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Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Both obscure and unusual, Toomorrow is a british sci-fi musical comedy. The film was intended to launch the pop rock group of the same name, (trying to repeat the Monkees' success) but the band's career never took off. The movie does star a young Olivia Newton John, many years before Grease ('78) would launch her stardom. The real band, Vic Cooper, Benny Thomas and Karl Chambers, play themselves, as art college students. Val Guest, writer of 50s sci-fi such as The Quatermass Xperiment ('55) and Quatermass II ('57), both wrote and directed Toomorrow.

Quick Plot Synopsis
An Alphoid space ship comes to earth orbit. It summons a man, Williams, living a genteel life in rural England. Williams is an Alphoid, in disguise as a human. He's been studying Earth for thousands of years, but has nothing interesting to report. The other Alphoids report that a crisis has developed in Alphoid-dom. Their "music" has lost its ability to soothe or stimulate. There is a growing "sterility of sound." Galactic Computer has picked up new "vibrations" which can save the Alphoids from blandness. The source is a group of London college students who have a band named Toomorrow. Williams must arrange their abduction so they can teach Alphoids this new vibration. Meanwhile, on earth, Olivia's alarm goes off. She makes breakfast tea for, Vic, Karl and Ben, all art college students. They are embroiled in the usual trite romantic complications of youth. They get a chance to play an important gig that evening, but need a place to rehearse. Williams offers his country home. They take him up on it, but as they leave, are beamed up to the ship. There, they get the whole back story, but refuse to be play on command. (chase around ship, some fake weightless effects. etc.) The Alphoids let them escape, deciding that they need a full-tilt concert with band AND audience to really get the vibrations they seek. Relationship trouble between Vic and his ballet student girlfriend Amy threaten to scuttle their big gig. Williams conjures up a blonde floozy to seduce Vic (and forget the petulant Amy) hoping to get the concert back on track. Various silly hijinks ensue as the floozy isn't too well programed. (Everyone she meets, she thinks is Vic Cooper). The many loose  plot threads resolve themselves and the band plays their gig. The audience is all grooving to the harmless pop tunes. Williams has them all beamed up to the ship. The band keeps playing, the audience dancing, despite being lifted into space. (fade to black) Olivia's alarm goes off, she makes breakfast, just like at the start of the movie. It was all a dream? Or was it? Vic finds the floozy's glasses on his keyboard. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
As a comedy, it's supposed to be fun. The humor is largely adolescent, so not all that funny. Olivia is best part. She's bright and perky and looks good in short shorts. The time-capsule aspect of the film, capturing the bopping innocent mid-60s is of some historical value.

Cultural Connection
Don Kirshner created a music commodity (perhaps not quite intentionally) with The Monkees in 1966. The TV show about a pop rock band actually generated some sellable music. Kirshner sought to repeat that success, but more deliberately with Toomorrow. The world depicted in Toomorrow is a clear example of the giddy, silly, pop days of the mid-60s -- an era of beach party movies, go-go dancers, tall boots, miniskirts and Volkswagens decorated with flowers. The band drive a yellow '64 Ford Cortina Estate, festooned with the stereotypic stick-on flowers. All this still exudes a vestige of the "innocence" of the 50s -- as viewed from a writer in his mid 50s viewing the youth culture of mid-60s. This was the "lite" world before the grittier Woodstock era reveled in grunge.

Lost Film Mashup? -- Imdb contains a curious "trivia" for this film. It says this movie was based upon an unreleased movie titled "The Gang" from 1967. Scant corroboration exists for this trivia. This date would be about right for a Monkees sequel, as they hit the scene in '66. So, it may be that Don Kirshner began his second movie-band project in 1967. Olivia said that it took two years to make the record. One setback came when the original drummer -- Chris Slade -- left the band and Karl replaced him. Any footage shot with Chris had to be replaced. The project may have also suffered from too many cooks and Kirshner not giving it his full attention. He was busy with another pop-band fabrication project, The Archies, in 1968. When Kirshner re-focused on Toomorrow again, he was disappointed in the direction it was going (without him) and left the project. Bruce Welch (Olivia's boyfriend at the time) tried to rescue the project, but the film company balked at expensive re-shoots. The result, appears to be the film we have now. Not terrible, but not that good either, and fatally passe by 1970 standards. One visual clue to the earlier-than-1970 filming was the car that Susan drove. She gets into a VERY new looking '67 Ford Anglia. (with its distinctive reverse-rake C-pillars) That model was discontinued in '68.

Irony Abounds -- In the movie, the band gets it's big break to stardom and succeed almost literally (stars). The movie was supposed to be the real band's big gig to stardom, but it failed. Cutesy pop with bright colors, gee-whiz smiles and tidy haircuts (The Monkees motif) were very mid-60s. Rock culture tastes had given way in just a couple years to grunge, angry eyes, shaggy hair, tie-dye, Hendrix and brutalism. Little wonder the market showed no interest. The band's name, Toomorrow, being ironic for a very yesterday look and sound. Ironic too, that the advanced aliens needed Formula Pop music, to re-invigorate their civilization.

Industry Parallel? -- Perhaps Val Guest wrote Tomorrow is a sort of metaphor for "garage bands". They dream of satisfying some need "out there" for their special blend of "vibrations." Young musicians (with a dash of youthful conceit) often imagine that they have the fresh new sound to replace the old "sterile" music of those who came before them. The climax of the movie -- when the aliens beam up the whole concert -- can be seen as a metaphor for the indie band fantasy of being discovered and "taken up" into the glittering universe of the music industry.

Neo-Bacchinal -- Another scene full of irony and revelation for our modern music-addicted culture, is at the Round House concert. The crowd (of extras) are directed to dance eagerly and 'really dig' the music with an almost bacchanalian zeal. Classical-fan Amy casts off her shoes and bops. Even Williams, the stoic alien, can't help but grin and dance all enthused. (From the Greek: en + theos = filled with the god -- in this case, the god of rock n' roll). Modern cultures since the 60s have elevated "their music" to demigod status. The irony is that the music they are supposedly so enthused by, is mediocre formula pop from middling staff writers -- not too far above elevator music.

Bad Timing -- A bit of silly script writing comes early on. The Alphoid captain tells Alphoid-Williams that he must hurry to abduct the band. They must leave orbit in 17 hours. "I hope there's time," says Williams. He then corrects himself to say that "time" means nothing to the Alphoids. Then why the deadline of 17 hours if time means nothing? Not one of Guest's better scripts.

Bottom line? Toomorrow is "lite" fare and mild entertainment. The sci-fi element is also "lite" and formulaic. The humor is juvenile and predictable. Fans of Olivia Newton-John may enjoy the film. She gets a good role and plays it well. Viewers who were alive and aware in the mid-60s may have some nostalgia value. If born later, one's inner-anthropologist can be intrigued studying the ancient lost civilization that was the mid-60s. Those lacking an inner-anthropologist will likely be annoyed.

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