A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema

By Charles P. Mitchell | Go to book overview
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The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936)

Rating: ***** Threat: Halting of Earth's rotation

London Film Production. Written by H.G. Wells; Photographed by Harold Rosson; Special effects by Ned Mann; Edited by Philip Chariot; Music by Michael Spolianski; Produced by Alexander Korda; Directed by Lothar Mendes. B & W, 82 minutes.


Roland Young (George McWhirter Fotheringay, man given the power to work miracles); Edward Chapman (Major Grigsby, store owner); Ernest Thesiger (Rev. Simon Maydig, Baptist minister); Ralph Richardson (Col. Winstanley, Maydig's pompous neighbor); Joan Gardner (Ada Price, employee at Grigsby & Blott); Robert Cochran (Bill Stoker, her boyfriend and clerk at Grigsby & Blott); Sophie Stewart (Maggie Hooper, store clerk with sprained arm); Lady Tree (Grigsby's housekeeper); Laurence Hanray (Bamfylde, banker); George Zucco (Moody, Winstanley's butler); Wally Lupino (Bobby Winch, policeman sent to hell); Joan Hickson (Effie Brickman, store clerk with freckles); Wally Patch (Inspector Smithells, head of police in Essex); Bernard Nedell (American reporter); Ben Weldon (American reporter); Mark Daly (Toddy Branish, pub patron); Una Owen (Miss May bridge, barmaid); Bruce Winston (Cox, pub owner); Michael Rennie (bystander in the Great Hall); George Sanders (Indifference, semi-divine spirit); Ivan Brandt (Player, semi-divine spirit who gives Fotheringay his powers); Torin Thatcher (Observer, semi-divine spirit).


Many people are unaware that the legendary H.G. Wells wrote screenplays. His memorable Things to Come (1936) has a few apocalyptical elements, but The Man Who Could Work Miracles actually depicts the complete destruction of the world. While both films are highly regarded, Things to Come soon became dated, while The Man Who Could Work Miracles still seems fresh and charming, one of the greatest fantasy films ever made.

The story opens in the heavens, where three semi-divine spirits share their thoughts. One of them has been granted the ability to bestow power by “the Master.” Player is fascinated by Earth, and he tells the others that he plans to give all its inhabitants special powers. His companions try to dissuade him, and Player agrees to give only one of them power, as an experiment to see what is in the human heart. They settle back and watch as Player haphazardly selects a meek British clerk, George Fotheringay, as the recipient of all the power he is able to bestow.


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A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema
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