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Hollywood Movie Memories » william cameron menzies

Posts Tagged ‘william cameron menzies’

Things To Come

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Things to Come (B&W + Colorized Versions)

Tagline – What Will the Next Hundred Years Bring to Mankind?

Starring – Raymond Massey (John Cabal/Oswald Cabal), Edward Chapman (Pippa Passworthy/Raymond Passworthy), Ralph Richardson (The Boss), Margaretta Scott (Roxana/Rowena), Cedric Hardwicke (Theotocopulos).

Released – April, 1936

Directed By – William Cameron Menzies

Produced By – London Films Productions

Distributed By – United Artists Corporation

Description – A British science fiction film about the present and the future. In the British city of “Everytown,” businessman John Cabal is unable to enjoy this Christmas day as the threat of war has cast a dark cloud over the world.

John’s holiday guests, Dr. Edward Harding shares his concern, while Pippa Passworthy feels that it will not occur. Mr. Passworthy’s over-optimism is shattered by a bombing raid that evening and the breakout of global war.

John Cabal, now a pilot, shoots down an enemy bomber. He lands in the area of the bomber’s crash and tries to tend to the wounded enemy. As poison gas surrounds them, the pair put on gas masks and speak of the horror of war. A little girl passes in a daze and the wounded enemy gives her his mask accepting his own death.

John takes the girl to his plane and heads for safety. The war rages on for decades, taking a deadly toll, until the remaining people are mostly those born after the start of the war. There is desolation everywhere, and society has totally broken down. The only remaining hints of cities are groups of small primitive communities.

It is now 1966, and a great plague called the “wandering sickness” is spread by the enemies few remaining airplanes. With little medical equipment still in existence, a cure is hopeless. Four years pass and a warlord, known only as “The Boss,” has emerged as leader. His cure for the plague is to kill all those infected.

In May of 1970 a futuristic airplane lands, carrying John Cabal, announcing a new society called, “Wings Over the World.” They are rebuilding civilization and have renounced war and all independent nations.

However, The Boss is not ready to give up his power and authority. He takes John prisoner forcing him to help repair some remaining planes. One repaired plane is taken on a test flight, but the pilot heads for the location of the new society and tells them of John’s capture.

The people of “Wings Over the World” attack Everytown, killing The Boss and freeing John. The next few decades will provide a period of reconstruction. The people now live underground due to the poison air above them.

There is now hope for a new and peaceful society. That is until a revolution against progress begins to take root and the cycle of war begins again.

NOTABLE: The screenplay for Things to Come was written by H. G. Wells, and is an adaptation of his 1933 novel, The Shape of Things to Come.

Things To Come proved to be a prediction of the future as, in the film, war began on Christmas day 1940.  World War II would start on September 1, 1939. Also, the depiction of poison gas used in the film was a very real fear during World War II.

Personal Note: Here is a poignant quote from the film made by character John Cabal, “If we don’t end war, war will end us.”

A fearful and sad sentiment that is still with us today.


Douglas Fairbanks as The Thief of Bagdad

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

March, 1924Douglas Fairbank’s new film The Thief of Bagdad, opening at the Liberty Theatre in New York, provided its audience with pure cinema magic. The audience responded with tremendous applause for a motion picture that clearly was the most ambitious of its time.

Douglas Fairbanks on a magic carpet ride.

Douglas Fairbanks on a magic carpet ride.

Fairbanks, who is considered to be the first “real” celebrity, is excellent in a role that is sure to be considered among his greatest triumphs.

William Cameron Menzies provided the fabulous set design, with the beautiful costumes courtesy of Mitchell Leisen. Integrating magnificent special effects and the imaginative athletic movements of the films star, The Thief of Bagdad is a sensational followup to Douglas Fairbanks superb portrayal of 1922’s Robin Hood.

Production took place at the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios in West Hollywood and would be one of the most expensive films made during the 1920’s. The estimated cost came in at over a million dollars.

Based on several of the fantasy inspired Arabian Nights tales, The Thief of Bagdad would go on to be voted the Best Film of 1924, by 400 American film critics, and would also help launch the career of actress Anna May Wong who portrays a scantily-clad, treacherous Mongol slave.

For Douglas Fairbanks, The Thief of Bagdad satisfied his desire to create an epic motion picture and successfully completed his transition from genial comedy actor to “swashbuckling” action/adventure hero.

Invaders From Mars

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Invaders from Mars

Tagline – Mankind’s oldest fear comes to life!

Starring– Helena Carter (Dr. Pat Blake), Arthur Franz (Dr. Kelston), Jimmy Hunt (David MacLean), Leif Erickson (George MacLean), Hillary Brooke (Mary MacLean).

Released – April, 1953

Directed By – William Cameron Menzies

Produced By – Edward L. Alperson Productions

Distributed By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Description– Young David MacLean is awakened by something outside his bedroom window. When looking out the window he sees a flying saucer landing in a field near his home.

David tells his father who goes out to the field only to return home and tell David that he must have dreamed this vision. However, something seems disturbingly different about Dad, and David notices a peculiar mark on the back of his father’s neck.

It seems none of the adults will believe his story, and those that have gone into the field have all returned with the same mark on their necks and display the same unusual behavior as his father. After repeated attempts to get help, David finally finds two people who are not yet affected by this strange behavior and he enlists the aid of astronomer Dr. Kelston, and physician Dr. Pat Blake.

Dr.’s Kelston and Blake believe David, and it does appear that a flying saucer has embedded itself into a sandbar in the field. But why, and what will happen next? Just who can be trusted as it seems as though everyone in town is falling under an alien spell.

Can the Army help, or will they prove to be powerless against what seems to be the beginning of an invasion from Mars.

NOTABLE: Invaders From Mars was shot with lower than normal camera angles projecting the point of view of a child.

The scene where the walls are melting in the underground tunnels was created using a tub of boiling oatmeal with red food coloring and red lights.

The bubble effect on the tunnels walls was originally created using balloons. However, the balloons looked to be stuck to the walls and were ineffective. To correct the look, 30,000 latex condoms were inflated and used.

Personal Note: While Invaders From Mars may not be as noteworthy as many on this site, it is a personal favorite. A guilty pleasure I remember enjoying as a child that I just had to include.

Vivid color, and surreal set designs added to the storyline of adults being taken over one by one and an impending attack by Martians. Great stuff for a young film fans early exposure to Science Fiction.

I have a handful of these early fifties Sci-Fi and can’t wait until my grandson’s are old enough to view them.