Utopia

Things to Come

H.G. Wells and  William Cameron Menzies take us on an epic journey through the future in this pompous 1936 social prophesy, the last big SF film before the 1950s. The most expensive film made in Britain at the time, Things to Come boasts incredible sets and effects, but the script is stiff, the acting wooden and the viewer bludgeoned to boredom with the message. 6/10

Aerograd

A daunting, but visually stunning, piece of bolshevik propaganda, Alexandr Dovzhenko’s 1935 film Aerograd is basically an operatic Soviet version of a John Wayne frontier film. Not much sci-fi in this vaguely futuristic tale, but a treat for lovers of poetic cinematography. 5/10

Deluge

Famed for its special effects shots of a floodwave destroying New York City, this 1933 RKO production built up hype as it was thought lost for many decades. When it finally resurfaced, it was met with a collective “meh”, as all the action was packed in the first 15 minutes of the film, and then settled into a wobbly post-apocalyptic romance helmed by a first-time director. 5/10

Just Imagine

A very early sound film, this 1930 US sci-fi musical comedy tries to combine Metropolis, A Princess from Mars, The Ziegfield Follies and stand-up comedy. With predictable results. Despite being the brainchild of Hollywood’s hottest musical writers, the music is dull, the SF worse and the comedy painfully unfunny. The film looks good, though. 3/10

High Treason

This 1929 film was Britain’s attempt to create its own Metropolis. The stunning art deco visuals are counteracted by a clumsy and overtly naive script. Maurice Elvey’s direction is fluid and competent, but the actors are stuck with paper-thin characters who lack motivation. Modern viewers of this pacifist yarn set in 1940 will marvel at the accurate predictions of things like TV and Skype. (5/10)

The Mysterious Island

Borrowing the name of Jules Verne’s bestseller, this problem-ridden 1926-1929 production features good acting, some remarkable special effects and a solid-ish script, but alas, the schizophrenic semi-talkie-semi-silent film is just as equally horrible in many ways, with toy submarines and crocodiles substituting for dinos. (4/10)

Metropolis

The plot may be meandering and the political message naive, but the thematic and visual influence of Austrian director Fritz Lang’s exciting 1927 masterpiece Metropolis is rivalled by few in science fiction and in film in general. A great, entertaining, sprawling epic in a future tower of Babylon. (10/10)