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The Curator of Schlock #308 by Jeff Shuster

H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come

Is this a lost TV pilot?

Hey nerds! That sci-fi crap is real big right now. We just wrapped up another Star Wars trilogy, Jean-Luc Picard is back in the saddle, and Doctor Who is as nonsensical as ever. You geeks must be in hog heaven right now. We at the Museum of Schlock are here to please, and this month is filled with some galaxy hopping classics. In other words, we’re showcasing some Star Wars wannabes. Enjoy.

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

Tonight’s movie is 1979’s H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come from director George McCowan. I never read the novel, but I have it on good authority that this is a faithful adaptation. The backdrop for the movie is a colony on the Moon called New Washington. Humans evacuated the Earth after some robots ran amok and caused a massive nuclear war. I’m sure it can all be traced back to that Tony Robbins interview with Sophia the Robot. Anyway, they terraformed the moon and built a knockoff of EPCOT Center. In fact, I think I saw a duplicate of Spaceship Earth through one of the windows of an office building.

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Okay. So there’s a plot here … somewhere. Oh, we have an extra-evil Jack Palance as the villainous Omus, the Robot Master of Delta 3. You know he’s evil because he dons a purple cape. The citizens of New Washington get an anti-radiation drug from the planet, Delta 3, but Omus reprogrammed all of the robots to obey him and booted Nikki (Carol Lynley), the leader of Delta 3, from power. Omus wants robots to take over the moon because they’re better than people or some such nonsense.

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One thing I can’t get over about this motion picture is how cheap everything looks. You Doctor Who fans should feel right at home. All the robots in this movie are boxy and have Slinky arms they wave around menacingly. Some rooms have those swooshing doors like you see on Star Trek, but other rooms have regular doors that swing open. There’s no consistency. I guess most of the budget went to the Starstreak, the interstellar vessel that will carry our heroes to Delta 3 to stop Omus.

Right. Plot. Some would-be heroes decide to take the Starstreak, the moon colony’s defense vessel, to travel to Delta 3 and capture Omus. We’ve got Dr. John Caball, the science advisor to the moon colony, John, his handsome son, and Kim Smedley, the foxy daughter of the moon colony leader, Senator Smedley. Don’t be expecting any romance between John and Kim as there’s no chemistry between them. Dr. Caball does get some radiation poisoning so you get see him writhe in pain every so often, which is more funny to see than it should be.

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Speaking of funny, there’s a robot companion with their group named Sparks. He’s a good Robot who can teleport instantaneously to any place that he needs to be. This prevents the robot from having to walk wherever he needs to go. I’m sure the actor in the suit was happy for that. What else? Omus melts Dr. Caball’s brain with a sparkly disco ball. Oh, and Omus ends up blowing up the entire planet. John, Kim, Nikki, and Sparks manage to escape, but didn’t they basically fail in their mission? Where is the moon colony going to get their anti-radiation drug from? I guess everyone on the moon colony is going to die from radiation poisoning.

Yeah, maybe skip this one.


Jeffrey Shuster 2

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.