Monday, August 16, 2010

beyond the pale.

Have you ever wondered what shame looks like?

I have.

HG Wells' The Shape of Things To Come (1979)
Dir: George McCowan
Cast: Jack Palance, Carol Lynley, Barry Morse, John Ireland, Nicholas Campbell, Mark Parr and Eddie Benton.

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Beyond the earth...
Beyond the moon...
Beyond your wildest imagination!
and quite possibly beyond the pale.
But not The Beyond.

Unfortunately.


The time is the tomorrow after tomorrow (which makes it a Thursday) and planet Earth is a devastated no-man's land, left irradiated after the infamous 'Robot Wars' (Craig Charles has a lot to answer for).

Luckily for the future of mankind the survivors have all buggered off to the moon and set up what looks like a giant supermarket cum roller disco named New Washington.

Named after America's last president, the actor turned politician Denzel, whose quick thinking allowed humanity to flee the Earth to begin with, the city is run by an elite selection of tight jump-suited old men in thin socks and led by the doddery (yet still pert arsed) Senator Jeff Smedley (acting warhorse Ireland from everything you can think of from Salon Kitty to Waxwork II, obviously his ex-wife was being really demanding at this time) and the candyflosh haired Dr. John Caball (Morse....no introduction necessary).

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Washington: post.


Not everything is all rosy in New Washington tho', the general populace are required to wear hellish 'high fashion' outfits that even the producers of Logan's Run turned down for being too seventies and the after effects of the cyborg conflict means that the survivors need to take a regular dose of the miracle drug Radish-Q-2 just to stop their sideburns dropping out.


This miracle drug is only produced on one planet in the galaxy, the barren(ish) Delta Three but unfortunately for cuddly Caball and co., the planets self proclaimed robot master, the mad as a lorry scientist named Edward James Omus (Palance, nuff said), has deposed Nikki Six (Lynley from The Poseidon Adventure and, um, loads of other stuff), the legitimate governor of Delta Three and taken over with the help of his terrifying army of moving compost bins.

Oh sorry, I mean hi-tech robots.

Obviously disguised as compost bins.

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Beware! The bin men!


To prove that he means business, Omus crashes a robot controlled cargo ship into the New Washington branch of Asda before announcing that forthwith all shipments of Radish-Q-2 will be suspended until he is proclaimed emperor of everything and given a big crown made of chocolate.

And the moon on a stick.

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"Are you looking at my bra?"


In response these outrageous demands and acts of aggression Smedley decides the best course of action would be to do nothing and just hope that Omus gets bored or just changes his mind but massively manbreasted Dr. Caball demands an immediate (if not sooner) response.

You see, he's spent the last few years building a super sleek space attack ship (out of bits of left over model parts by the look of it) called The Star Streak and reckons this is just the right opportunity to blast off into space and get rid of some of his old man aggression by way of kicking Omus' arse.

After consulting the giant talking disco ball in his office however, Smedley (and the computer) says no.

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How the Enterprise would look if constructed
by the guy that does Arrow's horror covers.

Without access to paint.


Being a grumpy old man slowly eaten away by sexual frustration and the fact that he now has to wear a bra, Caball ignores everyone and decides to go anyway, taking his drippy son Jason (latter day writer/director and son of Bruce, Campbell), Smedley's harsh faced daughter Kim (Benton AKA Anne-Marie Martin from teevee's Sledge Hammer and star of your Granddad's most erotic fantasies) and a upturned water cooler on castors and decked out in Christmas tree lights named Sparks (full time little person Parr).

Stealing Star Streak and blasting off for Delta Three our heroes remember that they've forgotten to fill her up with petrol so, slightly embarrassed they turn around and head back toward Earth in order to refuel at the planets last garage which is luckily run by an old drinking chum of Caball Snr.

I would say you couldn't make this shit up but obviously someone did.

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No matter what I write I couldn't make
this look any shitter than it already does.

I hope the designer is proud of himself.


Landing in someone's garden Jason soon discovers that the garage is shut (due to the owner being dead in a cupboard) and that the local woods are over-run by irradiated children in ill fitting white wigs, left behind after the war.

Being a nice man tho' Jason tells all the kids to sit in a field and that he'll be back for them in a bit.

Phew! Glad the plot made that detour.

Meanwhile back on Delta Three Nikki and her band of, oh at least seven followers, obviously bored sitting about in the dirt like a bunch of late sixties counter-culture junkies, are planning to attack Omus and seize back control of the base and stuff.

So, armed with dustbin lids and washing poles the heady band take a secret route thru' a massive maze of underground caverns only to find the evil robot bins lying (well swaying) in wait and ready to strike out clumsily with their big plastic hands.

Niki being very little sneaks between the robots chunky rubber thighs and makes it inside Omus' fortress, sending a message to the moon for help.

A message that is intercepted by old man Caball and co. as they (very slowly) approach Delta Three.

Demanding they move up to 'faster than faster than light' speed before retiring to his room for a tearful wank and a Pot Noodle, John misses the after effects of travelling at such high speeds which include flashing disco lights, poverty row matte work and a variety of disturbing cum faces from the rest of the cast as they cartwheel round the set desperately trying to avoid knocking Sparks the robot over.

Even having to write about that scene has made a little piece of me die inside.

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"I wonder what'll happen if I tug this knob?"


Finally arriving in one piece (but sweating more than John Leslie on an oil rig) our heroes come across a couple of robot controlled freighters heading toward the moon, but having failed to fit The Star Streak with weaponry of any kind in which to blow them up, John decides that they should land and have a stern chat with Omus instead.

Cut to someone dropping a paper plate into a garden and it's away we go.

Trudging thru' the sandpit behind the directors house our merry band soon find Nikki and her followers hiding up a tree and, after a bit of uncomfortable hugging between the Baby Jane like Nikki and the saggy arsed John, the baddie robots turn up and escort the old fella to his audience with Omus.

Clambering back up the tree till they've gone, Jason formulates a cunning rescue plan involving going back thru' the same caves as before, knocking on Omus' door then running away giggling.

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A rare behind the scenes shot of the
movies special effects team at work.


Whilst all this potty plotting is going on, Caball and Omus finally meet face to face (again).

Yup it turns out that John was once Omus' geography teacher, keeping him behind in detention for wrongly identifying France as Belgium and therefore starting him off on his road to dictatorship.

But Omus has his revenge planned to the tiniest detail.

A revenge that involves the man we've come to hate donning au upturned water cooler on his head whilst playing white noise loudly thru' his stereo radiogram causing poor old Barry Morse to feign a stroke.

Or is it his sex face?

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Hel-met.


Arriving just in time to find his fathers prone body covered in jam and slumped in a Lazy Boy chair, Jason vows violent revenge on Omus but way below in the caverns his evil army of robotic bins is on the move, determined to smash Nikki's mini rebellion whilst far away in space the bomb laden freighters edge ever closer to the moon.....

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Star Wars: The Pikey Years.


Like the idiot child you keep locked in the attic or the piss stained and bearded old Aunt you only see at Christmas, you can't help but admire the late, (wannabe) great George McCowan's
lo-fi, sci-fi shlockfest for it's blatant brass necked, steel balled arrogance.

Taking it's title from the classic HG Wells novel, it's plot from the back of a fag packet and it's effects from the local thrift store, McCowan has fashioned what should be a ratty, tatty fag end of a movie into a highly entertaining (but still ratty, tatty and fag ended) piece of cinematic cheese worthy of a wider fan following than it currently has.

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Kim prepares to try out the new
Anne Summers Golden Nobbler for size.


Chock full of badly fitted polyester jumpsuits, the largest bunch of non acting, non entities this side of Hollyoaks and an army of killer robots obviously fashioned by a wooden handed blind child from the contents of his Dads shed, The Shape Of Things To Come positively revels in it's tawdriness, almost as if the people involved haven't realised how arse numbingly bad the entire production is.

Yes, it's like they honestly believe that they're making something that will rival 2001 in the intellectual stakes.

And for that you really have to admire their commitment.

If not worry about their collective sanity.

Frankly you can't call yourself a true film fan unless you own this.

Especially if it's on VHS.

2 comments:

arealdwarf said...

Great review Ashton! I laughed and laughed. Being from England, you might not be aware that SOTTC was a product of Canada's film tax shelter boom of the late 1970's. Not a memorable period for Canadian film making, but It was my first feature film and I had a blast working on it. I've read lots of 'negative' reviews of SOTTC, but yours is hands-down the funniest! Here's a quote from Canuxploitation Guide to Canadian B-Film: "The Shape of Things to Come is a severe case of overreaching ambition that has all the defining features of a classic tax-shelter scenario: hack script, hired gun director, compromised production values, and a cast of Hollywood has-beens mingling with neglected Canucks."

Cheers,

Mark Parr
'full time little person'

Ashton Lamont said...

Cheers for you nice comments! Make a change from the death threats I usually get!
I have to say tho' for all it's faults it's a really entertaining movie, much more so than Avatar (and considerably shorter!)