The Time Travellers

Minor but well-regarded sci-fi which I found undeniably interesting and not unentertaining, yet disappointing – since, for all the progressive scientific attitude on display (particularly at the denouement), its overall tone remains invincibly juvenile! Nevertheless, it was remade (by the film’s own producer/co-story author, David L. Hewitt!) as the even lesser JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF TIME (1967).

The plot involves a group of scientists who happen upon a time warp which sends them a hundred years into the future – when the world has been devastated by nuclear war and the few survivors, besieged by mutants, have been forced underground! The sets (reminiscent of the futuristic section of THINGS TO COME [1936]) and special effects are modest but charming; the look of the Androids (fashioned at an assembly-line) and the solitary Deviant (a deformed creature who’s neither human nor mutant!) are sufficiently odd to stick in the memory; the few action scenes, too (including a surprisingly violent struggle towards the end between the two factions) are efficiently-handled.

However, all of this is undermined by cornball moments of futuristic leisure (a disco-style dance routine, with psychedelic apparatus to match, and a session at a female spa, complete with mild attempts at titillation from the girls involved, including peculiarly-named leading lady Merry Anders!), an equally inappropriate light score, and such cinematic conventions as (again) comedy relief, romantic interest – both courtesy of a geeky electrician, who’s naturally involved with a girl of tomorrow who then wants to go back with him to his own time – and antagonism at the scientists’ intrusion by one of the leading figures of the future society.

The most notable members of the second-tier cast are Preston Foster as Professor von Steiner (with a monocle forever at hand!) and John Hoyt as the ageing leader of the survivors (who, due to the short supply of food, are attempting to launch a rocketship to some Earth-like planet in another galaxy); by the way, famous genre authority/enthusiast Forrest J. Ackerman has a gag cameo as a technician. The intriguing ‘vicious circle’ ending, then – the scientists manage to get back to their own age, only to be met with the scene which sent them forward in time to begin with about to repeat itself: the events depicted throughout the film flashy by and, on reaching their climax, start again for another ’round’ – is a very nice, even avant-gardist, touch.

Unfortunately, my reservations about THE TIME TRAVELERS weren’t helped by the fact that I had to watch it in fits and starts: for some reason, the DivX copy I acquired suffered from pixellation every so often and I had to restart the movie each time in order to proceed…which, in retrospect, proved a truly uncanny parallel to the afore-mentioned finale to the film itself!!