THE MAN WHO COULD WORK MIRACLES
(director: Lother Mendes; screenwriter: story by H.G. Wells/Lajos Biro; cinematographer: Harold Rosson; editor: Philip Charlot; music: Michael Spolianski; cast: Roland Young (George McWhirter Fotheringay), Ralph Richardson (Colonel Winstanley), Ernest Thesiger (Mr Maydig), Edward Chapman (Major Grigsby), Joan Gardner (Ada Price), Sophie Stewart (Maggie Hooper), Robert Cochran (Bill Stoker), Lawrence Hanray (Mr Bamfylde), Torin Thatcher (Observer), Ivan Brandt (Player), George Sanders (Indifference), Wally Lupino (Constable Winch); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alexander Korda; Janus Films; 1936-UK)
“Slow moving fantasy story.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Lother Mendes(“The Four Feathers”/”The Marriage Playground”/”Moonlight Sonata”) directs this slow moving fantasy story as a quirky comedy. It’s based on a short story by H.G. Wells and is written by Lajos Biro. It failed to charm me, as it strained to be so cute. Also it was cliched and lacked imagination and creativity. Its wearisome message being mankind is not ready to handle godlike power trips as he’s too base and not evolved, which comes as hardly an earth-shattering pronouncement.
The pic opens with human looking gods in the starry heavens kvetching about mankind being so insignificant, when one of the gods, who is fond of humans, decides as an experiment to endow a randomly picked earthling with boundless power whenever he asks for it and chooses to let things alone to see what results. The subject chosen is nerdy shoe clerk George McWhirter Fotheringay (Roland Young), residing in a small English town. While in a pub, George first learns of his new powers when he argues with patrons against miracles and to make his point orders a lamp to turn over and it surprisingly obeys his command. The next day George goes to work at the drapery shop of Grigsby & Blott and shows off his new miraculous powers to sales clerk Maggie Hooper (Sophie Stewart) by healing her sprained arm and shocks the boss, Major Grigsby (Edward Chapman), by in a flash straightening out the goods strewn all around the store. When George is harassed by Constable P. C. Winch (Wally Lupino) while walking home at night, he first sends the cop to blazes and then, when thinking that’s too harsh, sends him to San Francisco. The constable can’t explain how he got to San Francisco and is placed under psychiatric observation.
When George tries to get fellow sales clerk Ada (Joan Gardner) to fall in love with him, his new power trip fails for the first time, as Ada can’t be talked out of loving fellow sales clerk Bill Stoker (Robert Cochran) and loving someone she’s not in love with.
The next day, George’s manipulative boss, Grigsby, offers him a partnership in exchange for exclusive use of his “miracles.” George is now confused and upon the urging of Maggie, visits the local Baptist minister, Mr. Maydig (Ernest Thesiger), who urges George to use his gift to bring about a “Golden Age,” with “peace and plenty” for all.
This utopian vision doesn’t sit well with the retired military officer, Colonel Winstanley (Ralph Richardson), who meets with the local business leaders and decides that George must be assassinated for his attempt to tamper with the world order. But George easily thwarts the Colonel’s gun shot to the head assassination attempt by safely removing the bullet. Outraged over people not believing in him, George decides to rule the world and makes the banker Bamfylde (Lawrence Hanray) and Maydig his advisers.
How things get resolved lacks charm and comedy. The pic does not fulfill the potential of its good premise, as it rattles on about how power corrupts in a pedantic way.
REVIEWED ON 9/24/2013 GRADE: C+