Review: The Time Travelers
DVD: The Time Travelers (1964)
Set in the year that it was made (1964), a group of 4 scientists are working on creating a screen that will allow them to see into the future. Things don’t go to plan and they accidentally create a portal that gives them access to step 107 years into the future. The world of 2071 has been devastated by nuclear war and a small pocket of humanity is hiding in a system of caves while plotting to escape the ravaged planet by a spaceship that they have been constructing for many years. Outside of the caves is the desolated homeland of the ‘mutants’; the disfigured remains of humankind that survived the nuclear war but have genetically altered to the point that they can no longer be called humans. With no room for them on the spaceship and the mutants readying themselves for an attack on the caves, time is fast running out for our scientists to find a way back home.
Released after the end of the sci-fi boom that swept American cinema’s during the 1950’s, The Time Travelers embraces both the zeitgeist of the 1960’s (free love, drugs, psychedelic music) and its low budget (an estimated $250,000) to create a movie that keeps you invested in its characters and storyline despite the occasional lull in proceedings.
True to form in such low budget movies as this, character decisions are somewhat questionable at times; Danny the electrician (Steve Franken, who would later go on to play a technician in Westworld) wantonly steps through the portal and into what can already be seen as a scorched wasteland. This pales into insignificance though when Carol (Merry Anders) is the final scientist of the group left in the control room after the other 3 have buggered off into an unknown future, and follows them into it leaving the control room completely empty despite already knowing that the portal is unstable and needs constant attention! They deserved to be trapped in the future after those decisions.
Eschewing the traditional way of portraying effects work, The Time Travelers has a series of ‘magic tricks’ which give the illusion of plants quickly blossoming, computer parts suddenly changing shape, matter transmission, and the best one of all (despite it being easy to work out how it was done) the removal and reapplying of an androids head.
The Time Machine (1960) is the high water mark of time travel movies (I grew up watching that movie and became slightly obsessed with it; sitting under a blanket on the floor of my bedroom with an old mantle clock for company and pretending I’d travel into distant futures) but I have to say that The Time Travelers is an underrated gem that should be in the collection of anyone who loves sci-fi movies, and specifically ones about time travel. The storyline has many twists, the effects are great and the characters are ones that you can get behind…despite their occasional lack of common sense.
Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Fabulous Films.