Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Time Travelers (1964)

The Time Travelers is a movie originally done in 1964. I first saw it in black and white as a kid watching late night monster movies in the Seventies. Perhaps that explains a few things.

Unlike the Irwin Allen classic TV series that came after it, The Time Travelers were only trying to open a window into the past. But like all good vintage SciFi-Bmovies, the lead scientist is an arrogant snot full of hubris and vinegar, just like they still make 'em.

Dr. Erik von Steiner pushes things to the limit like any good German Engineer.

Then he pushes it farther.


Until something breaks.

And it does, it does. Something breaks, others things fuse, and a few sparks fly. It's not Irwin Allen-level pyrotechnics, but this is 1964 and they're on a budget.


Their window into time comes into focus. It shows a seemingly endless desert landscape. It was supposed to show the campus grounds.

It does.

The Time Window is looking out on the site of the campus in the year 2071.

After a devastating nuclear war. But not just any nuclear war--this war literally blasted the survivors back into the stone age, complete with tribes of nasty, brutish degenerate mutants. They're probably cannibals, but it isn't really expressly stated. One doubts that they'd still be finding cans of peaches or beans out in the wastelands, but who knows.

But wait a moment, we're getting ahead of things.

Let's take a step back.

The intrepid Herr Doktor Steiner and his associates discover that their Time Window is actually a gaping Time Barnyard Door. Their fly is down and wide open, technologically speaking. The disposable technician-kid discovers that the 'window' is really a door way when he practically falls through it. One wonders if the stodgy guys in white lab coats would have noticed it was a portal until after a mutant came at them through it. Like when a pair of degenerate mutants come after the obligatory blonde left behind when the two scientists go running off after the Technician-kid who ran off before them.

Who knew that fire extinguishers could be so lethal. At least to degenerate mutants.

The scientists, their half-wit Technician-kid and their obligatory blonde (literally a Playboy Playmate) find themselves stranded on the wrong side of the Portal when it collapses.

Then the mutants come running after them--probably attracted by the noise made when the portal collapsed.

The Doktor Steiner, the other scientist and the blonde run away, chased by mutants until they meet-up with the Technician-kid who has gathered a bunch of ammo--throw-able stones. They drive off the mutants by throwing stones at them. Then they run away some more, until they find a cave.

The mutants figure out where they are fairly soon and come running again.

But this time they are stopped by an invisible force field. The same force field that did not stop the player characters Scientists, Technician and Centerfold from entering the cave just moments before.

The force field belongs to a group of survivors who wear cool white outfits, obviously descended from the not so cool white lab coats of the Scientists.

The survivors are totally certain that the Earth can not support life very much longer. But luckily they know how to build a spaceship and plan to cart off all their women-folk to a planet around another star (Alpha Centauri IV). Oh and these survivors also build flesh-tone rubber-covered sex-doll androids that look like mostly naked humans with leather shoulder pieces, numerical tattoos on their chests and weird non-faces. And they use a modification of the Laser Beam Drill that shrinks matter in a gobbledygook sort of handwavium-activated manner that just sounds stupid, but looked cool.

Herr Doktor Varno, the resident Aryan super-scientist kindly explains everything to the Time Travelers. He uses a handy video display to demonstrate the end of the world.

These survivors claim to be the last 'normal' inhabitants of the Earth. They were obviously underground when the nuclear war took place. Deep underground. They are descended from scientists and their families who were deep underground in a secret complex. Hmmm...what sort of secret complex might they have been hiding-out in? Could it be the one that The Time Tunnel was built within? That would explain the presence of spare parts that the Time Travelers could use to rebuild their Time Portal.

Nah. That'd be just plain weird.

The intrepid Herr Doktor Steiner and his crew help the survivors to complete work on their spaceship that they hope to use to escape the mutant-dominated Earth. But then the really advanced people of the future announce that they will not take the Time Travelers along with them to Alpha Centauri IV. So sorry. Too bad. There's a schedule and a deadline to meet. The spaceship will depart on schedule. Even a second of delay would be disastrous--or so it is claimed. The fact that the Time Travelers were not of good Aryan stock isn't directly mentioned, but there is an uneasy implication that kind of hangs over this sequence that carries a very creepy undercurrent.


The Time Travelers don't have a lot of choice. They keep working on re-building their Time Window/Portal, but they do it sullenly. Resentfully. Maybe they were really looking forward to suspended animation or the new android-servants that were going to be theirs in the New World.

But it was not to be.

Those degenerate mutants with the bad breath come storming in and wreck everything. Bastards. If only the survivors had hired Carson (Yul Brynner's character in The Ultimate Warrior), they could have driven off the smelly pseudo-caveman mutants. Heck, Andre the Giant would have been really helpful in that regard, even on his most off day, unless the mutants offered him some irradiated booze. But that's a tangent for another day.

The crew from the Time Window/Doorway rebuild their Temporal Portal using the newfangled technology of the post-apocalyptic Home Depot and a lot of old fashioned baling wire, spit and ingenuity that only a Scientist with a Heidelberg Scar (he keeps it in his wallet, don't ask) can bring to bear. They open the new Portal/Window and manage to escape from the nuked-out wasteland of 2071 with a few new friends, and manage to do so just before the degenerate nuclear mutants burst in and try to eat them.

One of the group tosses something back through the Portal/Window and causes it to collapse. Maybe those mutants will figure it out someday and re-open the Portal/Window. All they need is one smartass Mentally-Enhanced mutant and they're two-thirds of the way there.

Once back in their lab--what luck! Someone was rolling really well that night--the group finds out that they're still sort of screwed anyhow--the GM is a real jerk after all.  They are all aging rapidly. The passage through the Time Window/Portal has caused them all to speed up drastically in relation to the rest of the world.

Yeah. It doesn't make a lot of sense. If you were going to balk at something why did you wait until now?


The brilliant Herr Doktor Steiner determines that they have only one option left to them. They must go 100,000 years into the future. He comes to this realization through very, very scientific means. He is a Top Man after all. Good thing he stayed out of archaeology.

They go into the empty black screen of the year 100,000+ and ta-daa! They all fail their save versus bad writing and wind up trapped within an ever-accelerating time loop. They've invented the Groundhog Day from hell years before Bill Murray made it fun.

If all that hasn't turned you off, you can watch this extravaganza, just like I did all those years ago.

The horror.

Part One:

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five   (Features a Lumigraph, an actual odd-ball musical instrument similar to a color organ...)

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

It's an interesting movie, more for the assumptions and the early special effects than for the writing or dialogue. A lot of the sets and sound effects really do evoke the classic original Star Trek series. There might well have been some some sort of recycling going on--Dr. Varno/John Hoyt certainly did appear in Star Trek later on.

The mutants in this movie are really shown as having a lot of messed-up genes more than the Gamma World craziness of extra limbs or eye-blast powers, etc. They are lacking fingers, seem to be somewhat impaired in their mental functions, and are really sad, tragic non-survivors, really. One wonders if they are really the left-overs of the war, or just throwbacks and those deemed unfit and thus summarily ejected from the bunker redoubt of the scientifically-oriented survivors and their sex-doll androids and the silver spaceship that is supposed to take them all off to a brave new world...

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