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The Shape of Things to Come


‘…Star Wars on a tatty shoestring…’

Also known as HG Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come, although there’s not many traces of HG in the mix here; this is a Canadian Star Wars rip-off from 1979 that looked pretty good in posters like the one above until you actually saw the end result. Wells’ 1933 book was swiftly made into a stuffy 1936 movie that sticks more closely to the original concept of following the development of Earth through the next few centuries; The Shape of Things to Come da movie features Jack Palance as the ‘rabbitmaster’ of the moonly domed city of New Washington, and we’re just getting started with George McCowan’s laughable feature.

‘The time is the tomorrow of tomorrow…’ intones the opening title screed, but it all looks a lot like the innards of a disused Canadian power station circa 1979. Mankind has got itself into something of a mess in the wake of the Robot Wars; we’re all dependant on a miracle drug called Raddic-Q2 which we import to the community of humans living on the moon from the far off planet of Delta 3. Rabbitmaster Omus (Palance) disrupts the supply to threaten the Earth with his deadly robots, or ‘rabbits’ as Palance pronounces it, forcing our hero Jason Cabal (Nicholas Campbell) and his stuffy dad (Space 1999’s Barry Morse) to steal plastic model spaceship Starstreak to head to Omus’s equally plastic headquarters and ask to see the manager.

The Shape of Things to Come is a cheap as chips film, but that cheapness is striking to behold; the crew obviously located a room with an exterior view of a giant buckyball structure which looks great, but they might have bothered to take down the rather ratty curtains hanging at the window before shooting. They probably has their hands full re-writing the script; ‘I’m going to take a look at these suicide robots…You are the dark lady of the sonics!’ There’s oodles of tech talk, from ‘cobalt override’ to ‘time dilation’ and ‘locational transference’ but it all adds up to the good guys storming the impregnable fortress, the old man sadly dying, then everyone escapes, there’s a big explosion and everyone is happy. Like the similarly bonkers The Humanoid, it’s Star Wars on a tatty shoestring, with Anne-Marie Martin and Oscar-nominee Carol Lynley struggling with high maintenance late 70’s hairdos to maintain and serious VPL issues with their costumes.

Nobody dons a magic helmet quite like Jack Palance, and the veteran distinguishes himself with a typically overripe performance as Omus, not helped by a revealing two-tone tan jumpsuit with dark patches that suggest evidence of several waves of incontinence. Omus appears via a 3D video link which looks kinda snazzy, except Palance appears to have been placed on a rotating turntable for a high-tech effect which kinda ruins the gravitas. The robots do look cool on the poster, but risible when they appear, and the blonde moppet children that Jason Cabal ends up rescuing are so naff they’d make the Ewoks look kick-ass. Best watched as a comedy, The Shape of Things To Come is an affront to the mind and the eyes; if HG Wells had imagined that this is the kind of cut-price future his writings would lead to, he probably wouldn’t have bothered getting out of bed.


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  1. OK, because this is a Canadian production I actually looked into it.

    First off, the trailer is to a version that’s been dubbed in French, causing some confusion. Please explain the reference to Star Trek at 1:18.

    Second, it’s not a grubby disused power plant but Ontario Place, a state of the art Toronto theme park in 1979. It’s since been decommissioned and nobody knows what to do with it.

    The giant buckyball structure is the Cinesphere, which was the world’s first permanent IMAX movie theatre.

    Fun fact: I used to know the father (yes, the father) of one of the guys who invented IMAX and founded the company. He lived in a little house just the next road over for me when I was growing up. He was a retired Shakespeare scholar. I used to visit him sometime on my way home from work and he had lots of interesting stories.

    • Sigh. I said it ‘looks like’ a disused power station. I can’t image what kind of theme park this was. It’s just brick corridors and heavy wooden doors.

      Isn’t French something that Canadians speak? Maybe Star Trek is French for Moonbase Alpha; you’d need to ask a French person.

      Didn’t Shapespeare write any of his plays in IMAX?

      Don’t you feel bad that you didn’t watch this trailer, and then got caught out in yet another Julie Taymour-level faux pas?

  2. I think I saw this as a rifftrax version. Knowing how they Butcher things, I’m always leery of passing judgment on the movies they mock.

  3. I take it Raymond Massey and Ralph Richardson don’t put in much in the way of appearances.

    Actually, disused Canadian power stations circa 1979 have become quite fashionable lately. Everything comes around.

    “Palance appears from have been placed on a rotating turntable” . . . must be pouring in Scotland . . .

    • Fetid.

      The wooden doors and exposed piping are something to behold…

      No real continuity in the Things to Come movies, so no Massey or Richardson in this, but Palance is enough to be going on with…

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