TNB Night Owl–Toomorrow

Wheel of cheese cut and stacked in front of a stone wall. Photo by Alexander Maasch.

It sounds like a great idea on paper. A mod/pre-disco science fiction musical by the director of THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT, and the producers of The Monkees and the James Bond films. It stars Olivia Newton-John. How could it go wrong?

It did in many ways. That doesn’t mean TOOMORROW (1970) isn’t a fun watch.

Olivia Newton-John stars as the lead singer of a band, Toomorrow (“Too Much, Toomorrow!”). She and some fellow college students formed the band in order to work their way through school (because bands are notorious moneymaking ideas). Meanwhile, there are side romances between musician and dancer, student and teacher, and random others. Occasionally they break into song. With those plot points alone, this movie could have sat happily beside A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964) as a fun time capsule of the era’s rock and roll scene.

Then came the space aliens.

A race of aliens discovers that a vibration created by Toomorrow’s music is the one thing that can save their planet. At first they kidnap the band hoping to capture the wavelength. Then they realize the band has a gig coming up in a couple hours and, if they let the band play, they can harness even larger vibrations for their planet. So they let the band get back to Earth where they seem barely fazed by being aboard an alien spacecraft and almost abducted to another galaxy. The tangled relationships get untangled, the band plays the gig, and everyone is happy.

Except the filmmakers.

Originally producer Don Kirshner hoped to create another pop band as he did with The Monkees. Toomorrow would take up that mantle and run with it. Soon, though, he started fighting with co-producer Harry Saltzman. Kirshner left, disowning the project completely, stating he wouldn’t allow it to be shown in his lifetime (in fact, it wasn’t released to home video until 14 months after his death). The original script by novelist David Benedictus was deemed too “high faluting” by Saltzman and director Val Guest. Saltzman told Guest to re-write it and he would take care of Benedictus. That never happened, and Benedictus had no idea his script was trashed until the film wrapped.

Guest and the crew weren’t paid, the film took years to finish, and even Newton-John said, although she had a great time working on it, “it was all a bit of a shambles”.

A shambles it is, that’s for certain. But it’s a good natured shambles with some fantastic music and playful performances with a sweetly innocent story. If you like early disco, or weird looking low-budget spacemen, you could have fun with this.

Question of the night: Disco, yay or nay?

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