Things to Come - The Gutlohn Print

by Nick Cooper © 2003-2004

The "Standard Version" of Things to Come currently distributed by London Films (the original makers) in the UK and elsewhere runs to 92m 42s (89m exactly on video in countries using the PAL system - the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc.).  For the first release in early 1936, Rachel Low's The History of the British Film 1929-1939 (George Allen & Unwin, London, 1985), states: "9,781[ft], later 8,830" - 108m 40s and 98m 06s respectively - suggesting that just over 16 minutes of footage has gone missing.  Even this may be an underestimate, since Peter Nicholls' The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction (Granada, London, 1979) quotes the length as, "130 mins (cut to 113)." The most conclusive evidence, however, lies with the contemporary records of the British Board of Film Censorship (now "Classification"), which state:

Classified 20 February, 1936.
When submitted to the BBFC the work had a running time of 117m 13s.
This work was passed with no cuts made.
At the time of classification United Artists Corp. Ltd was the distributor of this film.

Comparison with other contemporary films shows that their quoted running times are recorded correctly, so there are no grounds to uniquely doubt the accuracy of the Things to Come entry, and the logical conclusion that at least 24m 31s are missing.

Fortunately, in late-1935 Wells published Things to Come, a "Film Story" that is essentially the shooting script from early-1935 modified into a semi-novel form. The Film Story contains numerous scenes that no longer appear in the 92m version, and while in some cases it is clearly because they were discarded or replaced with other material, many fit perfectly into gaps in the continuity and narrative of the Standard Version, and indeed production photographs have survived which support the contention that many were filmed, but later lost. A good example of this is a discrepancy that has puzzled viewers for many years, namely that Maragretta Scott is credited for the dual roles of Roxana and Rowena, even though only the former appears in the Standard Version. Rowena is, in fact, the estranged ex-wife of the Oswald Cabal, who appears with him in just one scene. This is scripted in the Film Story, and numerous production stills exist of Scott in her 2036 costume, in some of which she is accompanied by Raymond Massey.

In addition, Leon Stover's The Phrophetic Soul - A Reading of H.G.Wells's Things to Come (McFarland & Co. Inc., 1987) reproduces an internal London Films script identical to the Standard Version, but for the inclusion of a number of now missing scenes, and which crucially is timed in feet and frames of film. Stover contends that this is the "release script," although the "extra material" falls some way short even of the difference between the 92m and 108m versions [this issue - along with other running-time anomalies - will be dealt with separately at a later date].

Seeing references to a version of the film being available in the United States that retained certain sequences not in the 92m 42s print, the author began a search in mid-2002 for North American video releases. The first to bear fruit was a still factory-sealed copy of a prerecorded NTSC-LP format VHS tape, released in 1985 by Interglobal Video Promotions Ltd. of Toronto, Canada. The film print used in this release is of very low quality, with a high degree of contrast and virtually no shades of grey, while the non-Hi-Fi audio track doesn't do the already poor sound much justice, either. The running time is 90m 48s, almost two minutes shorter than the Standard length, and yet it contains just over three minutes of previously "lost" footage, because elsewhere the film has been extensively trimmed, censored and damaged. Most of the long montage sequences - such as the war preparations in Everytown, the Floss Valley attack, and the Reconstruction Phase - have had large chunks clumsily removed, while all bar one instance (luckily in a previously "lost" section) of the use of the word "God" and the single utterence of "damn" have been censored. In addition, while the London Films ident appears at the start, Alexander Korda's producer credit and the United Artists logo later on have been deleted. Curiously, though, the roller caption for the cast credits Margaretta Scott with the role of Roxana only. Subsquently, tapes from other publishers of essentially the same low-quality source material - and all in NTSC-LP format - were obtained, before the acquisition of a 1978 release under the MEDA label. The breakthough with the latter was not just that the print used is much clearer, with better sound, and is recorded in NTSC-SP format (video colour cross-talk is visible, but can be removed quite easily), but that it begins with a caption stating, "Walter O. Gutlohn presents..." Although a producer of short films in his own right, Chicago-based Gutlohn also released licensed 16mm versions of feature films from around the 1940s onwards, so it almost certain that that is the origin of this particular print.

In addition, there have been a number of video releases that have the "extra" segments from Gutlohn print spliced into a Standard print. These "Hybrid" prints notably all show identical damage in the third restored segment, as do all known video copies of the Gutlohn print as a whole. The British National Film Archive (NFA), however, possesses its own Hybrid print - in which the Gutlohn material is from a noticably much higher quality source - but does not have the same damage, and so the restored footage is essentially complete.

Click here for a quality comparison of the VHS releases of this print.

The first piece of footage in the Gutlohn print that does not appear in the Standard 92m 42s print comes between the scene in which John Cabal, his wife, and his guests hear about the outbreak of War on the radio, and the war preparations in Everytown Square. The script extracts come from the Stover book; green text denotes material in the 92m version, blue that which only exists in the Gutlohn print:

101. MEDIUM SHOT 76ft.
All four
[RADIO ANNOUNCER:] ...Please call in all your friends. Call in everyone you can.
CABAL: You've got your stimulant Passworthy. Something great has got you. War has come.
Passworthy and Harding.
TRUCK back as they walk forward.
PASSWORTHY: My God, if they've attacked without a declaration of war... then it's vengeance. No quarter... vengeance. Punishment, condign punishment... or else the end of civilisation altogether.
[PASSWORTHY:] But it's just possible there's some mistake, you know. I cling to that. If not, then it's war to the knife. No it's... it's not war. It's extermination of dangerous vermin. A vermin hunt without pause or pity.
[PASSWORTHY:] Well, goodnight.

End of Reel 1
Reel 2

103. MEDIUM SHOT 10ft. 5frs.
Crowd looking at poster, on which is the NATIONAL DEFENSE ACT.
In the 92m version, the removal of this exchange of dialogue and the preceeding dissolve puts Cabal's last comment at the end of the reel, resulting in an abrupt shift to Everytown's defence preparations. This, though, is no bad thing, as it is far more dramatic than Passworthy's rant, which just plods on clumsily hammering the point home.

Skipping forwards to 1967, after the successful attack on the Floss Valley and the Boss again berating Gordon for not providing him with working aeroplanes, there is a "Victory Banquet" at the Town Hall headquarters:

554. CLOSE SHOT 7ft. 11frs.
The group. Favour Boss and Roxana.
ROXANA: ...Why! you can't make a dog hunt by beating it.
BOSS: I want those planes!
555. LONG SHOT 27ft. 6frs.
The torchlight procession outside the Town Hall.


The whole banqueting room, showing the blonde sitting at the left hand of the Boss, a Captain on the Boss's right, and Roxana next to him. Other people at the table. All are feasting. The Captain rises.
CAPTAIN: Chief and Commanders! A health. Our War Leader. Our Peace Maker, Rudolf the Victorious.
557. MEDIUM SHOT 17ft. 13frs.
The group round the Boss at the table, the Boss rises.
BOSS: My Captains, my Commanders, I greet you. Could anything in life be better than this moment? You've faced difficulties and dangers...
558. LONG SHOT 16ft. 14frs.
The whole room.
...But now at this bright moment of victory we relax, to gather strength for the supreme effort that'll make this land forever ours...
559. CLOSE SHOT 8ft. 14frs.
Roxana, she does not share the Boss's enthusiasm.
...A Man's land we're making, a land for strength and courage...
560. CLOSE SHOT 11ft. 14frs.
Boss and the blonde, as he gives her an amorous pat on the head.
...None but the brave deserve the land, none but the brave deserve the fair....
561. MEDIUM SHOT 15ft. 8frs.
The group round the Boss.
...Our dear old world! Our dear old land! There are some among us that dare to run down our land. It isn't this - it isn't that. It isn't...
562. CLOSE UP 7ft. 1fr.
...what it used to be. We haven't got chemists. Well, who wants chemists?...
563. MEDIUM SHOT 24ft. 10frs.
The group, Roxana rises and goes, the Boss hardly noticing her departure.
...They don't print books any more. Who wants books to muddle their thoughts and their ideas? We can't travel any more. Well, isn't our land good enough for us?


Cabal in his cell. Shooting towards the door, Cabal rises as he sees Roxana coming through the door.
565. MEDIUM SHOT 8ft. 2frs.
Roxana as she comes down the steps.
ROXANA: I want to look at you.
It is significant that while there are other scenes absent from the 92m version that appear in the Stover script, but are still missing from the Gutlohn print, this is the first example of material that does not also appear in the Film Story, suggesting that it was a very late addition to the narrative. This is curious in that while of interest, the dialogue is far less significant than other segments that seem to have disappeared "first," notably later in the scene in the cell, when Roxana's motives are made far more clear. It is also significant that at the end of the scene in the cell, when the Boss arrives, Roxana taunts him with the appelation "Rudolph the Victorious," a direct quote from the anquet absent from the 92m version. In the latter, the end of #554 clumsily fades to black and #565 fades in from black, so we miss the visuals of the Boss' rant, and most of Roxana's movement down the stairs.

The next piece of previously-"lost" footage comes during the Little Girl's "History Lesson" at the start of the 2036 sequence:

817. LONG SHOT 12ft.5frs.
Reverse of the above showing the old man in the foreground. He sits on a glass chair, and the child is seen sitting in by the television screen in the background.
[OLD MAN:] They never seemed to realise that we could light the interiors of our houses with sunshine of our own, so there was no need to stick them ever so high in the air.
818. MEDIUM SHOT 6ft. 3frs.
The child.
CHILD: Weren't people tired of going up and down those stairs?
819. LONG SHOT 8ft. 14frs.
The old man.
OLD MAN: They were all tired. And they had a disease - colds. Everybody had colds.
820. MEDIUM SHOT 4ft. 10frs.
The child.
...And they coughed and sneezed and ran at the eyes.
821. LONG SHOT 5ft. 7frs.
The two, the grandfather in the foreground, the child and the screen in the background. She rises and crosses to him.
CHILD: Sneezed! What's sneezed?
OLD MAN: Oh, you...
822. CLOSE UP 47ft. 1fr.
Old man, shooting over child's shoulder.
...know. Atishoo.
CHILD: Atishoo. Everybody said atishoo. That must have been funny.
OLD MAN: Not so funny as you think.
CHILD: And you remember all that, great grandfather?
OLD MAN: Well, I remember some of it. Colds we had and indigestion too - from the queer bad foods we ate. Oh it was a poor life. Never really well.
CHILD: Did people laugh at it?
OLD MAN: Well, they had a way of grinning at it. They used to call it humour. We had to have a lot of humour.
823. CLOSE SHOT 10ft. 15frs.
The two.
I've lived through some horrid times, my dear. Oh, horrid.
The child starts to walk over the room again. CHILD: Horrid. I don't want to hear about that.
824. LONG SHOT 9ft 5frs.
Shooting through the television screen, on which are now no pictures, as the child crosses the room and sits beside the screen.
The wars, the Wandering Sickness, and all those dreadful years.
825. MEDIUM SHOT 5ft. 6frs.
The child sitting.
...None of that will come again, great grandfather? Ever?
826. LONG SHOT 30ft. OLD MAN: Well not if progress goes on.
CHILD: They keep on inventing new things don't they, and making life lovlier and lovlier.
OLD MAN: Lovlier - yes - and bolder. I suppose I'm an old man my dear, but some of it seems like going too far. This Space Gun of theirs that they keep on shooting.
This lecture is heavy-going at the best of times, so it could be said that any shortening would be welcome, but in fact the Stover script contains even more material, some of which subsequently details the theory of the proposed space flight that does make it seem a little less hare-brained than it appears from the extant footage, and even makes a sort of scientific sense. The cutting of the latter introduces a continuity error, in that the mention of the Gun simply being fired into space jumps to the Child talking about flying around the Moon." As noted above, while the British NFA's own Hybrid print retains Shots 821-824 (purple text) , they are missing from all known video copies of the Gutlohn and Hybrid prints. Because 820 and 825 are essentially the same view of the Little Girl, their loss is visually as well as narratively jarring, so it seems likely that this is the result of damage to the "original" source print, from which all the others are descended.

The final piece of "extra" footage in the Gutlohn Print comes when Oswald Cabal and Raymond Passworthy are met by young Catherine Cabal and Maurice Passworthy:

879. LONG SHOT 10ft. 14frs.
The two, shooting towards the stairs - the boy and the girl join them.
PASSWORTHY: Well, here they are.
CATHERINE: Father, we are to go?
CABAL: Yes - you're to go.
CATHERINE: It's announced?
CABAL: Two hours ago.
880. MEDIUM SHOT 31ft. 2frs.
The group of four.
CABAL: Why not?
PASSWORTHY: But - my son.
CABAL: He's of age. He's volunteered.
PASSWORTHY: Yes, but I want to talk it over first. I must talk it over. Why have you announced this so soon? There is still time to talk it over, isn't there?
MAURICE: Not so very long now, father.
PASSWORTHY: We've got several months yet, surely.
CATHERINE: It's just one month and three days. Everything's ready.
MAURICE: And the moon's coming into the right position even while we're talking now.
881. CLOSE SHOT 3ft. 3frs.
Cabal and Catherine.
They're leaving it a month longer to make sure.
882. CLOSE SHOT 7ft.
Passworthy and Maurice. Favour Passworthy.
PASSWORTHY: You mean you're going in four weeks. Four weeks! I forbid it.
883. MEDIUM SHOT 2ft. 2frs.
The four. Passworthy crosses.
This man Theotocopulos is right.
884. CLOSE SHOT 2ft. 5frs.
Cabal and Catherine.
This thing must not be.
885. MEDIUM SHOT 2ft. 3frs.
The four.
It's human sacrifice.
886. LONG SHOT 4ft. 6frs.
City Ways, the bridge angle, the screen is no longer there, the people start rushing out of the City Ways up the steps.
Subsequent to this, Shots 887 & 888 are further exterior crowd scenes, with 889 & 890 showing a brief cutaway to Theotocopulos and his followers, before apparently returning to the Cabal and Passworthy and their respective children. The extant footages creates the impression here that the two segments are part of a single discussion between the four. In fact, from the Film Story it is clear that these are actually two separate meetings taking place some days apart. The first is at the Athletic Club in "the hills," while the second was originally scripted as following a meal in Cabal's apartments. Between the two, Cabal meets with Rowena, his ex-wife and Catherine's mother; Theotocopulos makes his televised speech (so it appears later in the narrative); and Cabal has a discussion with Traffic Controller Morden Mitani (Ivan Brandt - who bearly appears in the 92m version, despite his prominent on-screen credit) about the growing rebellion. This separation is not clear from the Stover Script, but the cut between the end of the first segment and the Theotopulos cutaway could easily have accomodated the extra scenes. Regardless of this, visual indications are that the first segment takes place in a wide flower-decked area, while the second is in the more enclosed ante-room of Cabal's apartments. It is also notable that Pearl Argyle loses her initial loose-fitting outfit and its long white cape, while Kenneth Villiers loses his short white one (note rear view in Shots 880, 883 & 885 above) and re-acquires the long dark one he was wearing when first introduced to Cabal:
Shot 879 (detail). Shot 892.


23/04/03 First Upload
26/04/03 Minor corrections
05/06/03 Re-formatted
11/05/05 Corrections/additional text