Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Shape of Things to Come (1979)

So I can safely say that this unfaithful H.G. Wells adaptation was a pretty unmemorable Weird Wednesday, especially considering that it screened a mere month ago, and sitting here now, I'm struggling to recall what I thought about it. I guess what I'm saying is bear with me on this one.

The plot, as provided by imdb.com goes something like this:

Planet Earth is a devastated wasteland, and what's left of humanity has colonized the Moon in domed cities. Humanity's continued survival depends on an anti-radiation drug only available on planet Delta Three, which has been taken over by Omus (Jack Palance), a brilliant but mad mechanic who places no value on human life. Omus wants to come to the Moon to rule and intends to attack it by ramming robot-controlled spaceships into the domes. Dr. John Caball, his son Jason, Jason's friend, Kim, and a robot named Sparks embark on Caball's space battlecruiser on an unauthorized mission to Delta Three to stop Omus.

Now let me just say that reading this synopsis now, I guess I can see how a plot could be strung together by the scenes I saw, but at the time (perhaps it was my tired mental state, but I never fell asleep once during this one) I swear my mind was not processing a plot, but merely absorbing scene after scene.

That being said, the most painful problems with the film are obvious from the get-go; the lumbering pace, the low production value (for a Sci-Fi film at least), and a completely flat script are among the film's worst crimes. The absolute worst though, without a doubt, is the complete under-use of the incomparable Jack Palance. He shows up briefly early on and you're primed for some damn fine scene-chewing, and then there's nothing for an hour or so. He shows up in the last 25 minutes or so to unload some pure cinematic insanity, but it's too little, too late.

It wasn't a total loss though, there were some pretty laughable moments here and there, among my favorites:

--Jack Palance giant floating/rotating holographic head. His incredible overacting, arm gesturing, and his delivery of the line: “Where's your humanism now doctor!?!” You can also tell how evil he is by how many times he laughs out of pure amazement and delight with what he's doing.

--The hallucinogenic space travel sequence (something that seems to be a standard in 70's Sci-Fi films) that's capped with the line: “What the Hell was that about?”

--The ridiculous "robots." Sparks actually seems more human than most of the humans in the film.

--The crazy space-gladiator weapons.

--There's a group of kids in the movie that are supposed to be mutants, or fallout victims, or orphans or something. I don't know, but half of them have on awful blond wigs. The other half have either naturally blond hair or just naturally dark hair. I'm pretty sure that the idea here was that they would all have blond wigs, but the filmmakers didn't have enough to go around so some ended up with them and some didn't. The only reason I think this is because one of the kids wearing a blond wig was Asian.

To be fair to this one, I know there were a lot of other funny bits, but I just can't remember them. I leave you with this, did you know that Jack Palance's birth name was Volodymir Ivanovich Palahniuk? Me neither.

"The Shape of Things to Come" screened 10/8/08 at the midnight and was presented by Weird Wednesday.

No comments: