It’s odd that discussions of landmark visual effects rarely bring up 1935’s Things to Come, a film almost overburdened with miniatures, ship designs, and devastated civilizations. Hulking machines eschew modern miniaturization for something bolder and more soluble for a ’30s audience. Rockets blast men into space, and wartime is met with the fringes of technological evolution, or at least how H.G. Wells saw it.
There’s little subtlety to this wartime message, Everytown as it is so eloquently called plastered with news of incoming bombardment during a fanciful Christmas holiday. Everytown will become a center for all of humanity, both a (then) modernized central gathering hub, a downfall of man into barbarism, and its eventual underground rebirth where technology runs rampant.
For its 100 years of humankind, Things to Come feels necessitated to push forward whether or not the narrative needs more time to build. This is no fault of cast or crew, chunks of the film lost to the ages, this version seconds shy of 92-minutes. A nearly two-hour cut can be found, feeling more relaxed and controlled. A marvel of early editing or not, opening on panicked streets under the threat of enemy gas bombs is too much to handle, the scale lost to the chop-happy cuts.
War continues through generations, the dramatic spectacle of plague, starvation, and cruelty never diluted. The infected are shot with little regard for the emotional attachment of family members, just adding victims to a war that is occurring elsewhere. Power mad generals rule with the proverbial iron fist, firmly believing the malnourished will once again take to the skies to dominate the unseen forces.
No, Things to Come’s future presentation, sending man to merely circle the moon in 2032, doesn’t hold water to where we have already advanced. It doesn’t have to. The stern warning and message as the populace rises up against technology based progress makes more sense now than it did then. How things change.
Legend films is likely reusing the master they produced back in 2008, the evidence being this multi-generational print is more than likely a 16mm dupe, and the colorization is miles behind the included She. To put it simply, it’s terrible, not that the source material is all that helpful.
Damage fluctuates with this bumbling effort, judder and flicker occurring with regularity. This is more than mere aging, Things to Come for years shuffled around the public domain. Who knows how many hands this has passed through. Vintage multi-pass effects certainly don’t help either, adding additional preservation strain.
Resolution doesn’t do many favors for Things to Come, the Blu-ray release sporting a modicum of added definition over numerous digital counterparts. The meager AVC encode is a starved as the people in the film’s version of the ’70s, a paltry, consistent single digit affair that is unacceptable. While the film grain has been reduced to almost nothing for a variety of reasons, compression remains visible, softening up complex vistas of destroyed towns.
Gray scale is meager, the contrast blowing out scenes and actor’s faces. There’s limited depth to these at times bold images, the stark shadows of marching soldiers lacking the needed impact. Colorization will correct this, filling in those otherwise blank, splotchy spaces with the pastel flesh tones, neither acceptable for a film that deserves better.
Opening this ’30s classic are Christmas bells signaling the holidays, and a sure sign that some of this audio is simply destroyed. Bells carry out of control warble and distortion. The only reason they sound like bells is because it fits the festive motiff. Balance is parched, the score seemingly trudged through the mud enough to mingle with the dialogue at inadequate levels. Neither side benefits. Bombs, guns, and engines are clustered together as if they’re singular pieces, separation between these elements lost to the ages.
Static and popping will further hinder efforts, and it’s a wonder if modern uncompressed codecs would have salvaged anything. Legend slaps this sucker with a Dolby Digital mono affair ripped right from their DVD, clearly no work going into this aspect of the disc.
Extras feel familiar, many of the interview clips shared with She, the sightlier sister of this H.G. Wells piece. Ray Harryhausen lets his thoughts on Things to Come show through in a four-minute clip, and the colorization featurette is nearly identical save for Things footage.
Combined with She, the two ’30s talkies share two features, one a selection of classic toy commercials, and the other being a biography of Harryhausen. Also of note, the set contains a DVD of The Most Dangerous Game.
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Note: Screens are for reference of color vs. B&W to help make your own conclusion, hence why only one set is captioned.