Saturday, January 21, 2012
BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER (1960)
I recently watched two post-apocalyptic movies back to back without realizing what I was doing. Or, more accurately, I didn’t know BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER (1960) was such a story but I knew SHE (1982) was an entry in the 80s post-ROAD WARRIOR dystopian action genre. I also knew SHE was going to be pretty terrible but I have a sick love of the awful post apocalyptic films of the 80s so nothing was going to stop me from pressing play on that baby!
I have wanted to see BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER for a long time but its poor reputation kept me from seeking it out for over twenty years. There were two big reasons I finally pulled it up on NetFlix and sat through its short running time. The first reason I was drawn to the film is my love of science fiction movies in general and those made before I was born in specific. I’m not sure exactly what element of older sci-fi it is that appeals to me so strongly. It might have to do with the thrill of seeing the future projected from another time to discover what the people of that age thought we would find important or strive to accomplish. I’m usually stunned by how little we’ve done in comparison to what was expected. Another aspect that calls to me is the fun of watching a visualization of the far future by filmmakers working to craft something believable and functional enough to not be thought ridiculous. This is often a minefield and that deadly land is littered with more sad leisure suits and sexy mini-skirts than any respectable person should ever have seen. Often just the whacked out costumes are more than enough to put a stupid grin on my face and make me happy I watched the film!
The second thing that called out to me about it is that this movie was directed by Edgar Ulmer, the genius who made my favorite Universal Horror film THE BLACK CAT (1935) and one of the all time great Film Noirs DETOUR (1946). His earlier science fiction film THE MAN FROM PLANET X (1951) is a fantastic example of creepy atmosphere on a low budget and a great little movie as well so I had some hopes for this to be better than its reputation. Unfortunately Ulmer could not overcome the lack of money with this one. There are some interesting moments scattered throughout but overall its a pretty dull affair that feels stagy and very often silly. After Air Force pilot Major Bill Allison (played by the reliable Robert Clarke) flies an experimental new aircraft to sub-orbital spaceflight something strange happens and when he lands at the airbase it is now is abandoned and seems old and unused. Baffled by his situation, he wanders around until he sees a futuristic city on the horizon. He walks to the city (a fair matte painting) where he attacked, knocked out and captured by the inhabitants. Here he learns that he has somehow traveled through time and landed in the year 2024. The only people alive are survivors of a cosmic plague that hit the Earth starting in 1971. The inhabitants are slowly dying out and live in an underground city called The Citadel. The leader of these people thinks that Allison might be able to help them as they are no longer able to reproduce. Military stud to the rescue!
I am sad to report that this sounds more interesting that it is. The movie is pretty slowly paced, the dialog is mostly flat and the story isn't very compelling. Once some other accidental time travelers are introduced the endgame is clear and its just a slog through the romantic triangle with the only good distraction being the lovely ladies walking around in mini-skirts and high heels. Strange what production designers think will end up being worn in the future. I got some joy out of the few interesting miniature scenes and the diamond shaped set design but even at only 75 minutes its a long trudge.