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H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things To Come
USA 1979
Directed by George McCowan
Running time 98 minutes
Rated PG
3 stars


Synopsis: Far into the future the earth is a scorched desert, destroyed by a great war with a giant robot army. Mankind has now colonised the surface of the moon and is living in vast doomed cities. The evil Emperor Ormos is determined to take over and eliminate the human race with his robot armies. Dr. John Caball leads a crack team of scientists to defend his people against the malevolent robotic forces and discover new supplies of the miracle drug Radic-Q-2 which the ex-earthling need to survive.

It’s quite astounding that this film was made in 1979, after Star Wars! It’s as though Luke and Han had never battled the evil Empire in 1977. Not that that’s a bad thing! The clunky designs of the robots, the camp-beyond-belief costume design, the instantly dated sets and IT, the dodgy special effects, and the presence of Space 1999’s Barry Morse in the cast all help to make The Shape of Things To Come a prime example of ‘so bad it’s great’ cinema.

It’s always a pleasure to see actors running around in tin foil space suits. The robots are boxes with tumble dryer tubing for arms, simplistic in the extreme and the whole film lacks the sort of imagination seen at the better end of the sci-fi genre. The performances, especially by the legendary Jack Palance as the evil Ormos are terrible, as wooden as the futuristic art décor surroundings. His final battle with Dr. Caball is as anti-climatic as you can get. The doctor, played by Morse, is exactly the same monotone character that he played in Gerry Anderson’s live action television hit.

Obviously this kind of kitsch entertainment is comedy gold for some and trash for many. The director, George McCowan, is the man who gave us Frogs which says a lot! The ideas behind the minimal plot often riff on classic 70s sci-fi. From Logan’s Run to Silent Running, the exemplars of the genre are raided for inspiration. All that’s missing are the space dogfights that Star Wars made synonymous with sci-fi but it’s likely that the budget wouldn’t stretch to that. Cheap and cheerful is the name of the game and in the days of the bloated CGI-packed blockbusters of today the naïve innocence on display that can only be a good thing.

Source: Blue Underground’s excellent Zone 1 DVD

 

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Hannah Arendt

Indian Film Festival 2014