The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936)

Article #1509 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-2-2005
Posting Date: 9-29-2005
Directed by Lothar Mendes
Featuring Roland Young, Ralph Richardson, Edward Chapman

A cosmic entity grants the ability to work miracles to a random individual on the planet earth.

Producer Alexander Korda had adapted H.G. Wells to the screen with THINGS TO COME, and returned to the author with this movie. Initially, these two movies couldn’t be more different; whereas the events in THINGS TO COME played themselves out in broad strokes on an epic scale, this one seems at first to be light comedy. After all, this massive power has been granted to a slightly befuddled, somewhat meek man named Fotheringay; one need only know that the part is being played by Roland Young to have an idea of what the character is like. However, the light comedy that permeates most of the movie is a bit of a deception; at heart, it’s a long-burning fuse that leads to an explosion that occurs when Fotheringay finally realizes that the power he has been granted is subservient to his will and no one elses, and it is at this point that the guidance he has been seeking from the idealistic but somewhat hypocritical crusader Mr. Maydig (Ernest Thesiger) and the conservative but selfish and brutal Colonel Winstanley (Ralph Richardson) comes to naught. It is at this point that the theme of progress in the movie starts to bear a certain resemblance to the same theme in THINGS TO COME; furthermore, there’s also the theme of the seductiveness of power which strongly recalls the similar theme in another Wells adaptation, THE INVISIBLE MAN. Roland Young is excellent in the title role, as are Thesiger and Richardson as well. The movie also features early performances from George Sanders who, as a mystical creature known as Indifference, is already displaying the arrogance that would be an acting trademark of his, and George Zucco, cast in a very unusual role for him as a manservant. The movie is full of clever touches, and the ending is great. This may be the finest adaptation of Wells to date.


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