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  Man Who Could Work Miracles, The Playing God
Year: 1936
Director: Lothar Mendes
Stars: Roland Young, Ralph Richardson, Ernest Thesiger, Edward Chapman, Joan Gardner, Sophie Stewart, George Zucco, Joan Hickson, George Sanders
Genre: Comedy, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: As an experiment, the Gods grant Mr Fotheringay (Roland Young), a meek shop assistant, the ability to work miracles. But there are unfortunate consequences, not only for his village, but for the world...

Alexander Korda produced this adaptation of H.G. Wells' fantasy. The "bloomin'" miracles start out small, with Fotheringay performing conjuring tricks with rabbits, and gradually become more large-scale, until his powers have global effect.

It's the old "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" story, where Fotheringay's abilities are used for ultimately selfish reasons by himself, and those around him. He can't change people's minds, though, so when he tries to get Ada (Joan Gardner) to fall in love with him, it doesn't work.

Nevertheless, he becomes involved in a hawk versus dove situation between the pacifist preacher (Ernest Thesiger) and the warlike colonel (Ralph Richardson) - whose reaction to the idea that everyone should go around loving one another is "where's your sense of decency?" The utopia that Fotheringay plans will never work out, proving the old "one man's meat is another man's poison" adage, and so he turns to more tyrannical means to get things going the way he wants them.

The film looks kind of quaint now, but it's still thought-provoking, and it's still funny. The special effects are well done for its time, too. Young is excellent as the mild-mannered nobody who lets power go to his head with catastrophic results, and many of the supporting cast are quite amusing. It may threaten to turn into a lecture at times, but it's inventive enough not to be too dry. I suppose there's no such thing as a quick fix. Loosely remade after a fashion nearly eighty years later as Absolutely Anything.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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