While the old adage is that knowledge is power, a common trope in storytelling is the downfall that comes from knowing too much when you are not meant to. In countless science fiction and fantasy tales, there comes a point through either time travel or some other magical means that characters gain information about the future that seems incredible at first, but which becomes something of an albatross in the end. Long before Coach Taylor was preventing tragedies in the late-90s with tomorrow’s newspaper – what, you did not have a mom that loved Early Edition on CBS, too? – there was the 1944 fantasy comedy film It Happened Tomorrow covering some of the same territory. Directed by René Clair (I Married A Witch) and based on the one-act play The Jest of Haha Laba by Lord Dunsany, the film brought a whimsical premise to the big screen that was embraced at the box office by audiences. While it is not exactly a household name by today’s standards, It Happened Tomorrow has been rescued by the Cohen Media Group to get a second life on disc.
At the onset of the film, we arrive at a 50th anniversary party for an elderly couple, Lawrence (Dick Powell, Murder, My Sweet) and Sylvia Stevens (Linda Darnell, Fallen Angel), who are too busy squabbling to join their large family who has gathered to celebrate them. The source of the squabble is over whether or not Lawrence will finally attempt to reveal the fantastic circumstances that brought the two together. While the film is largely quite enjoyable, this brief bit is extraneous as a framing device since it is never addressed ever again and takes away some of the mystery of the story that arises later in the structure.
When we flash back fifty years to the late 1800s, the narrative gets going properly as we meet the young Lawrence Stevens, an obituary writer who dreams of getting his break at the newspaper to cover bigger and better things. One night of camaraderie with some of his coworkers leads to a strange chat with the paper’s archivist, Pop Benson (John Philliber), in which he starts waxing poetic about the nature of time and drawing attention to the volumes of stories he has at his disposal. At one point, all of these stories were “tomorrow’s news”, so wouldn’t it be something if you could get your hands on those stories before they happened? This notion especially appeals to Lawrence, who would take any advantage he could get in order to make a name at the paper. When wish becomes reality for the ambitious Lawrence and he starts receiving tomorrow’s newspaper a day early, he finds himself shocked by what his eyes are showing him. Pop warns Lawrence of the potential harm that could arise, but all he sees is what good these newspapers could bring.
With this new gift, Lawrence of course finds a way to make it work to his advantage in his love life, as well. After attending a mind reading act hosted by a flamboyant man named Oscar Smith (Jack Oakie), who works in tandem with his niece Sylvia (the previously mentioned Linda Darnell), Lawrence becomes smitten with the woman who will be his future wife. In an effort to impress her and crack a story, he takes her to an opera performance that he knows will be the scene of a robbery, but his knowledge of the event proves to be suspicious to the detectives on the case. The remainder of the film shows various ways in which knowing what is going to happen in the future proves to be less of a blessing than one might expect. The script is more than a little bit erratic, but the core chemistry and relationship between Powell and Darnell helps keep all of those moments in perspective. There are a number of humorous bits, but the emotional attachment is what makes the story as impactful as it is.
René Clair has a nice visual eye for composition, but one area where this film struggles is with the editing. There are some cuts on display here that deliver something of a jarring effect as it transitions from scene to scene, often making you feel as if you are missing the slightest bit of context to the larger story. Despite this, the story is straightforward enough that you never feel confused by what is transpiring. The final fifteen minutes of the film are the most impressively filmed of the story, as the narrative juggles multiple locations and kinetic moments without feeling pieced together like some earlier moments. It Happened Tomorrow does not go overboard with its concept, but it provides a nice pathway to tell a story of the importance of relationships over perceived success.
It Happened Tomorrow makes its Blu-Ray debut thanks to the Cohen Media Group with a brand new 1080p master from a 4K scan. Apart from a few minor instances of lesser quality, likely due to the source elements, it is heartening to see this transfer look so spectacular. The gorgeous black-and-white photography sparkles in high definition with natural grain intact. There is a fantastic amount of detail present with nice textures on the clothing, both in the standard suits of the newspaper men and the more elaborate costumes of the fortune teller clan. The new transfer shows off a great amount of depth and enhanced detail within the production design. Black levels are very deep with no trace of black crush or compression artifacts. The contrast is well defined, and there are only occasional nicks and scratches present in a handful of scenes. Cohen Media Group has done a lovely job here.
The Blu-Ray comes with a steady LPCM 2.0 mono track that serves this movie well. The first thing you will notice is the warmth and vitality of the Robert Stolz score. Despite the strength of the music, nothing ever overpowers the dialogue or other important information. Dialogue and background noises are represented in perfect harmony with all competing elements. The only element where this track really falters is with some age-related damage including some crackling and distortion, mostly when the musical elements get especially active. There are also optional English (SDH) subtitles included for the feature film. While the condition of the audio elements could be stronger, overall this suits the movie well.
- Trailer: A new minute-long trailer crafted by the Cohen Media Group is provided here touting the new restoration.
It Happened Tomorrow is a fun little concept that amounts to a silly, enjoyable time thanks to a charming chemistry between the two lead performers. The movie does not break any boundaries in any particular regard, but those who enjoy a fantastical concept should find this one amiable enough. Cohen Media Group has delivered a Blu-Ray with a strong A/V presentation that should please fans of this under-the-radar flick. Recommended
It Happened Tomorrow is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Cohen Media Group and Kino Lorber have supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.