Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 8, No. 12. September 19, 1945
They Came to a City is very difficult to classify. It is very possibly rather dull, too, if you don't know what you're in for before the film starts. The chief point of interest is that for the first time (to my knowledge, at least) a play has been transferred into to the screen, and has been filmed exactly as it could and no doubt did appear on the stage. It is only too often that a stage play screened has unnecessary embellishments that detract from its original self-sufficiency. They Came to a City is not only literally word for word the play, but has dared not to clutter itself up with action. There is just simply no action The characters talk ceaselessly, presenting a political philosophy of Priestley's, and there you have the film. Your verdict on whether It is a good film or not will rest on the measure of your agreement with that philosophy and I might say right now that not only do I so agree, but I am staggered that the statement should be made in such plain words, and be permitted to pass the British censorship. In some ways They Came to a City is a direct incitement to revolution. It far exceeds any of the previous timid liberal films which tentatively suggest that it might be a good thing if—but without any socialism, you know—we could tidy things up a bit. It's quite obvious that the author has watched every foot of film, and has allowed no compromise with his original preachment.
The play was performed in Wellington last year by Unity Theatre, and while the film characters, who come from the London production, have the professional polish, I think that one or two in the local production had the edge on them; particularly do I refer to the charwoman.
I recommend this film, and give it a high grading because it succeeds in an experiment In production, and because it makes concord with social views of my own. I foresee three groups seeing the film: those who are against it, and think therefore the acting is poor and the whole thing a bolshevik plot; those who will wholeheartedly agree, and think that the characters are well-drawn and the statement admirably presented; and the extreme left, who will think it wishy-washy, and a typical manifestation of sentimental liberalism. To these last, let me suggest that they give thanks that this much has not only been filmed, but is being screened.