Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Journey to the Center of Time (1967) * *

Stanton (Scott Brady) is a hard-nosed gruff boss who is the head of a scientific research company he has taken over following the death of his benevolent father. His employees are scientists Mark Manning (Anthony Eisley), "Doc" Gordon (Abraham Sofaer), and Karen White (Gigi Perreau). The scene is a research center, where experimental time-travel is in its formative stages. Unless they prove that their time travel experiments can produce some results in 24 hours, their funding will be cut off.

A journey through time is rapidly set in motion. Desperate, they push their operating equipment past the level of safety and travel 5000 years into the future, with Stanton along as an accidental participant. The time travelers discover a totalitarian Earth under attack by alien laser beams. There, they confront a hostile band of extraterrestrials led by Vina (Poupée Gamin) who are looking for a planet to colonize and conquer the world. The aliens find no welcome on Earth, which is in the midst of a global war that threatens the human race. The group of four travelers chat with some aliens for a few minutes during a nuclear attack. Vina urges them to go back and warn humanity about the danger, then dies in an attack by humans. The time travelers retreat to their chamber and head back. On the way, they detect another time machine on a collision course. Gordon tries to communicate with them. When that fails, they fire at it, but their weapon is too weak. Stanton takes charge, boosts the power and destroys the other vessel.

However, all is still not well. They overshoot the present and end up in the distant past, in the age of dinosaurs. Their giant ruby, a key component of the machine, is destroyed, leaving them stranded. However, when they explore a nearby volcanic cave, they find it studded with all sorts of jewels, including rubies. Overcome by greed, Stanton grabs handfuls of the precious gems, returns to the time machine, replaces the ruby and takes off without the scientists. However, on his return trip, he encounters another traveler in time. He hears a radio broadcast, and it is from Gordon! He is racing towards the earlier version of the time machine. Then he is destroyed by a blast initiated by his earlier self.

Meanwhile, as the scientists leave the cave, Gordon stumbles and falls to his death in molten lava. The other two find the time machine gone. Then it mysteriously reappears. They board it and return to the day before their initial departure. But something is wrong. They find past versions of themselves living at a much slower time rate. The couple hasten back to the time machine to try to rectify the problem, but end up hopelessly lost in time and space. In the final scene, the machine is shown in space among the stars.

Also known as TIME WARP, this movie is one of those cheaply made sci-fi films whose minuscule budgets are matched only by an equally minuscule plot, direction, scripting, and acting. In this one, Stanton is your typically beefy industrialist whose only interest in the advancement of science is the financial bottom line. His unwillingness to provide further funding forces his scientists to prematurely zap ahead to the future in a time machine. Naturally, there is a mishap that lands then squarely in a nuclear war, whose own weirdly made-up leaders prance about for their few minutes of screen time. Stanton and his time traveling cohorts travel back to 1,000,000 BC where they meet dinosaurs. Apparently, the script writers did not know that dinosaurs died out when a comet crashed into Earth 65 million years ago.

At this point, whatever plot coherence there was dissolves into a misty mess of chintzy special effects whose only apparent purpose is to divert the viewer's attention from the huge plot holes. Further complicating matters is a series of potentially interesting temporal paradoxes that might have engaged the viewer if the script had incorporated them into a coherent plot. By the end, the viewer is asked to accept another silly science fiction ending of how it all began. The movie had potential and tried to say something important, but it is a classic bad sci-fi film. In fact, it is better than anything Ed Woods produced. Parts of the plot are actually interesting as the time travel space ship goes back and forth from the future to the past and ends up getting lost in time.

To the film's credit, things do move along fairly quickly as the film is pretty well paced. But everything is so incredibly cheap and cheesy looking. If you miss something the first time in the movie, don't worry, you will see it again because the film is padded with lots of annoying flashbacks of earlier scenes. If you like bad and cheap films loaded with scientific explanations that make no sense, you will enjoy this film. The DVD transfer looks better than the VHS version, but the visual quality is disappointing. There are no extras.

The cast also includes: Austin Green (Mr. Denning), Tracy Olsen (Susan), Andy Davis (Dave), Lyle Waggoner (Alien), Larry Evans, Jody Millhouse, and Monica Stevens. David L. Hewitt wrote the screenplay and directed.

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