The Shape of Things to Come
- Street Date:
- September 27th, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- Shannon T. Nutt
- Review Date: 1
- October 3rd, 2016
- Movie Release Year:
- Blue Underground
- 98 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
I have seen 'The Shape of Things to Come' and it's square...I mean, like, really square. This 1979 Canadian release was obviously an attempt to capitalize on the then-sci-fi craze at the cinema, but comes off as something you and your high school friends might have filmed over the summer as an extra-credit project.
I won't waste too much time trying to explain the plot of this movie to you, but basically the film is set "the tomorrow after tomorrow" (seriously, that's in the opening crawl) when mankind has all but depleted Earth's resources and has set up a colony on the moon. Since it's the moon in the late 1970s, naturally Space 1999's Barry Morse is still hanging around. Here, he plays Dr. John Caball, and the name is really the only relation this movie has to H.G. Wells' original novel or to the classic 1936 film Things to Come.
As the movie opens, the moon is under attack by the evil self-proclaimed Emperor Omus (Jack Palance, who I can only hope got a nice check for being in this schlock), who has sent a ship with suicide robot pilots to crash into the moon's domed habitat. How do we know the ship is coming? Because the movie shows the same shot of the ship slowly going across screen again and again (and again!). Apparently, Omus is on a planet that grows a drug that is pivotal to humankind's survival. So when Omus threatens to cut off the supply of the drug unless he's named King of the Moon (or something along those lines), Dr. Caball – against his superior's orders – steals a spaceship along with his son, Jason (Nicholas Campbell); the daughter of Caball's superior, Kim (Eddie Benton, aka Anne-Marie Martin); and a repaired robot from the suicide attack, who Kim has named "Sparks" (oh, how cute!). Their plan is to meet Omus on his own turf and stop him and his evil robot army.
I've probably just made the movie sound a lot more exciting than it is. It's not, trust me. According to IMDB.com, the budget of this film was about $3 million in Canadian dollars back in 1979, which I guess works about to about $2 million and some change. How and where all that money got spent is a mystery, as it's certainly not up on the screen (by comparison, the pilot to 1978's Battlestar Galactica cost about $3 million in U.S. dollars, and this movie doesn't come anywhere close to the quality of that production, even though you might swear they liberated some of their sets and costumes). To show you how lame this film is, the bridge of the ship that Dr. Caball steals looks just like an office with a computer desk and a square viewing screen. It looks more like a room in an office building (which it probably was) than a spaceship.
While the guys at MST3K or, more currently, RiffTrax, would probably have a field day with this film, I certainly don't recommend you try the same. The biggest problem with this clunker is that everyone seems to know they're in a bad movie, yet no one takes the opportunity to ham things up for the camera or, at the very least, just have a little fun with it (although Palance does let loose a bit in his final scene). If this is 'The Shape of Things to Come', I'm good right here, thank you very much.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Shape of Things to Come' comes in a standard-shaped Blu-ray keepcase, which houses the 25GB disc with zero inserts. The flip side of the keepcase's slick (seen from inside the box) contains a chapter listing for the movie on the inside left. There are no front-loaded trailers on the Blu-ray, whose main menu showcases the box cover artwork on the left side of the screen, a montage of footage from the movie on the right side of the screen, and menu selections horizontally across the bottom forth of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'The Shape of Things to Come' was shot on 35mm film. According to IMDB.com, the movie was released at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but its image on this release is slightly pillar-boxed on the right and left sides, giving it a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.
Man oh man, the picture quality here is pretty bad. Which is not to say the transfer has technical issues...in fact, I was hard-pressed to find any aliasing, banding, or over-sharpening of the image. The problem is how soft, colorless, and often out of focus the movie is. The movie often times looks like it was filmed through a haze, and results in an image that not only isn't any better that DVD quality, I'm not sure it's all that much better than VHS (okay, it's better than that, but it doesn't seem that way at first).
The back of the box cover says that the movie has been remastered from the original camera negative, so the lack of quality here must come from the source material or the original print was in pretty bad shape. That said, Blue Undergound has done a nice job of making sure most instances of dirt, debris, and other issues have been removed from the print, and film grain – while present – is never obtrusive.
Still, regardless of whether the issues are with the transfer itself or the original print, 'The Shape of Things to Come' is a soft-looking, non-detailed release that is hard to get excited about. It's one of the poorest quality images I've seen on Blu-ray in a long time.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
This release comes with two audio options: a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and a 1.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio track. The 5.1 track here fares much better in terms of quality than the disappointing video...but not much. Despite being a lossless track, it's pretty lifeless, with flat-sounding dialogue, music, and effects all around. The track tries to separate some of the soundtrack to the rear speakers, but it's more than obvious that this was a mono release and intended to be heard that way (Blue Underground might have served us better with upgrading to 2.0 Stereo instead of 5.1). That said, the mono track isn't a whole lot better, but does feel slightly more 'natural', so I recommend switching over to that one if you're not a fan of the 5.1 (actually, I don't recommend switching to anything, since I'm not recommending the torture of sitting through this film...but you get the gist).
The audio is fairly flat, with little in terms of dynamic range and zero directionality, but it's also free of any popping, hissing, and dropouts, so at least there's that.
Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
- French Trailer (2 min.) – Proving that this is a bad movie in any language, here's the French theatrical trailer for 'The Shape of Things to Come', along with English subtitles.
- TV Spot (½ min.) – A brief TV spot for the film, which makes me wonder how many people thought this was an upcoming TV show until they saw the "Rated PG" tag at the end.
- Poster & Still Gallery (HD, 3 min.) – This photo gallery can be viewed as a slide show or gone through manually using the right and left arrow keys on one's remote. It contains 31 images in all.
- Pressbook Gallery (HD, 2 min.) – This is an additional gallery of typed pages, which are taken from the original press release telling the media about the movie, its actors, etc.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
- Jason's Journey: Interview with Star Nicholas Campbell (HD, 14 min.) – I can almost imagine Campbell's reaction to this interview request. "You want to interview me about what?!" But the still-active actor is a good sport about his remembrance of things past, and doesn't pull any punches about the people he worked with or the cheesiness of the film, as well as giving us a brief re-cap of how he got involved in the entertainment industry. The movie may be garbage, but this bonus feature with Campbell is a delight. It's actually a shame no one thought of asking him to do a commentary track, but this is the next best thing.
- Symphonies in Space: Interview with Composer Paul Hoffert (HD, 17 min.) – If there's a bright spot to this oh, so dim film, it's Paul Hoffert's score, which is kind of catchy in a late 70s kind of way. Here, the composer talks about his background, how he got into film, and his scoring of this movie.
'The Shape of Things to Come' was obviously a cheap, slap-it-together effort to capitalize on the success of 'Star Wars' and the popularity of other sci-fi movies in the late 1970s. But its cheap sets, poor acting, and horrible F/X doesn't do it any favors. Nor does its awful story. This isn't one of those films that's "so bad, it's good". It's just bad. Real bad. Skip it.
- 25GB Blu-ray
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English DTS-HD Mono
- English SDH, Spanish, French
- French Trailer
- TV Spot
- Poster & Still Gallery
- Pressbook Gallery
Exclusive HD Content
- Jason's Journey - New interview with Star Nicholas Campbell
- Symphonies In Space - New interview with Composer Paul Hoffert
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