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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary featuring film historian and writer David Kalat
  • New interview with writer and cultural historian Christopher Frayling on the film's design
  • New visual essay by film historian Bruce Eder on Arthur Bliss's musical score
  • Unused special effects footage by artist LŠszlů Moholy-Nagy, along with a video installation piece by Jan Tichy incorporating that footage
  • Audio recording from 1936 of a reading from H. G. Wells's writing about the Wandering Sickness, the plague in Things to Come

Things to Come

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: William Cameron Menzies
1936 | 97 Minutes | Licensor: ITV Global Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #660
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: June 18, 2013
Review Date: June 13, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

A landmark collaboration between writer H. G. Wells, producer Alexander Korda, and designer and director William Cameron Menzies, Things to Come is a science fiction film like no other, a prescient political work that predicts a century of turmoil and progress. Skipping through time, Things to Come bears witness to world war, disease, dictatorship, and, finally, utopia. Conceived, written, and overseen by Wells himself as an adaptation of his own work, this megabudget production, the most ambitious ever from Korda's London Films, is a triumph of imagination and technical audacity.

Forum members rate this film 8/10

 

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PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents Things to Come in its original aspect ratio of about 1.37:1 on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc with a new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer.

Limited primarily by its source, the visual presentation for Things to Come isnít all that strong on Blu-ray but thereís no doubt it could be far worse. The digital transfer itself is superb, delivering as crisp an image as it can with some strong details in places. Film grain is rendered nicely, contrast is sharp and gray levels are distinct and smoothly delivered. The transfer is smooth in motion and no artifacts make themselves noticeable.

The majority of the image, though, is pretty soft and a bit hazy, but this is obviously related to the source materials and nothing to do with the transfer. The source has been nicely cleaned up on the other hand, and damage is minimal, limited to a few specs, some thin scratches, and tram lines.

Ultimately itís not as crisp as one would probably like, but the presentation is at least stable film-like.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The lossless PCM 1.0 mono track is limited by its age. Music is tinny and weak, and dialogue can sound a bit distorted, which makes it hard to hear in places. The track doesnít have any other substantial issues and is generally clean, lacking background noise and scratches. Still, calling it weak is probably an understatement.

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterionís special features start with an incredible (as usual) audio commentary by David Kalat, who again delivers an engaging and informative track just full of information. Kalat concentrates a lot on Wellsí involvement in the production, which was a lot since his contract stated nothing could get by him without his approval. Everyone involved experienced a lot of frustration: Wells was frustrated when something didnít meet his exact idea and Korda and Menzies were just frustrated with Wells, his stale visual sense, and his whining about everything. Kalat covers Wellsí politics and how the film perfectly captures them, and of course he comments on some of Wellsí more ridiculous predictions, like the giant gun, which would kill any passenger. He brings up Fritz Langís Metropolis, stating that film does hold up better because itís not so literal, and he also talks about other films Wells did or almost did work on. As usual Kalatís commentary flows effortlessly and naturally, and while Iím sure he has notes and/or a script you would never tell; he sounds like heís just having a general conversation. He also segues smoothly between topics, even topics that donít necessarily have much of anything to do with the film. Itís such an engaging and amazing track, another excellent one from Kalat and certainly worth listening to.

The remaining supplements do repeat some information found in Kalatís commentary but they focus on specific areas of the production and expand on things he mentioned. Criterion first provides an interview with Christopher Frayling on the filmís design. During the rather interesting 23-minute interview Frayling talks about the various designers that worked on the filmís look, and the general difficulties that came about from trying to adapt Wellís vision. Or lack thereof, as Frayling shows when he reads from Wellís treatment (he basically says make it look like the opposite of Metropolis.) He also addresses the use of the ďgiant gunĒ used in the film instead of a rocket, LŠszlo Moholy-Nagyís contribution, and he even talks about the overall issues with the film, which is ultimately weighted down by its own ambitions.

Bruce Eder then talks about the filmís score with this visual essay. Eder talks about Arthur Blissí score and Wellís heavy participation in the development of the score, which the man considered just as important as the dialogue. He then talks about the various cues that appear throughout and their significance. Itís another solid addition, again going over Wellís heavy involvement in just about every aspect of the making of the film.

A section devoted to LŠszlo Moholy-Nagy first presents found footage of some of Moholy-Nagyís designs and models for the film that were ultimately not used, followed by an artistic piece made in 2012 by Jan Tichy that uses the footage, making up a 3-channel video installation piece to be put up on display. They run 4-minutes and 2-and-a-half minutes respectively. The disc features then close with 4-minutes of audio presenting H. G. Wells reading from what sounds like his treatment, covering the sequence about The Wandering Sickness (which plays out like a very early zombie horror movie in a way.) Both prove to be great archival inclusions.

The set then closes off with an excellent essay about the film, its strengths and weaknesses, and its production by Geoffrey OíBrien.

Itís not loaded but Kalatís commentary track adds incredible value, and it covers all aspects of the film beautifully in its 97-minute runtime.

8/10

CLOSING

The source materials hold the picture back a bit, but the digital transfer itself is strong. But the supplements, specifically Kalatís commentary, make this odd curiosity of a film definitely worth picking up.


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