It even had an unprecidentedly accurate film adaptation with a screenplay by none other than Wells himself that is still watched and respected today!
THIS IS NOT THAT MOVIE!!!
No, this is H.G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come, the 1979 experiment in Canadian Cheese that, in spite of the promising title (that actually includes the author's name), has absolutely NOTHING to do with that work of futuristic speculation. Nor does it have anything to do with 1936's much more accurate Things to Come which faithfully details Wells' dread of looming World Wars, dark ages of tomorrow, chemical warfare and strafing runs over London.
Instead this spilled bucket of used hogwash is all about Robots... on the MOON!
Yes, folks, robots on the moon, followed by robots on Earth and, to shake things up significantly, robots on some other fictional planet. For those of you flipping through your dog-eared copy of Wells' classic work wondering how the eff-you-see-kay you missed the section on claw-wielding robots with a gait that implies a deceptive slowness in spite of the fact that they are as fast as they are deadly, you can put the book down, folks, because it's no more in there than a pornographic chapter more akin to Young Widow Lucy (don't get excited, kids, that's not in the movie either).
What in the name of Asimov hath 1979's The Shape of Things to Come with 1933's The Shape of Things to Come? Almost a full, super sized order of NOTHING, with a bag of CHIPS on the side. Both detail the future, and both have something to do with wars that haven't happened yet. That's it. Even then, the movie literally spells out that it takes place in the aftermath of "The Robot Wars", so even that dubious similarity soon easily spins down the ever-loving Toilet!
In actuality, The Shape of Things to Come bears much more of a similarity to contemporary works like Silent Running, Star Wars and, especially, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, with its blinking light robots, computerized leaders and its similar spaceships, costumes and hairstyles (all of which were intentionally familiar).
This dumb story kicks off seven years after the last of "The Great Robot Wars". It's a time at which most of humanity speaks with Canadian accents and lives in domed cities on the moon, like its main governmental center, "New Washington". Why Canadians would name the seat of their civilization "New Washington" isn't even the least sensible thing in this weak effort!
Things are going pretty darned groovy if the Moon Denizens do say so their damned selves. You've got grouchy politicians like Senator Smedley (John Ireland) sparring with grouchy scientists like Dr. Caball (Barry Morse, AKA "That Guy from The Fugitive"). You've also got the faux-dashing action hero (actually, just the "closest thing" to a hero they could get) in the form of Jason Caball (Nicholas Campbell) and the vastly more intelligent (and exponentially lovelier and more useful) Kim Smedley (Anne-Marie Martin, credited under her real name of, yes, yes, "Eddie Benton").
Isn't this sweet, kids? If the bickering scientist and politician can't agree on anything, then at least their KIDS can get along.
Groan. Isn't that just positively puke-making?
Well, the picturesque, super charming future (diameterically opposed to Wells' vision) is soon interrupted by a cargo ship, intentionally crashing into the Lunar Dome of New Washington as an act of terrorism from the evil interplanetary technician Omus (played by gasp, sigh, haah, hiss, gah, aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh Jack Palance).
Yes, yes, to Bondo up the gaps between films like Dracula and his hosting stint on Ripley's Believe it or Not!, Jack Palance agreed to be in this scab of unhealed canker sore. Hell, maybe he's just another one of those respected actors that would, let's face it, appear in just about anything.
You think I'm kidding, dammit? Ten years after this wart on the runny nose of cinema in the exact same year he appeared in such hits as Batman and Tango & Cash, the future Oscar-winner also appeared in fucking The Outlaw of Gor!
But back to The Shape of Things to Come (albeit kicking and screaming). The nonsensical wackiness doesn't begin with, but is well exemplified when the robot pilot of said Kamikaze Kargo Kruiser is found bent, but functional and almost immediately falls in love with Kimmy-poo. Soon, that goofy, amorous android named Sparks (physically played by Mark Parr and voiced by Greg Swanson) teams up with the Kimmynator, Doc Caball and his silly son Jason on a mission to take out corn-ball Omus, reestablish the shipments of the much needed anti-radiation wonder drug, available only on the Omus-controlled planet of Delta Three, and save the ever-loving day.
Okay, let's review this cheese smudge real quick... An evil guy in a cape (who breathes like Jack Palance) sends a robot pilot to crash into the habitat of the good guys in a terrorist act and those same good guy geeks rescue the robot and make him their bestest buddy! Okay, might I just say "Holy Fucking Shit", please? Isn't that kind of like rescuing Mohamed Atta and teaming up with him to go find Bin Laden? Does anybody else think this just MIGHT be a bad idea?
Well, writers Martin Lager, Joseph Glazner and Mike Cheda had a big bowl full of ZERO problems with that fizzled plot point, and I see basically NO evidence that director George McCowan gave a third of a shit either. Then again, when you have bad acting like this and inane dialogue to fuel it, not to mention some of the silliest fight scenes I've seen since Plan 9 from Outer Space, it's easy to believe that the cast and crew eventually just gave up and waited until their ordeals with this film were ALL finished up!
Trust me folks, this film is NOT good and if this is, in fact, "The Shape of Things to Come", I'd much prefer to live in the past, man! Still, the film isn't ALL bad (though its good-ass points can't out-balance the coats of crap covering this flick). It's interesting to see Palance at some of his most campy and hammed-out, while still managing to deliver one or two moments of somewhat quality acting. The main issue with the acting, from Palance to Morse to Carol Lynley is not that the actors themselves suck like terrifying interplanetary Electroluxes or even that the dialogue is awful (although, cousin... it is). The main issue is that virtually every scene feels like it consists of the first or second take with every single acting flub or stumbling block is printed for posterity and comedy for evermore.
However, back in the not-so-bad category, some of the choices for filming locations were really quite smart. Further, the costume design by Larry S. Wells, though derivative, is not so bad, nor is the set design by Ken Porter. Oh, the beetle-belly low budget shines right through, but the look works well for what this film is. Further, the many robots, as constructed by Ralph Tillack, are impractical and bulky, but sleek and could be (or might have been) considered somewhat neat-looking, especially for kids in 1979. In truth, these automatons bring back memories of similar springy-armed, stumbling machines of 1950s science fiction flicks. Cheesy, sure, but fun nonetheless. Let's not forget that this film was only two years after Star Wars changed everything, including how we think of robots... and, there's no denying, this is NO Star Wars.
Expanding from that point, I would be remiss if I didn't mention one area of the special effects that does manage to look pretty good... that being the use of models and miniatures to convey settings, buildings and especially spaceships. I would love to nitpick these to death and laugh at the ineptitude of the space scenes, but the more I looked at them, the more I liked them. Don't get me wrong, like most things in this film, the ship design is far from original. The main ship appears to be a kit-bashed mash-up of the Terran Starfighter from Buck Rogers bringing up the after burners, preceded by a long Klingon Battle Cruiser-looking neck and body, capped by a very familiar looking Enterprise-esque "Saucer Section" that detaches and looks one holy hell of a lot like The Millennium Falcon! However, each of these models and sets are very detailed and look good against the relatively realistic starfields of space. The way they move, interact and fly help to make up probably the best parts of this otherwise forlorn and destitute film and are really worth seeing. I'm not over-amplifying the job done by effects man Bill Wood or visual effects artists Tim Donahue or Wally Gentleman, but credit should be given to these very watchable sequences! Sure they always look like models and miniatures and never like "The Real Thing" (whatever that might look like, considering the subject), but these are at least as good as any comparable miniature work of the time. Light-years behind Star Wars and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but neck-and-neck with some of the better television Sci-Fi of the day.
To be fair, not every Sci-Fi flick can be Star Trek or Star Wars and it's hard to believe that anybody involved in this production thought this would be "the next big thing" any more than Palance thought that Omus would be his breakout "Obi-Wan role"! It's easy to give a pass to this movie here and there.
That said... it still sucks spoiled, pickled pig's feet through a used, teeth-marked straw. The budget was low, but that's no excuse for the bad acting, abandoned plot points, incongruous acts, overt silliness, goofy subplots, lame action and lackluster storytelling. Sure, it beats the ass-spanking FUCK out of Starcrash, but that's not exactly what I would call "hard to do". Sadly, even with its good points, The Shape of Things to Come a DOG!!! Clever kit-bashing and spiffy space sequences can't save this one from the clockwork scrap heap any more than Palance can breathe life into the derivative script that borrows from all kinds of other sci-fi sagas, but, ironically, never actually from H.G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come! So much for speculative fiction, eh? Now, if you'll excuse me, I think it's time that I surf the web looking for a copy of the classic Young Widow Lucy. I promise that if given the chance to make THAT movie it would be ALL kinds of accurate!
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