The Shape of Things to Come (1979)
I am cursed with a sore affliction: I am crazy about sci-fi. I have been known, now and again, to buy DVDs of sci-fi movies that I rate even as low as 2 stars out of 10. I know: I’m an insane collector. Still, some movies (even some rated above 2) are so dull and poorly made that even I find them a waste of life. The 1979 version of The Shape of Things to Come is one of these. Being allegedly based on concepts by H.G. Wells, I bought the DVD sight unseen, believing that it was surely better than its IMDb “3” rating. Well – no such luck.
Wells’ book of the same title is a historical overview of the future. This movie takes a few cues from that description, and then goes off on its own rather pathetic tangent. The Earth is a radioactive wasteland, and most of the surviving people live on the moon, where their chief source of energy remains nuclear power. You’d think they would change that situation, considering what’s already happened to the Earth, but no. They often need to cure radiation sickness, and fortunately there is a sort of anti-radioactivity drug called radic-q-2, which can however only be manufactured on the distant planet Delta Three. As the story begins, Delta Three has just been taken over by mad scientist Jack Palance, calling himself Omus and wearing a purple cape, who proclaims himself “benevolent dictator”, and proceeds to bomb and blackmail the people of the moon. He wants them to recognize him as their ruler, or all shipments of radic-q-2 will cease.
After some squabbling, a trio of heroes steal the advanced spaceship prototype Starstreak and head to Delta Three to fight Omus. With them they take a teleporting robot which used to be Omus’, but which they’ve reprogrammed. On Delta Three, a rebel alliance (consisting of 10 or 12 people) has formed under the former ambassador, Nikki. Our heroes join them, fight Omus’ army of cheesy robots, and nearly lose. The way they win is very silly. Anyway, in the late ‘70s there was a law against doing a sci-fi movie without a planet blowing up, so Delta Three is soon vaporized – fortunately, it was practically empty (do you think we ever see a single human subject of Omus’ dictatorship? Come on, take a wild guess!).
The production values are fairly shoddy, but not awful. The style resembles that of many other ‘70s sci-fi movies, such as Logan’s Run and Silent Running, and with a good story it would have been easy enough to suspend one’s disbelief. Unfortunately, the story is half-assed and derivative of Star Wars, not to mention just plain silly. Most of the acting is quite bad, and the general result is a very, very boring movie with very few redeeming values. Palance himself cannot be faulted; he is perfectly in character throughout, and understands the kind of material. It might have worked, too, if the story had made much sense. There is a certain pathos to Omus’ final cry to the robots who have turned against him: “But I am your CREATOOOOR!!” Too bad the rest of the production team aren’t as classy as big Jack P.
The DVD is a Region 0, pretty basic, with no subtitles. The vocal soundtrack is good enough for subs not to be necessary, but the musical soundtrack appears to have deteriorated and not been restored. The picture quality is very decent.
Director: George McCowan
Cast: Jack Palance, Carol Lynley, Barry Morse, Barry Morse, John Ireland
Runtime: 94 min