Things to Come

Produced by London Film Productions and distributed in 1936 by United Artists, black and white 35mm negative, 1.37:1 screen ratio, mono sound, 92 mins., DVD released 1999.

1936 poster




This film is the 1936 narrative of the novel The Shape of Things to Come published by H. G. Wells in 1933. It opens with an air attack on Everytown (London) in 1940 and describes a 30-year war that nearly destroys civilization, but mankind is saved from the cruel Boss by technocrats and the Airman John Cabal and his peace-seeking society Wings Over the World. According to Don Smith, "Things to Come is the greatest science film of the thirties and forties. It would rank today as one of the greatest films of all time but for its aloofness and tendencey to spout ideology" (Smith p. 179). It was England's first film with a million-dollar budget and featured innovative visual effects. "The earlier science fiction masterpiece Metropolis (1926) was flawed by its inability to successfully place actors in its outstanding minatures. Mann, Zech, and Korda solved the problem by constructing life-size lower storys of buildings and then inserting miniature upper storys with matte work. Buildings were often painted on glass. Clear glass remained in portions of the paintings so the camera could film actors and fragments of sets on the other side. The technicians then fastened the glass to a camera so as to film the pane and background action simultaneously. A continuous full-sized exposure resulted. Other special effects included biplane warfare, a huge space gun, ruined cities, parge airplane hangers, and a giant digging machine" (Smith p. 176). Ned Mann had created the aviation special effects for Madame Satan (1930) and Dirigible (1931), and he created the New York skyline that was swallowed by a huge tidal wave in Deluge (1933), the same miniature skyline would be used by RKO in the film King Kong (1933).


revised 7/13/05 by Steven Schoenherr at the University of San Diego | Filmnotes | trailer on reserve