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.
BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER (1960)
Oh, man, get a load of that poster. Dynamic, sexy, violent, covered in exclamation points and blatant lies… they don’t make ‘em like that any more. Right. So Beyond the Time Barrier is the story of Maj. William Allison (Robert Clarke), a test pilot who hops into an experimental rocket plane, shoots up into the sky, and lands to find the airbase completely deserted. After the usual amount of paranoid running through abandoned areas, he discovers a shining city whose inhabitants inform him that the year is 2024, which, seriously, poster, is not 100 years after 1960. You even say it’s 2024 in the corner! Sorry. Back to the movie.
One of the unfortunate problems with a trip to the future is that it usually involves a lot of talking rather than doing, and Beyond the Time Barrier is no exception. After Allison arrives, he needs to get caught up on everything that’s happened since 1960. Yet, despite all the various future lectures, there’s still plenty of time to check out the mutant cages or make some babies.
What? I mean, awwwww yeaaaaah.
Yup, it’s one of those “we need your cum” futures, but it’s also envisioned by the 1960s, so you’d best make an honest woman out of your batch receptacle. You see, the Earth was hit by a “cosmic plague” in 1971, and everyone moved into The Citadel, their underground city. Unfortunately, even the healthiest males have been rendered sterile by the plague, so it’s up to Allison’s magic balls to make, what, six babies tops? What does that solve? The leader of The Citadel, the Supreme (Vladimir Sokoloff), eagerly volunteers his daughter, Princess Trirene (Darlene Tompkins), to count the ceiling tiles for the hope of all mankind. I mean, what else can they do? Get the other time travelers to bang?
Yes, really, those are other time travelers, one of which you may notice is a uterus-haver. They, too, have become accidentally displaced in time. Now, they’re all from post-plague years, but the lady person, Capt. Markova (Arianne Ulmer), is from 1973. That’s a difference of just two years; shouldn’t they hedge their bets and let Allison make a deposit in her and Princess Trirene? But no, Trirene has “chosen him as her mate,” so by all means, let Her Highness hog all the good semen. Because love or something.
Alright, enough romance crap, let’s hit the mutant zoo.
No, Major Allison, you don’t have to mate with him.
So the cosmic plague has multiple stages. Stage one leaves you unable to reproduce. Stage two turns you into a bald, screaming maniac. These maniacs are kept in a cave that’s clearly just footage from another movie.
Um, script check?
Astute readers may notice that none of the mutants in the above image appear to be bald, yet when they reach the top of the stairs, all of them, well, are. According to Wikipedia, the footage being spliced in to save money on building a giant cave set is from a Fritz Lang film called Das indische Grabmal. I mean, they had to have come up with this idea after shooting, right? Otherwise they would have, you know, dressed the mutants like the people in the movie they were stealing from?
Sorry, let’s move on. There’s mutants, there’s baby-makin’, there’s time travel. That’s everything you want in a movie, right?
Robert Clarke does a fine job of being an all-American military hero while still being frightened of a world gone mad.
It’s all in the eyebrows.
In addition to being deaf, mute, and psychic, Darlene Tompkins plays Princess Trirene as… we’ll go “a submissive housewife,” but what I really want to say is “a child.” She sort of reminds me of Weena from The Time Machine, which, come to think of it, is probably exactly what they were hoping to cash in on.
Now be a good girl and start on those space-dishes.
In contrast to Trirene, Arianne Ulmer’s Capt. Markova is a bit more cold and calculating, which sets the audience up for some love triangle shenanigans, perhaps?
You say “love triangle,” I say “threesome.” What? It’s for the future.
As an exposition delivery service, Stephen Bekassy’s Gen. Karl Kruse is matter-of-fact but agreeable, thanks largely to his adorable, almost grandfatherly German accent.
The glasses help.
John Van Dreelen plays Dr. Bourman, Kruse’s colleague. Both have come to The Citadel from the year 1994. Of the two, Van Dreelen more fully embodies the feel of the ’90s.
Big Limp Bizkit fan.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
Fuck yeah, matte paintings!
Look at that. Drink it in.
That’s an elevator shaft in The Citadel. Speaking of which, how does that look?
Like the Columbia Pictures logo!
The time travel itself looks a bit weird. For some reason, when Allison breaks the “time barrier,” his rocket splits into two rockets. I think they were going for a “faster than light” sort of thing, like he’s actually traveling past the image of himself, but it’s odd either way.
Iceman teabagging Maverick?
OTHER (SPOILERY) STUFF:
- Comedy spoiler. Why would you ever read one of those? This movie may contain one of the funniest deaths I’ve ever seen. Not the method, but the sheer surprise of it. It’s so funny that I refuse to ruin it, but know that my viewing party cheered and applauded. Really. That good.
- Ending spoiler that I really don’t want to give away, but it deserves to be mentioned. Please just watch the movie. When Allison finally… you’re reading this before watching the movie, aren’t you? Come on. It’s on Netflix Instant as of this writing. It’s pretty short. Just skip ahead a section and I won’t even be mad. Okay? For real this time. While future time jumps don’t seem to have any side effects, Allison discovers that going back to the past makes you age the amount of years that you’ve traveled. Freaky, right? So that’s the big Twilight Zone ending. I’ve never seen anything like that in a time travel movie before. And you’re a terrible person for ruining that for yourself.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
Kruse and Bourman try to explain to Allison how he found himself in the future. Something to do with the speed of the Earth’s rotation in conjunction with its revolution around the sun and finding the perfect angle of propulsion, some crap like that. Despite their chalkboard diagram basically looking like a big avocado, Allison understands their goofy explanation, but has reservations about a supposed violation of the laws of physics:
“Yes, but everything is moving at that speed together as one unit–
the air, the Earth– according to the law of gravity.“
I’m a sucker for old sci-fi movies, so it’s possible I got more enjoyment out of it than you might. It was clearly made on a small budget, so it’s primarily indoor scenes, but hey, the sets and gizmos are great to look at anyway. It’s not a mind-blower, but there are a couple of twists and interesting concepts that keep it from being completely stale. To me, no old film about the future can be called entirely worthless, as it provides us a window into history. As history lessons go, I’d certainly dust off Beyond the Time Barrier again.
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.