H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things To Come (1979)


Introduction

H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come is a 1979 Canadian science fiction film directed by George McCowan.

Although credited as an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel of the same name, the film takes only its title and some character names from The Shape of Things to Come, Wells’ speculative novel from 1933. The film’s plot has no relationship to the events of the book. The book predicts events such as a Second World War and the collapse of social order until a world state is formed, whereas the film involves a high-tech future involving robots and spaceships.

Refer to Things to Come (1936).

Outline

Sometime in the future, Earth is recovering from “The Robot Wars” that devastated the planet seven years earlier. Most of humanity now lives on the Moon within a domed city called New Washington, but their survival depends on an anti-radiation drug called Raddic-Q2 which is manufactured on the distant planet Delta 3.

As scheduled, Delta 3 sends a massive cargo ship with a supply of the drug, but the ship crashes into New Washington’s dome and causes widespread destruction. The colony leader, Senator Smedley, and science advisor Dr. John Caball, try to contact Nikki, the leader of Delta 3, but instead hear from Omus, the “Robot Master,” Caball’s former apprentice, and the newly self-proclaimed Emperor of that world. Omus states that the crash was a deliberate attack and he demands the people of New Washington recognise his authority as their leader, or else he will send more ships with an invasion force of robots under his control.

Smedley refuses to give into Omus’ threats and Caball suggests launching the Starstreak against him – an advanced starship designed for both space exploration and defence of the Moon colony, but Smedley goes against the plan since the ship has yet to be fully tested. Caball boards the ship anyway, and prepares it for launch, during which he accidentally exposes himself to a dose of deadly radiation while in the reactor room.

With no time to obtain any of the radiation drugs, Caball calls his son Jason to help him pilot the ship. Tagging along are Smeldey’s daughter Kim, and “Sparks,” a teleporting pilot robot that Kim had salvaged from the wreck of the cargo ship and repaired. When they arrive, Caball convinces them of the urgency to stop Omus at all costs. They agree to help steal the Starstreak and set course to Delta 3.

Shortly after launch, a malfunction forces the Starstreak to stop at Earth, and the crew separate from the ship to land the forward saucer section on the planet. While Caball conducts repairs, Jason and Kim explore the area hoping to locate an old friend of Caball’s named Charley who mans a nearby refueling depot. They are unaware however, of small figures that stalk them in the woods. Jason eventually finds Charley dead and then notices that Kim has disappeared. He and Sparks eventually find her with a group of harmless children who are survivors of the Robot Wars, but with more pressing matters to attend to, Jason decides to leave the kids behind with some food supplies, but promises to come back for them once their mission is complete.

Meanwhile, on Delta 3, Nikki has formed a resistance force and tries to take back the Citadel – a massive tower controlled by Omus and his robot minions. Her infiltration attempt fails and Nikki can only pray that help arrives soon. Elsewhere, the Starstreak has left Earth and achieved light speed, but enters a gravity vortex that threatens to destroy the ship. The crew eventually manages to escape the storm with Delta 3 conveniently appearing before them. Upon landing, the crew finds Nikki and her people, but soon a group of Omus’ robots surround them. The party is then greeted by a hologram of Omus and Caball demands to meet face-to-face. Omus agrees and has Caball brought before him while Jason and the others plan to sneak inside the Citadel.

Omus shows off his latest achievements to his old mentor, and how he was able to turn the mining robots into shock troopers that easily took control of the planet. Caball remains unimpressed and tries to talk Omus into giving up his plan to control humanity. Omus refuses to listen and then dons a transparent helmet where he shows Caball another creation – a spinning disco ball-like device that drives Caball mad with pain and eventually kills him.

Once the others finally reach Omus’ chambers, Jason finds his father murdered, but Kim reveals that Caball had severe radiation sickness and was about to die soon anyway. A furious Jason then confronts Omus, but Omus’ robots take him prisoner. Thanks to Sparks, all the robots suddenly turn on their master and run out of control, allowing Jason and the others to flee the control room. Jason hears from Sparks who has teleported to one Omus’ cargo ships and taken over the main computer system. The robot frenzy however, overloads critical systems and explosions begin to rip through the Citadel. Sparks escapes in the cargo ship, while the others make it back to the Starstreak and lift off. They leave Omus sitting in his control room while everything explodes around him. The destruction of the Citadel eventually causes the whole planet to explode.

The last scene shows the two ships returning to Earth, with the cargo ship hauling a supply of Raddic-Q2.

Cast

  • Jack Palance as Omus.
  • Barry Morse as Dr. John Caball.
  • Nicholas Campbell as Jason Caball.
  • Anne-Marie Martin as Kim Smedley.
  • Carol Lynley as Nikki.
  • John Ireland as Senator Smedley.
  • Greg Swanson as Sparks (voice).
  • William Hutt as Lomax (voice).
  • Mark Parr as Sparks.
  • Ardon Bess as Merrick.

Trivia

  • The film was an attempt to capitalise on the popularity of such recent successes as Star Wars, and TV series such as Space: 1999 (also starring Morse) and Battlestar Galactica, although the film had only a fraction of the production budget of any of these.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • George McCowan.
  • Producer(s):
    • John Danylkiw … associate producer.
    • William Davidson … producer.
    • Harry Alan Towers … executive producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • H.G. Wells (novel).
    • Martin Lager (screenplay).
  • Music:
    • Paul Hoffert.
  • Cinematography:
    • Reginald H. Morris (director of photography).
  • Editor(s):
    • Stan Cole.
  • Production:
    • SOTTC Film Productions Ltd.
    • CFI Investments (in association with) (as C.F. I. Investments Inc.).
  • Distributor(s):
    • International Film Distributors (1979) (Canada) (theatrical).
    • Torrington Distributors (1979) (Canada) (theatrical).
    • Film Ventures International (FVI) (1979) (USA) (theatrical).
    • Stockholm Film (1979) (Sweden) (theatrical).
    • 375 Media (2019) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Alive Vertrieb und Marketing (2015) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Astral Video (Canada) (VHS).
    • Blue Underground (2003) (USA) (DVD).
    • Cargo Records (2019) (Germany) (DVD).
    • MeeToo Trade (2019) (Germany) (DVD) (label).
    • Umbrella Entertainment (2004) (Australia) (DVD).
    • Video Medien Pool (VMP) (West Germany) (video) (unknown).
  • Release Date: 04 May 1979 (Canada).
  • Running Time: 94 minutes.
  • Rating: 15.
  • Country: Canada.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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