Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.
IDAHO TRANSFER (1973)
Little did I know before I randomly selected these movies, it’s Boring Week here at Time Out! Our last flick, Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann, was so mind-numbingly stupid that it fizzled out after its already mediocre premise. On the other end of the boring spectrum, we have Peter Fonda’s directorial debut, Idaho Transfer, a movie that tries so hard to be smart that it can’t be bothered to pick up the pace, lest it lose its art house cred. So, we send sexy teens into the future to study the post-apocalyptic hell that it appears the world will turn into. Can we stop it? Is all really as it seems? And where are my pants?
That pants joke seem a little out of place? Well, it’s not. To travel through time Idaho-style, you have to cater to Peter Fonda’s uncontrollable fetish for panties.
Doc Brown wasted his shot at watching women undress for science.
See, to use the machine, you can’t be wearing any metal, so that’s why everybody
changes into pajamas has to remove their pants and place them in a special compartment with the ability to safely send zippers through time.
“It’s the only way.” – Peter Fonda, furiously masturbating
Also, apparently time travel causes kidney failure in older people, so only subjects under the age of 20 can participate in the experiment. To save our future, we’re going to need as many teens in their underwear as possible.
Oh, hi Mom, yeah, just watching a time travel movie.
Just when you feel oversaturated by all this whacking material getting passed off as “safety precautions,” they try to make the metal removal a little less crass by showing one of the lab rats getting her braces removed, but for all I know, Peter Fonda has a dentistry fetish as well.
“Just relax and let the Frankenstein poster calm your nerves.”
Okay, for serious, let’s move beyond the panties and get to the story. So the machine was originally invented to move objects through space, but whoops, they moved forward in time by 56 years instead. Now we’ve seen the future, and it’s an unpopulated shit-hole. At least, what we’ve seen of it. It mostly just looks like the rocky parts of Idaho… before and after the time travel, really. There are, like, a couple dusty cars, though, so agghhh! Wasteland. Totally not just Idaho.
What a maddening hellscape… that’s perfect for tourists.
The Time Teens set up camp and go test a bunch of things… and that’s just kind of it for a big chunk of the movie. Then the transfer stations seem to stop working, and then that’s just kind of it for the rest of the movie. Then there’s a big twist at the end that’s stupidly clever. Like, a low-grade goofy episode of The Twilight Zone, but you might stroke your chin in satisfaction if you can look past the illogical and absolutely forced environmental message. I’ll tell you what it is in the “None of This Makes Any Sense!” section, as the odds of you finding this on DVD/giving a shit about spoilers are pretty slim.
Okay, one more panty shot.
“Hello? I saw your ad for young women interested in acting. Is this the place?”
Since you’ve never heard of this movie, allow me to let you in on a little bit of trivia; the majority of the performers had never acted before and/or never acted again. Seriously, take a look at the cast on IMDb and see how many of the photos are blank. I’m not sure why Peter Fonda chose non-actors for his little sci-fi flick, but do you really need me to tell you that it was a poor decision?
“I am a science person and I am going to go and science the future.”
Over half of the runtime is just a a bunch of flat line reads while camping out in the lava fields of Idaho. It’s honestly what ruins the movie. Sure, the pacing itself is a problem; this might have been great as an hour-long Twilight Zone, but it loses a lot of flow by clocking in at 86 minutes. With a few actually engaging performances, at least some of that time might have flown by.
“I will try to build fire. You look for foods for eating.”
The lack of acting skill especially hurts the film when there’s any sort of exposition. So, you know, most of the movie. It’s a struggle to pay attention to plot details when they’re read like the inventory sheet at a Home Depot. I highly suspect that Peter Fonda actually found these kids while they were camping and started rolling.
It begs the question: was Peter unable to convince legitimate actors to ride the underwear machine?
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
I’ll admit, the transfer station effects are pretty neat. It looks like they filmed each cast member sitting still for a long time and turned the lights on and off, then sped it up and dissolved to an empty room. I know that sounds really stupid, but you have to see it to appreciate it. It’s surprisingly effective.
Marvel at this screencap!
- Apparently this film didn’t get a home video release for a whopping 15 years after its theatrical debut. I’d say it’s because they couldn’t find an audience for it, but come on, it’s panties and time travel. Actually, they should have just called it Time Panties… anyway, the real reason for the delay is that the studio went bankrupt.
- My DVD had a few tracking issues. Read that sentence again. Methinks either a) this isn’t an officially licensed DVD or b) the only version of this movie that survived was a scribbly VHS.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
Idaho Transfer is primarily about quick trips to the future and back, so there aren’t any real time paradoxes, at least any witnessed by characters. Alas, this means there’s no big outburst of temporal confusion, which is a real shame considering all the terrible actors in this movie. So, I will instead use this section to tell you how it ends. If you don’t want the big twist ruined, scroll to the bottom to avoid spoilers.
So one of our no-name actresses, in a desperate escape attempt, cranks the transfer station to an even further date in the future. There, she finds the decayed remains of the camps of her fellow researchers, suggesting they never made it back to their own time. She’s pretty banged up, and as she crawls her way through the lava fields, a man picks her up! A future man! Perhaps society is not doomed! That’s when he tosses her in a compartment in the back of his future car. She screams, and then the engine whirs.
Yes. Their cars run on all the sexy teens from the past.
I know! Right? Like it’s retarded, but you don’t hate it? But you want to?
Anyway, as the organic vegan free-range icing on this cheesecake, the Family of Tomorrow drives away from the lava fields, prompting the little girl in the back to ask what we’ll do when we run out of lava people. Her mother says not to worry about it; they’ll find another source of energy. The film ends with the daughter’s enduring words…
“But what if that’s too hard? Or expensive? And what if they decide they can’t change?
We’ll use each other then, won’t we?”
What really disheartens me is that this movie could have been either a cult classic or a legitimately great film, but it just didn’t come together. If it had dialed up the camp on the ending or the panty romps, it could have been so bad it’s good, but the weak performances and meandering pacing kill any energy it had to begin with. And if there were minor tweaks to the plot holes, a bigger budget, and an A-list cast, I really think this could be a major hit. While it had a couple of interesting ideas, I only recommend this hard-to-find film to creative types who are looking for something to remake. And hell, the same goes for Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann.
Well, that wraps up what I am retroactively calling They Should Remake This Week.
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.