Friday, March 9, 2018
This is my first entry in the Time Travel Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings and Wide Screen World
It's an axiom of society. If a guy tells you he's from the future, he must be crazy. But what if, just what if he really IS from the future? 12 Monkeys, a film by Terry Gilliam explores this possibility. We tend to think along the lines of what our perceptions of reality have been formed. Time travel is not possible, therefore anyone who claims they have either come from the future (or in another scenario, a modern person who claims to have built a time machine and actually used it to travel into the past or future) must therefore be a little off mentally.
But an adage that was once postulated by Arthur C. Clarke, known as one of the three Clarke's laws once stated than "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". One could extrapolate from that idea that also any idea that one cannot justify by their own deductive intellect is therefore not reliable as an idea.
I personally believe that time travel is theoretically possible, although I do not claim to come from the future nor do I know how to build some machine that would help me accomplish the task. But would I willingly be a guinea pig to see if the process actually works? Hell, yes.
The following two features do not feature a man from the future trying to convince the modern day people of impending doom for the planet, however (at least that's not the main theme). Rather both movies involve people from modern times ending up through circumstances in a future world of Earth. Both have a rather bleak view of the earth's potential future, at least from the standpoint of the present (the 60's).
Beyond the Time Barrier (1960):
A pilot, Major Bill Allison (Robert Clarke), flies an experimental jet plane into the stratosphere. The jet travels at supersonic speed and through the magic of rather iffy Hollywood theory, the pilot lands on an Earth some time in the future (although he does not initially know that.) What he finds is his military base abandoned and in a state of extreme disrepair, even though he thinks he's only been gone for a few minutes. It turns out, as the story goes, that the Earth has suffered a severe catastrophe.
Not, as you might expect from a movie from the 60's, from a devastating nuclear war. But it was the result of nuclear weapons. See, all those bombs being tested ripped a hole in the ozone layer, and let in cosmic rays from outer space, which turned the planet into a barren wasteland. All of society has been forced to move residence underground. But in the distance, the pilot can see the above ground city (which is a poorly done matte painting, but this is the only real quibble I have with the movie).
The society, called the Citadel, is ruled by a leader called The Supreme (Vladimir Sokoloff), who has been granted almost dictatorial rulership over society. Everyone except for The Supreme and his second-in-command (Red Morgan) are deaf mutes. They are also all sterile, there have been no new births in 20 years.
The Supreme's daughter, Trirene (Darlene Tomkins), however appears to be a last ray of hope because, although she is also mute, she is fertile and can be a bearer of children. Which makes it convenient that Maj. Allison has shown up.
But the Captain does not trust Allison. He is convinced that Allison is not from the past as he says but is instead some kind of advance spy for the Mutants, a race of people who live on the surface. Convinced he is a spy he initially casts him into the Pit with the rest of the Citadel's mutant prisoners. But Trirene has the hots for Allison and convinces her father that he is what he says he is. (She is also telepathic...)
Allison is put in with a few other scientists who have also come from different eras of the past (it turns out he was not the first to cross the time barrier). The scientists convince Allison he can go back to his own time if he reverses the events that brought him to the future in the first place. The scientists tell Allison not to trust the Supreme and the Citadel. But the Captain in turn tries to convince Allison not to trust the "scapes", which is what the scientists are called.
Chaos must ensue, of course, for Allison to actually make his escape to the past (his present). It turns out that the "scapes" are not all to be trusted, as one of them engineers an attack from the inside with the help of the released prisoner mutants. Whether Allison actually makes it back to his own time, and in what condition he will be in if it is actually him I will leave to you to find out by viewing the film. This isn't actually as bad as it sounds, but the better movie for true admirers of real science in their science fiction will like the second feature better.
The Time Travelers (1964):
In a laboratory, three scientists, Dr. von Steiner (Preston Foster), Dr. Connors (Phillip Carey) and Dr. White (Merry Anders), try to perfect a window into time, although this window is initially only a "window", supposedly letting them see things as on a TV screen. But just as a technician, Danny (Steve Franken, and yes he is related to Al Franken), shows up to tell them their power is about to be cut off, everything fries on the computers and this window actually becomes a portal.
Danny steps through the portal, and soon the others follow. Of course, just as soon as they do, the portal vanishes and they are stuck in the future. Once again, some devastating event has turned the future into a barren wasteland. A group of red-skinned mutants, all looking like "Bull" Shannon from the TV series Night Court, begin to chase the four.
They end up in a cave where a mysterious force field ends up protecting them. It turns out that the force field was generated by the inhabitants living underground. (Yes, another society of people who had escaped the shattered world above ground for security of a society insulated from the bad old world of above ground.)
The underground civilization, led by Dr. Varna (John Hoyt) and his associate, Councilman Willard (Dennis Patrick) are desperately trying to complete the building of a spaceship that will take them to a planet near Alpha Centauri. See the planet Earth is rapidly dying and the people living in the underground society are going to have to leave the planet if they want to survive.
Willard convinces Varna that taking the four newcomers with them will drastically reduce their chances of success, as they have everything down to a science as to how much food water and the like the people will need to make the trip. But Varna does allow the scientists to use what resources are available to recreate their time portal and return to their own time.
Fate however intervenes, as the mutants above ground launch an attack, just as the spaceship is being boarded. They destroy the spaceship and most of the colony on board already. But a handful of the citizens and the scientists are able to finish the portal and escape to the past. Upon arriving however, they find they are somehow living in a faster time rate than the actual present. The scientists go to their lab where their former selves still are. But they seem frozen! No so. The group from the future are living at an accelerated rate, estimated to be living at a year per second of actual time for their selves in real time. (A concept that was used in an episode of the original Star Trek TV series, but I think this movie came out first.)
Fortunately the point at which the scientists re-entered the past is also a point in which the portal first materialized as a passageway into time and they find they can step through the portal again, albeit 100,000 years into the future. It is dark and no one knows what is beyond the portal, but their choices are pretty limited, since they can't move or adjust anything in this present point.
Sounds awfully confusing doesn't it? Wait until you see the final segment. This movie was lampooned by the MST3K group, but the movie is one of the surprisingly more entertaining ones that that group made fun of. Except for that rather bizarre and admittedly confusing ending, the acting and the story work out quite well.
Time to head home, folks (no pun intended) Drive home safely.