Film Review: Toomorrow (dir by Val Guest)

The 1970ish film Toomorrow tells the story of a group of students who are determined to make their way through art school despite not having much money.  They do what they can to cut down on costs.  For instance, they all live in one big, communal house.  And even though they think that the protestors in the streets are totally groovy and happening in a far out way, they decline to really get involved with any of it because bail’s expensive.

(At least, that’s what I assume is going on in the protest scenes.  This isn’t exactly the most coherent film ever made.)

The students also pay for college by forming their own band!  Calling themselves Toomorrow, they make use of a new instrument called the Tonaliser!  The Tonaliser sends out sonic vibrations that put everyone into a good, dancing mood!  The Tonaliser is so powerful that the vibrations are even felt in outer space.

It turns out that there’s a group of aliens who have all the technology in the world but who have never figured out how to create music.  They really want to learn, though.  Music is the one thing that their society needs.  The aliens, represented by Johnny Williams (played by the great character actor Roy Dotrice, who looks embarrassed to be in this film), abduct Toomorrow so that Toomorrow can teach them how to appreciate music.  Toomorrow has no problem with doing that but they’re going to need help to focus or …. something.  I don’t know.  This movie is impossible to follow.  All I know is that an alien woman goes down to Earth to keep Toomorrow focused and there’s a scene where she’s taken to an adult Swedish movie so that she can learn about human anatomy.  Or something.

Yes, it’s Toomorrow!  A film about hippies that was meant to appeal to hippies but which was definitely made by people who were not hippies themselves.  The film does it best to show off its counter-culture bona fides, what with the commune and the art school and the protests and the band’s lead singer waking up with a different woman every morning and a barely there subplot about a professor having an affair with the member of the band.  But none of it feels very authentic, largely because all of the hippies are very clean-cut and none of the protestors are really protesting anything specific as much as they’re just walking around with signs.  All of the “shocking” counter-culture behavior takes place off-screen.  Randy Newman once described Horse With No Name as being “song about a kid who thinks he’s taken acid” and Toomorrow is a film that was obviously made by that kid’s grandparents.  As for Toomorrow the band, their music is nothing special.  In fact, there’s really not a single memorable song to be found in Toomorrow the film.  The aliens could have just waited a few years and abducted the house band from the Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

You may have noticed that I mentioned that the film was a “1970ish” film.  That’s because Toomorrow didn’t receive an actual theatrical release.  It was produced by Harry Saltzman (who also co-produced the first 9 James Bond films) and Don Kirshner, the music promoter who was responsible for The Monkees.  It was directed by veteran British director Val Guest.  When Saltzman and Kirshner failed to pay Guest and the rest of the crew for their work on the film, Guest sued and, as a result, Toomorrow spent decades held up in litigation.  It was only released on video because everyone who was suing eventually died with the case unresolved.

If Toomorrow is known for anything, it’s for being the film debut of a young Olivia Newton-John.  Olivia played a member of Toomorrow but she doesn’t get to do much, beyond smiling cheerfully while either performing and passing out tea at the commune.  Olivia reportedly had such a terrible time on the set of Toomorrow that she swore she would never make another film and nearly turned down Grease as a result.  That said, Olivia is probably the best thing about Toomorrow.  She’s the only member of the band with any screen presence and probably the only one of them who could have talked the aliens into not blowing up the Earth.

Toomorrow can be viewed on YouTube.  It’s interesting as an example of how much the old film establishment struggled to figure out how to appeal to younger filmgoers in the late 60s and early 70s.  Every moment in the film has been calculated to appeal to “the kids” but it’s precisely because it’s so calculated that the film ultimately fails.  There would be no tomorrow for Toomorrow.

One response to “Film Review: Toomorrow (dir by Val Guest)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 8/29/22 — 9/04/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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