Things to Come

January 26th, 2007 | researchmaterial

Directed by William Cameron Menzies. Written by HG Wells. Mad as snakes.


7 Responses to “Things to Come”

  1. This is kind of creepy in that I just started playing Cold Winter

  2. Interesting. Very revealing about geek culture of the time, and shows why Ayn Rand’s batshit ravings managed to take root there. The same belief in Science! as a kind of god, all-powerful and all-giving, which led the poor credulous geeks to believe she was speaking their language. That combined with Heinlein’s bizarre fetishes gave us a couple generations of Larry Nivens, and we’re still dealing with their intellectual descendants now.

    That being said, I totally loved the miniatures shots. God help me, I’m a sucker for 30s futurist design.

  3. I love that movie! My parents had a copy of it on VHS when I was a kid, so I grew up with it. I was pleased as hell when I found it available for download on archive.org.

    Interesting tidbit about the movie: Menzies originally wanted to record the score for the movie first, and then film it second, so that he could match the film to the score, instead of the other way around like every other film.

  4. I’ve only just started to watch it, but I had to pause to remark that how often do you see costume design in film these days credited to the Marchioness of Queensbury?

    Mr. Brand’s remarks seem a bit harsh, perhaps, and perhaps a bit out of proportion. Regardless of what fallacies are argued for the views of such authors as Rand, Heinlein, and Niven (and surely the three grouped together make a bit of a grab-bag), to speak of batshit ravings, credulity, and bizarre fetishes must be contrasted against the things which were taken as reasonable and normal by millions of reasonable, normal people in the era of this film: Fascism, Stalinism, the mass mobilization of democratic societies for total war, the extermination or internment of entire ethnic groups (President Roosevelt himself referred to Japanese-Americans as being sent to “concentration camps”), the destruction of whole cities with firebombing and atomic weapons. These horrors, which were present or right around the corner in 1940, seem to dwarf any evil that ever came from reading SF.

  5. I think the error Noah makes is in branding this as “geek culture” early20thC-style, which it certainly was not.

  6. A very interesting take on H.G. Wells is George Orwell’s, in such essays as “Wells, Hitler, and the World State,” “The Re-Discovery of Europe,” and his review of MIND AT THE END OF ITS TETHER. Orwell says:

    “Is it not a sort of parricide for a person of my age (thirty-eight) to find fault with H.G. Wells? Thinking people who were born about the beginning of this century are in some sense Wells’s own creation. How much influence any mere writer has, and especially a ‘popular’ writer whose work takes effect quickly, is questionable, but I doubt whether anyone who was writing books between 1900 and 1920, at any rate in the English language, influenced the young so much.”

    Orwell goes on to describe the sense of liberation he felt from Wells’s worldview. However, he also seems to echo something of what Mr. Brand was saying:

    “He was, and still is, quite incapable of understanding that nationalism, religious bigotry, and feudal loyalty are far more powerful forces than what he himself would describe as sanity…The people who have shown the best understanding of Fascism are either those who have suffered under it or those who have a Fascist streak in themselves. A crude book like THE IRON HEEL, written nearly thirty years ago, is a truer prophecy of the future than…THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME…Wells is too sane to understand the modern world…since 1920, he has squandered his talents in slaying paper dragons. But how much it is, after all, to have any talents to squander.”

    These essays are all to be found, by the way, in the Everyman’s Library collection of Orwell essays, a 1380-page ingot I could recommend to anyone. You’ll come across such mind-blowing discoveries as Orwell’s review of MARVEL COMICS (back when it was a series title rather than a company name).

    People who like SF have in many cases been inspired to innovate and move the world forward as they can. But science fiction fandom as an institution can be a profoundly decadent thing to witness, one that almost seems planned as a mockery in detail of anything cool, intriguing, or progressive that SF itself might ever promise.

  7. Oh my. It started out so well, with step by step lessons on “how to terrify your own population”, but somewhere between the plastic tanks, the plague that makes you wander, and the futuristic clothing, Mr. Wells must have slipped.
    Landing to hold the dying adversary, he just shot down, in his arms? He might as well have raised his fist to the sky and yell “Why, God, WHY!”.
    I’m sure many will call it Epic filmmaking at it’s finest, but I just can’t take this seriously.

    In my humble opinion, Science Fiction is something one must tackle with delicacy and discretion. Something a story becomes, not plumped into screaming “This is the future! Look at my aluminium clothes and my plastic flying car”. Tarkovsky’s “Solyaris” is a fine example of a movie that gently touches upon SciFi, without flaunting it. It’s more psychological, and focused on behavioural theory. There are middle ground of course, like Kubrick’s 2001, though it still seems like realism to me, just set in a time in the future.
    Meh. This is still just opinionative…