They Came to a City (1944)

Article 3962 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-25-2012
Directed by Basil Dearden
Featuring John Clements, Googie Withers, Raymond Huntley
Country: UK
What it is: Utopian meditation

Several people from different walks of life are pulled together to visit a mysterious Utopian city.

This movie ended up on my “ones that got away” list, but it looks like I’ve been finally able to land a copy. It’s perhaps no surprise that this one was so hard to find; it’s a rather long-winded meditation on how various people would react if they encountered a Utopian world, hardly the type of subject that would be popular. I was originally tempted to describe it as a cross between OUTWARD BOUND and LOST HORIZON, but I don’t think the latter movie is really a good comparison; unlike that movie, this one doesn’t make any attempt to describe or portray the Utopia, and we only get vague second-hand details from those who have seen it. Unfortunately, this tends to make the movie feel like what it is – a speculative mental game often given to obvious contrivances (a feeling further reinforced by the fact that the movie is framed by sequences implying that the story is told to an arguing young couple by a passing stranger). That being said, there are times when the contrivances aren’t all that obvious; the final act of the story involves the revelations of who will stay in the city, who will go, and the reasons why they take these actions, and some of the revelations at this point are quite surprising. The comparison between this and OUTWARD BOUND is pretty strong, with certain characters being clear parallels to the characters in that one, even if the other elements are very different. I would imagine this is one of those movies that would be better liked by those who would wish to stay in the city; nevertheless, the movie is a bit of a slog and not as satisfying as it might have been.


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