Saturday, February 18, 2017


Admittedly, this American International film might be on many must-see lists. Unintentionally for reasons the production company would not understand. Directed by Edgar Ulmer, of “Detour” movie fame, every penny of its $125,000 budget can be accounted for. And much of the expense went into hiring actors. Handsome Robert Clarke, with his commanding voice, is well known for his low budget science fiction movies of the Fifties. He was a busy actor on television who seemed to love acting no matter what the project. Clarke probably found it a fun way to make a living.

On a test flight, Clarke pilots his X-80 (Convair F-102 fighter) through a time barrier then returns to the airbase finding it deserted with buildings showing decades of neglect. He wanders alone from one building to another. What the...hey! Check out his expression above. He looks off in a distant forest to see a dark projected painting...uh...futuristic city. Clarke is soon captured and taken to an underground city called the Citadel. Triangles are the dominant architectural design theme in this dystopian society. A fantastic city right off a 1938 Popular Science magazine cover. Tall beacons use the pulsating sound effect of the martian laser ray appendage from the original “The War of The Worlds.” The not-so-special effect of what sounds like a sophisticated party favor slide whistle is used for an elevator’s ascent and descent. This was probably not included in the budget.

Vladimir Sokoloff, in one of his last movie roles, plays the Supreme of the Citadel who is suspicious of any outsiders. His muted granddaughter, played by Darlene Tompkins, has the singular ability to read minds and affirms Clarke is quite a catch. The Supreme trusts her telepathy. Planning to stay at least overnight, Clarke is provided sleeping arrangements in an open concept area the size of a small airport terminal. The bed is an enormous, double queen-sized mattress placed on the floor. A servant brings him dinner, of which he is grateful because he has not eaten since who knows when. He takes a bite out of a “donut hole” and proceeds to explore his surroundings. He is stuffed and never eats again. Clarke and Tompkins get along triangularly. So well, she slaps him for what he is thinking after their first kiss. At least she is not sterile like all the other peop...uh....

Apparently, America’s nuclear bomb testing in the Seventies damaged the Earth's atmosphere, letting dangerous cosmic rays fall back to earth causing a plague of massive mutants and stupendous sterility. Tompkins somehow escapes the latter part and the Supreme hopes Clarke can regenerate their society. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Speaking of sterile—unfortunately not mute—Boyd “Red” Morgan’s performance as the Captain is just that. A former NFL player and Hollywood stuntman, his delivery lacks any professionalism. What better film to showcase his talent.

To help him understand the year 2024―no wonder he was starved―the Citadel’s complete history is stored in a Zenith record player console cabinet painted in sterile white. A chronicle only a few geniuses could ever possibly interpret. Tompkins pulls out shoulder-width portrait images which Clarke, without hesitation, guesses the detailed story behind each. She nods excessively in approval. He is so dreamy! Oh, he has more questions. She brings out another portrait to remedy his curiosity. She nods excessively. I was getting a headache watching her shake her head so enthusiastically.

Other time travelers are revealed to be living in the Citadel which conflicts with Clarke’s plan. Each wants to return to their time and will stoop low enough to make it happen. One traveler releases underground mutants who look hilariously harmless with choreographed attacks resembling a Kung Fu gymnastics event. The bare-footed bald mutants, with pant legs slit from ankle to knee, laugh maniacally. Truly frightening.

The Supreme helps Clarke escape, albeit alone, via the X-80 and return to his air base with a hard-to-fathom story to log. Time travel is risky business. In a common “Twilight Zone” twist, Clarke ages, mysteriously, only on his return trip. He warns them about the dangers of nuclear testing and of course, man-made global warming.

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