Shape of Things To Come
= Highest Rating
one of the crappiest sci-fi movies I've ever
Sure, there are plenty of
flicks with worse acting and even worse special
effects. (Space Mutiny,
anyone?) But the 1979 Canadian film The
Shape of Things To Come manages to achieve
an almost cosmic harmony of awfulness. H.G.
Wells, the classic science fiction novelist
whose book it's reputedly based on,
must've been spinning in his grave —
a very high R.P.M. rate —
this piece of junk got the go-ahead.
The time is the "tomorrow
after tomorrow." (That's what the pre-credits
text crawl says, anyway.) Earth has been devastated
in the apocalyptic Robot Wars but humanity continues
to thrive in a bustling moon colony called New
Washington. As a legacy of the conflict regular
supplies of the miracle drug Radic-Q-2 are needed
to treat people with high doses of radiation.
A la Dune, the
drug is produced on only a single known planet
in the galaxy, Delta Three. The planet's "robot
master", a mad scientist named Omus (Jack
Palance, who's apparently beyond embarrassment),
deposes the legitimate governor of Delta Three
(Carol Lynley) and
takes over with the help of his mechanical soldiers.
As part of a grand scheme to become ruler over
all Mankind, Omus first sends a robot cargo
ship crashing into New Washington's protective
dome. He announces to Senator Smedley of the
Moon Council that all shipments of Radic-Q-2
from Delta Three are hereby suspended until
he is proclaimed emperor. In response to the
ultimatum Smedley (John Ireland, another former
Hollywood great slumming for a check) argues
for a cautious approach, even negotiation. But
maverick scientist Dr. Caball (Space 1999's
Barry Morse) calls for immediate action. He
wants to activate the Star Streak, a
prototype space cruiser he's constructed, and
go after Omus. Smedley, upon consulting New
Washington's master computer (which seems to
run the place like a benevolent autocrat), nixes
the idea. Naturally Caball decides to do it
anyway. Accompanied by his son Jason (Nicholas
Campbell), Smedley's cute blonde daughter Kim
(Eddie Benton) and a supremely irritating robot
named Sparks, Caball steals Star Streak
and blasts off for Delta Three. Whether you
actually make it the end to see Omus get his
comeuppance, or yank the disc out and smash
it with a hammer in disgust, will be the ultimate
test of personal fortitude.
Okay, so I'm being a little
But Shape's lousy
effects and cheapjack production values are
simply an insult to the word "pathetic."
The 'Disco Lite' music score isn't worthy of
a Saturday morning cartoon show. And the script!
This grade school-level scenario would embarrass
a mentally handicapped person. Dr. Caball defiantly
tells Omus that the citizens of New Washington
will never accept a dictator...
even though they already take their orders
from the "master computer". The overthrown
administrator of Delta Three —
"Governor Niki"(!) —
organizes an underground resistance made up
of eight people armed with sticks.
(It doesn't help that Carol Lynley plays the
part like a bubbleheaded Valley Girl stoned
out of her gourd.) The movie doesn't even realize
it concludes on a major downer, as Delta Three
is totally destroyed by Omus in the course of
his downfall. I guess no more Radic-Q-2 for
all the folks with radiation poisoning...
Now I love a thick, steaming
slab of cinematic cheese as much as the next
schlock connoisseur, but even in this regard
Shape is a complete
bust. When the sight of jumpsuited actors —
armed with sticks and clubs —
battling guys in dopey
robot suits can't get me chuckling, it's simply
"Game over, man!" as Bill Paxton might
say. There is exactly one good unintentional
belly laugh in the whole film... At the very
end, with his plan defeated and Delta Three
exploding, Omus is sitting in his command chair,
his citadel shaking to pieces all around him.
Watch as not one, but two big pieces
of styrofoam rubble bonk Jack Palance smack
dab on the noggin! His priceless expression
looks as if he just stepped in a big pile of
dog doo. (Actually, the film probably would've
been better if Palance had been drinking as
much as he was on the set of Jess Franco's Justine.)
made for over $3 Million (Canadian), I have
to wonder where all the money went. The film
makes an interesting comparison with Roger Corman's
the Stars (1980), another bad Star
Wars rip-off, made for $2.5 Million,
which at least manages to be fun in a 'so bad
Ii's good' kind of way. Not so here. Not by
a long shot.
Perhaps the Mystery
Science Theater 3000 gang could've done
something with it...
gotta hand it to the folks at Blue Underground.
Even a wretched title like Shape
of Things To Come gets topnotch treatment.
A TV spot, the French theatrical trailer, and
a poster/still gallery are provided as extras.
While there isn't a subtitle option, an alternate
French language track allows you to hear robot-speak
en Français. (Also, the Star
Streak is referred to as the "Star Trek"!)
film is presented in anamorphically enhanced 1.66:1
Picture is a tad grainy at times and there's a
tiny bit of print damage here and there but these
are likely symptoms of the original source materials.
Colors look fine. The Digital Mono audio tracks
sound somewhat tinny during some of the music
but I don't think anyone will really give a damn.
Whether mono or DTS 6.1, shit is still shit.