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  Sigourney Weaver
  H.G. Wells
  Adam West
  Gary Westfahl
  James Whale
  Wil Wheaton
  Robin Williams
  Robert Wise
  Edward D. Wood, Jr.
  Frank Wu
  Philip Wylie
(1866–1946). British writer.

Appeared in: The Jungle Goddess (serial) (James Conway 1922).

Wrote: Things to Come (with Lajos Biro) (William Cameron MENZIES 1936); The Man Who Could Work Miracles (Lothar Mendes 1937).

Films based on his work (in addition to Things to Come and The Man Who Could Work Miracles): The First Men in the Moon (Bruce Gordon and J. L. V. Leigh 1919); The Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. KENTON 1932); The Invisible Man (James WHALE 1933); The Invisible Man Returns (Joe May 1940); The Invisible Woman (Edward Sutherland 1940); Invisible Agent (Edwin L. Marin 1942); The Invisible Man's Revenge (Ford BEEBE 1944); "The Inexperienced Ghost," segment of Dark of Night (Charles Crichton 1945); The War of the Worlds (Byron HASKIN 1953); "The Crystal Egg," episode of Tales of Tomorrow (1953); The Invisible Man [H. G. Wells' New Invisible Man] (Alfredo B. Crevenna 1958); The Invisible Man (tv series) (1958); Terror Is A Man (uncredited) (Gerardo de Leon 1959); The Time Machine (George PAL 1960); "The Country of the Blind," episode of Dupont Show of the Week (1962); The Invisible Man (Raphael Nussbaum 1963); First Men in the Moon (Nathan JURAN 1964); Village of the Giants (Bert I. GORDON 1965); Play of the Month: Days to Come (tv movie) (Alan Bridges 1966); The Invisible Man (tv movie) (Robert Michael Lewis 1975); The Invisible Man (tv series) (1975); Food of the Gods (Gordon 1976); Das Land der Blinden oder Von Einem der Auszog (tv movie) (Peter Ariel 1976); The Island of Dr. Moreau (Don Taylor 1977); Empire of the Ants (Gordon 1977); The Time Machine (tv movie) (Henning Schellerup 1978); Time after Time (Nicolas MEYER 1979); H. G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come (George McCowan 1979); The War of the Worlds—Next Century (Piotr Szulkin 1981); Moon Madness (animated) (1983); Chelovek-Nevidimka [The Invisible Man] (Aleksandr Zakharov 1984); The War of the Worlds (tv series) (1988-90); The Island of Dr. Moreau (John FRANKENHEIMER 1996); The Invisible Man (tv movie) (Joshua Butler and Breck Eisner 2000); The Invisible Man (tv series) (2000-02); The Infinite Worlds of H. G. Wells (tv miniseries) (2001); The Time Machine (Simon Wells 2002).

I have not seen, and cannot comment on, The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936), nor have I read H. G. Wells's other, unproduced film scripts; but I have often watched his Things to Come, which is both masterful and justly ubiquitous. Things to Come qualifies as the first true masterpiece of science fiction cinema, and those who complain about its awkward pace and uninvolving characters are not understanding Wells's message, which is that the lives and actions of individuals are unimportant when compared to the progress and destiny of the entire human race. The climactic speech he wrote for Raymond Massey may run on a bit too long, but it remains a wonderful summation of all the noble impulses that drive, or should drive, science fiction. And the film's episodic structure and grand ambitions make it the greatest ancestor of Stanley KUBRICK's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which has attracted similar—and similarly irrelevant—criticisms.

Wells may have felt driven to write Things to Come after he had seen the mess that Hollywood made of his The Invisible Man and The Island of Dr. Moreau (The Island of Lost Souls). As it happens, these are both pretty good films on their own terms, but it is easy to see why Wells would regard them as crude, bastardized versions of his novels. In fact, Wells's intelligent, talkative, and undramatic novels do not transfer well to the screen, a comment that is not intended to completely justify or account for the generally dismal work of the other hands that have adapted his work for the screen.

On the one hand, there is Nathan JURAN's First Men in the Moon, which probably qualifies as the most faithful Wells adaptation, although it adds a modern frame story and some superfluous violence to the story; and Wells has sometimes fared well on the small screen—I vaguely recall a reasonably good television version of "The Country of the Blind"—an episode of Dupont Show of the Week—that is now probably lost, and a recent miniseries, The Infinite Worlds of H. G. Wells, provided polished adaptations of several of his stories. On the other hand, there are Bert I. GORDON's execrable Village of the Giants, Food of the Gods, and Empire of the Ants, the latter two making positively libelous use of Wells's titles. Falling somewhere between these extremes are Byron HASKIN's The War of the Worlds, a colorful if brainless epic that unfortunately imposes a message of religious piety onto Wells's cautionary tale; Don Taylor's The Island of Dr. Moreau, a stilted film unimproved by the inert Michael YORK and a miscast Burt Lancaster; and George PAL's The Time Machine, which is best regarded as a thirty-minute movie holding reasonably true to Wells's vision (the scenes where Rod TAYLOR travels past, and laments, three future world wars, and where he disintegrates a shelf of forgotten, unread books with a wave of his hand, seem close to the heart of Wells's bleak message) that is risibly padded out with an additional hour of melodramatic nonsense and the egregious addition of an optimistic happy ending.

It is emblematic of the film industry's lack of respect for Wells that the major movie whose title includes his name, H. G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come, has nothing to do with either Wells's book or original film and is idiotic and inept to boot; and it would be uncharitable and illogical to associate Wells with any of the secondary adaptations of the films based on his works, which are essentially based only on his titles—the three Invisible Man television series, the War of the Worlds series, the television movie The Time Machine, the Mexican film H. G. Wells' New Invisible Man, and so on. The Universal sequels to their original Invisible Man movie hardly even seem to merit listing as Wells adaptations, since their omission surely would not disturb any of his admirers, and other works sometimes linked to Wells's name, like the inane adventure series The Gemini Man (1976) (which should have been called The Six Million Dollar Invisible Man), are so distant from anything Wellsian as to demand omission. Another insult to Wells's memory was Malcolm MCDOWELL's wimpish portrayal of a Wells with a functioning time machine in Time after Time; surely, the actual Wells would have confronted Jack the Ripper a bit more robustly.

More recently, accompanying centennial celebrations of his great early novels, two major films have endeavored without great success to refashion Wells for contemporary audiences. First came a second remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau, a meandering, convictionless John FRANKENHEIMER production featuring a languid Marlon Brando now properly proportioned to step into Charles Laughton's shoes as the mad doctor. Then, Wells's great-grandson Simon Wells directed another version of The Time Machine that thankfully avoided the inanities of Pal's epic but instead offered up a weak brew of political correctness and anti-scientific hysteria in place of Wells's unflinching cosmic vision. With noteworthy talents, major studios, and vast resources committed to these projects, one might have predicted better films; however, if the writings of H. G. Wells have taught us anything, it is to hope for the best and expect the worst.

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