are the movies which first found me and gave me an appreciation of cinematography as an art and medium for an author’s vision.
I was affected by the brutality and shear dystopia of the vision set out by wells, Korda and Cameron Menzies, it was dark and as a kid, the stuff of nightmares, the bombing of the city initially and then with the sleeping gas by Wings over the World, left me with a chill I can still remember the best part of 30 years later. The poignancy of the air raids stuck with me, perhaps because I was (still am) a child of the cold war, and we grew up with the sword of nuclear conflict hanging over us.

The film opens in an English town/city, at one time it has the magnificent architecture of a capital but also the feel of a small English town, the name of the town is: “Everytown”. This unromantic view, naming sets the tone for what we have ahead. It is the Christmas period and our hero John Cabal (Raymond Massey, How the West Was Won, 1962) is talking with two guests, they turn to the subject of possible war. The discussion shows that opinion is divided between the friends . The conversation looks to the future history which may come given the on-going situation, it is even felt by some there that war might be good for society generally, spurring-on technological development. Our host Cabal is a pacifist and does not accept the benefits of war. The theoretical discussion is thrown in to sharp relief when later on Everytown is subjected to what can only be described as a Blitzkrieg attack using planes and tanks reducing the town to rubble.
Looking at these scenes of destruction we might be tempted to guffaw at the special effects and models, but we need to remember this was a ground-breaking vision in 1936, get past the limitations of the period and watch the movie, you will be rewarded for it. We might also not appreciate the forward looking nature of the story itself. We need to remember that the movie is from 1936, the vision from the book even earlier. This movie looks at the world around it and guesses to the future in store, unfortunately it was not too far wrong. The movie is as visual as it is vocal, it is probably the first film, the cinematography of which, left a mark on me. At the time there would have been no other movie which pulled the fears of the time in to such a neat package, giving us a glimpse of what the fears of the time were like. We can contrast it with movies like 2The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” (1943) which although filmed in war time, sought to show how an individual’s respect for another can overcome the evils of war, society was never allowed to descend to total self-destruction, it is a romanticised comedy of sorts. Things to Come makes no attempt to lighten the message, continuously bringing home the horror of the situation.
The war is not a short affair, dragging on for decades through the 50’s and 60’s, it is total war bringing in everybody including pacifist Cabal in uniform as a pilot. Even here we see the struggle of humanity over the destruction. Massey shoots down an enemy bomber pilot, but then lands to offer him help. The pilot is dying and as they talk a young girl comes across them, the gas and poison of the attacks is also falling around them, the pilot gives the girl his mask, Cabal rescues the girl and takes her back in his aircraft, leaving the pilot his gun, who after reflecting on saving the girl and in all probability killing her family, shoots himself.
As the war progresses into the 1960’s the cause of the conflict has long since been lost to the fug of war and history. Just as we thought things could not get any worse a new evil is visited upon Everytown , biological warfare in the form of a plague which causes the Wandering sickness), we are never told who the enemy was that unleashed this. Over half the surviving population of the world is wiped out. Any semblance of national government is also gone. The war has reversed and destroyed the technological advances made up until the war started.
The scene next brings us to about 1970, Everytown is in the hands of “The Boss” (Ralph Richardson, Doctor Zhivago, 1965), he is every bit the medieval warlord. Firm and vicious, he has controlled the plague by shooting anybody suffering from it. We see he has designs on a nearby group, the Hill People, he want to take their coal and shale to make fuel for his surviving planes and grow his little empire. He is a despot in the classical sense.
Into this new Everytown flies a modern aircraft far beyond the biplanes of The Boss, piloted by Cabal himself. He tells us of a new civilisation growing in Basra, Iraq. It is made up of surviving “Engineers and Mechanics” who have come together to form a new society, a new world order, based on science, technology and learning. Cabal is taken captive and forced to work on the Boss’s biplanes to service and repair them. He is assigned another to work with him, Gordon (Derrick De Marney), who escapes using the repaired aircraft. He flies to the new society, calling itself “Wings over The World”.
Our next view of Everytown is it being attacked by this new society, this time the gas used is a sleeping gas, when the population reawakens The Boss is dead. As the decades pass we move in to the middle 21st century around 2036. Society has advanced quickly, learning and growing through science and exploration. This has not all been perfect, this quick advancement puts strain on society.
The strains rise to a popular uprising against a planned rocket launch to the Moon. Faced with the danger to the mission the chairman of the ruling council, Oswald Cabal, John’s grandson and also played by Massey) pulls forward the launch. These people are seen almost as luddites. Addressing the crowds towards the end of the movie he asks “All the universe – or nothingness, which shall it be?”
It is probably hard to underplay the part this movie should play in cinema history, The vision is clear and shocking, no more shocking for the vision itself, even before Poland in 1939 or even the Spanish Civil War which was only gathering pace in 1936 we are shown the destructive nature of Blitzkrieg. We are shown the destruction of society and humanities descent to a new Dark Age. Much has been made of the technological advances made by society as a result of WWII. Wells, Cameron Menzies and Korda gave us a new vision which was scarily accurate. We see how eventually a new society is born based on the advances of science, however all is not perfect, order and control seem perfect, but are they?
There are few movies which despite being nearly 70 years old can still pack the same punch as they did when first out. The message of Things to Come is as valid now as it was in 1936.
The scene next brings us to about 1970, Everytown is in the hands of “The Boss” (Ralph Richardson, Doctor Zhivago, 1965), he is every bit the medieval warlord. Firm and vicious, he has controlled the plague by shooting anybody suffering from it. We see he has designs on a nearby group, the Hill People, he want to take their coal and shale to make fuel for his surviving planes and grow his little empire. He is a despot in the classical sense.
Into this new Everytown flies a modern aircraft far beyond the biplanes of The Boss, piloted by Cabal himself. He tells us of a new civilisation growing in Basra, Iraq. It is made up of surviving “Engineers and Mechanics” who have come together to form a new society, a new world order, based on science, technology and learning. Cabal is taken captive and forced to work on the Boss’s biplanes to service and repair them. He is assigned another to work with him, Gordon (Derrick De Marney), who escapes using the repaired aircraft. He flies to the new society, calling itself “Wings over The World”.
Our next view of Everytown is it being attacked by this new society, this time the gas used is a sleeping gas, when the population reawakens The Boss is dead. As the decades pass we move in to the middle 21st century around 2036. Society has advanced quickly, learning and growing through science and exploration. This has not all been perfect, this quick advancement puts strain on society.
The strains rise to a popular uprising against a planned rocket launch to the Moon. Faced with the danger to the mission the chairman of the ruling council, Oswald Cabal, John’s grandson and also played by Massey) pulls forward the launch. These people are seen almost as luddites. Addressing the crowds towards the end of the movie he asks “All the universe – or nothingness, which shall it be?”
It is probably hard to underplay the part this movie should play in cinema history, The vision is clear and shocking, no more shocking for the vision itself, even before Poland in 1939 or even the Spanish Civil War which was

only gathering pace in 1936 we are shown the destructive nature of Blitzkrieg. We are shown the destruction of society and humanities descent to a new Dark Age. Much has been made of the technological advances made by society as a result of WWII. Wells, Cameron Menzies and Korda gave us a new vision which was scarily accurate. We see how eventually a new society is born based on the advances of science, however all is not perfect, order and control seem perfect, but are they?
There are few movies which despite being nearly 70 years old can still pack the same punch as they did when first out. The message of Things to Come is as valid now as it was in 1936.

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