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From Edgar G. Ulmer (director of `The Man from Planet X' and `The Amazing
Transparent Man') comes this likable little sc-fi tale. A test pilot
(Robert Clark) is catapulted into the future by a freak phenomenon, where a
post World War III society lives in futuristic cities that protect them from
the lingering radiation. However, the populace is having fertility
problems, and the head of the government (Vladimir Sokoloff) hopes that his
daughter (gorgeous Darlene Thompkins) and Clark will get together.
The costumes will meet with male approval; the women all wear short dresses and high heels (if you like it, guys, check out `World Without End').
Okay, back to the plot: a group of dissidents conspire to take over the government by releasing a horde of imprisoned mutants. They do, and the first thing the mutants do is attack all the women. Girls, be forewarned: if you dress provocatively, you'll suffer the consequences, especially if imprisoned mutants get loose.
Hats off to Ulmer for efficiency: he filmed this enjoyable effort in a matter of weeks, and he saved money on sets by using an exhibit of futuristic art-and-design at the 1959 Texas State Fair in Dallas. The interior architecture is appealing, despite being relatively simple. The doors, walls, and pillars are all based on triangles and pyramids. Don't' expect any elaborate special effects, but the film does manage to invoke a pleasant Buck Rogers feeling.
Unfortunately, I've never seen this movie shown on local or cable TV, and it doesn't seem to be avail on VHS or DVD. Dedicated sci-fi fans will have to work to get a peek at this lost gem. But it's worth the effort if you're a 1950s sci-fi fan.
Beyond the Time Barrier is an old-fashioned science fiction film made in 1960 that has the look and feel of a science fiction serial. It has some obvious flaws, most of which spring from its low budget. The special effects are woefully un-special. The sets are cheap-looking as are the costumes and any make-up used. Acting is mediocre at best with a few actors doing reasonable work. Darlene Tompkins is a lovely actress and does a pretty good job in her role as a deaf princess. Robert Clarke should be nicknamed Robert "Stonewall" Clarke for his stone-like performance. His performance isn't wooden, it's petrified. Nonetheless he is fun to watch. Boyd "Red" Morgan is, on the other hand, painfully bad a a captain(earlier referred to as a major?). The film tells a very complex story about Clarke leaving the year 1960 and crossing a time barrier and reaching the year 2024 where plague and pestilence are common. The human race has divided into factions of mutants and non-mutants(really people in the very first stages of being mutants). I found the story quite interesting despite not really believing the scientific aspects behind it. Sure the film is talky, but that was okay with me as I liked the story. The film was directed by Edgar Ulmer and it has some wonderful Ulmer moments. I particularly liked the way the mutants were locked up...a well-shot scene. Also, the climatic fight scenes were very good too. Ulmer uses a triangle of another scene interspersing into the already existing shot quite often as well for a neat little effect. An interesting science fiction film with a message.
I have always been fascinated by the philosophical aspects of space and
time, for example, such as the possibility of time dilation. That is
why movies such as "The Time Machine", "World Without End" (especially,
"World Without End" being one of my all-time favorite SF films), and
this one, "Beyond the Time Barrier" have a great deal of appeal.
The highlights of the film and worth far more than the price of admission are the scenes in which Robert Clarke first breaks the time barrier up in space (in physics, this sounds like what is currently referred to as a "wormhole" in contrast to the older concept of time dilation) and the scenes after he touches back down to earth. The scene in which Robert Clarke observes the exterior of the futuristic city along with the pulsating solar energy tower is fascinating. (I first saw this when I was ten years old and never forgot it.) Also the scenes of Darlene Tomkins are also a delight for the eyes (especially the swimming pool scene - I never forgot this either). I also liked the triangular designs. They looked almost out of Die Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) Gruppe - the Munich Art School that specialized in abstract expressionism (producing such greats such as Klee, Marc, Kandinsky, others) or, perhaps out of the Bauhaus School of Architecture which produced such greats such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and others who pioneered modern futuristic design. For this, the art designer for the movie, Ernst Fegte should take a bow.
However, the overall plot is somewhat disappointing after Robert Clarke is captured. The idea that the human race can bring the earth to such a state in which it is perilous to walk the actual surface of the earth due to excessive radiation because the protective atmospheric screens had been decimated (the ozone layer in the stratosphere, for example) seems very dreary indeed (The scientist played by Istvan Bekassy mentions the ionosphere being contaminated by nuclear particles). Furthermore, what happened to the various animal and plant species ? Were they decimated, too ? Perhaps the writers could have planned a less dismal story. As the story progresses, the plot becomes even more pessimistic with the sterility of the population, the evil scientists, the barbarity of the mutants, the almost complete resignation to the eventual extinction of the human race as voiced by the Supreme, Vladimir Sokoloff, and the murder in the final reel of Trirene, his daughter, played by Darlene Tomkins. In general, the writers could have done a lot better, in terms of plot, theme, and characters.
Not the best, not the worst.
Worth watching for the art design and certain aspects of the story which make a person think.
A prelude to a couple of television's original Outer Limit episodes, BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER for all its low-budget, fake looking special effects, subpar acting performances, comes across as an attempt at serious sci fi with elevated concepts and a flare for an fascinating effort of futuristic set design. The consistency of plot and the elements of both substantive sci fi drama, emotive relational interactions make this movie an above average depiction of a future world that would be replicated and copied by future sci fi movies, PLANET OF THE APES (1968), eight years later, and eerily BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970). The same year that BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER was released THE TIME MACHINE came out that also had a similar theme and has since become a classic. Unfortunately for BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER, it is apparent that lack of serious support, directorial, budget, or time prohibited this movie from having a real chance at a much more compelling and credible depiction of the future. The storyline, the scientific rationalization, and even the more rounded and developed characters held out hope that this movie might have be a solid and memorable sci fi classic. Nevertheless, it failed to realize its potential.
Here we go again! Major William Allison (Robert Clarke), our reluctant hero (Is there any other kind in this type of cinema?), has reached the speed of light in his sonic-busting jet, shattered it, and has found himself on the other side of the time barrier. No small feat. But when he returns to his home base of operations, he finds it lifeless and ravaged by time. Little would he know how ravaged and by how much time. Also, as he will later find out, a victim of a nuclear conflict. Whew! That's a lot to swallow in one afternoon. Major Allison has definitely seen better days. He is then zapped by a paralyzing ray (a lavish matte shot) emanating from a futuristic metropolis and nestled next to a city in smithereens. Major Allison now finds himself hauled off--against his will--to an underground lodging facility. The Citadel, as the locals refer to it, is inhabited by a race of humans cowering in fear from the radiation scarred mutants living above. The city has a triangle motif everywhere: doorways, hallways, video screens, etc. Labeled a "'scape," an outsider, by both the mutants and tunnel dwellers, Allison finds solace and comfort in the arms of the super lovely Darlene Thomkins. She plays a deaf mute who remains the only fertile female within screaming distance. Or so says her father, "The Supreme." We know where this is going--don't we? Allison meets several other "'scapes," scientists from his future, who have other ideas on how he should spend his time: less time with the horny chick and more time seeking a return to his own time. Scientists are never any fun. In the end, the film is a cautionary tale against the arms race. I think it works well enough to be called a minor classic. If not--the mute female in the short skirt should suffice. For now.
Britain's short lived magazine "Movie" pronounced BEYOND the TIME BARRIER "a little miracle." The film, made in the Texas State Show ground, back to back with The AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN, has all the features of the cheesiest of fifties B features -obvious stock shots, tacky effects, walk-ons recruited from the crew (I was advised "Any one who said 'union' in Texas was a Communist and they shot him") with a plot cobbled together from Buck Rogers and "The Time Machine." Where then does this ringing endorsement come from? In the fifties, it had been decided that the film's director was a genuine auteur. Edgar G(orge) Ulmer has one of the most curious filmographies of all, starting in the art department of the Expressionist classics of the German silent Cinema, he worked with Murnau in Berlin and Hollywood. After Murnau's scandalous death, Ulmer was,we were told, the only person game to show up at his funeral and the master's mantle settled on his shoulders, getting him direction of The BLACK CAT from the tail end of the big budget Universal horrors. However, after refusing to be loaned out to the Shirley Temple unit, he spend the decade knocking out Race Pictures on Poverty Row and did Z films with the Producers Releasing Corporation, among which we note DETOUR and BLUEBEARD. Flirting with more ambitious productions proved unproductive and Ulmer returned to fringe activity including a nudie movie. Ulmer had already done the presentable MAN from PLANET X with Robert Clarke who was attempting to forge a career as a leading man in what would come to be called Psychotronic Cinema and they worked with a crew of specialists in this area among who the great Vladimir Sokaloff (Loves of Jeanne Ney, Mayerling, Life of Emile Zola and For Whom the Bell Tolls) found himself playing a futuristic overlord. Also on hand was master design Ernst Fegté, one of the few talents embedded in Hans Dreier's art department to make his presence visible in vintage Paramount productions. Fegté got an Oscar for 5 GRAVES to CAIRO. His décors, made up of modular triangular blocks, provide Beyond TIME BARRIER with a visual aspect not normal in these barrel scrapers - white overalled scientists among the tapering pillars. Plot has pilot Clarke shot into the upper atmosphere in the latest supersonic airplane - "What we learn from the flight will pretty much determine our next step in space." Occasionally the cut pricing pays as with our hero, in his flying suit, wandering the derelict airport rendered eerie by the lack of natural sound - who came up with the smashed piano?
Beyond the Time Barrier (1960)
** (out of 4)
Sci-fi has a military test pilot (Robert Clarke) goes into flight during 1960 and moments later he lands his spaceship in a strange land. After walking around for a bit he's finally taken captive by a group of people who don't make much sense to him but before long he realizes that his little trip actually sent him through a time barrier and he landed sixty-four years after taking off. The world has been destroyed due to a plague so he tries to get back in time to prevent it. This is an ultra low-budget movie that has a few ideas going for it but unfortunately there's not too much that can be done in regards to the science fiction because the budget didn't allow for it. The "future" city looks just like any abandoned city of 1960 and there special effects just aren't all that convincing. Fans of Edgar G. Ulmer will probably say that his keen eye manages to take the low budget and do more with it than most would. I'll buy that to a certain level but there's still no question that the majority of the film is dialogue scenes that really just talk about stuff instead of us ever actually getting to see it. I thought Clarke was good in his leading role as the pilot turned hero. Clarke is always fun to see in these low-budget movies and he does a nice job with the part. Darlene Tompkins plays the love interest, a princess in the future and she too is good. Vladimir Sokoloff plays "The Supreme" and isn't too bad. Universal horror fans will be happy to see Jack Pearce's name pop up in the credits for the special effects. There's talk of mutants in the film but sadly those hoping to see the make-up legends work on them will be disappointed because they're just normal people in bald caps. Pearce does get to do a little make-up at the end but I won't reveal with what as it will give away a major plot twist. This twist is actually pretty good and I think the final five-minutes are actually quite effective.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The basic idea behind "Beyond the Time Barrier" isn't bad--it's just
painfully obvious it was a super-low budget film. Too many set and
script problems lingered that would have been worked out if the film
makers had more than $45 to make the entire film. Despite this, the
film does have two minor stars in it--Victor Sokoloff (a familiar face
but a name you'll not readily recognize) and Robert Clark (who made a
few sci-fi films and guest starred on TV shows like "Dragnet").
The film is set in 1960. Clark is a Major in the Air Force and is flying a sub-orbital high altitude experimental flight. However, something odd happens and he's somehow transported 64 years into the future! And, unfortunately, the future completely sucks! It seems some plague killed most of the folks on Earth and left most of the rest as either mutants or total jerks! So, Clark has to somehow get back to his time to alert the folks on Earth. Can he do it? And, is there any way they'll believe him? And, will the complete and total jerks of the future even let him attempt this...after all, they ARE jerks!
Overall, despite the crappy sets, I could recommend this to lovers of cheesy sci-fi. That's because the basic story isn't bad at all and it ended very well. On the other hand, be forewarned--it is cheap--REALLY cheap. The worst are the 'mutants' kept in prison. The ones near the top of the steps and those down inside the pit are OBVIOUSLY from different movies--and look NOTHING like each other!! The stairs ones are guys (no ladies?) wearing the absolute worst skin-head wigs I've ever seen! They are hilariously dumb. But, the folks living down in the pit look almost like extras from "Island of Lost Souls"--all covered in hair and looking a bit primordial!! Duh! So, if you can ignore the dumb parts, it's not bad...but still uneven.
After the release of 'Forbidden Planet' in 1956, and before the release
of 'Planet of the Apes' in 1968, the overwhelming number of science
fiction films were ultra-low budget affairs, generally produced to fill
out double-bills at drive-in theaters. I would posit that this period
should be called the Golden Era of Schlock.
Schlock Scifi was not all bad...in fact, some of it was actually good, and a lot of it is interesting, and sometimes fascinating. There is a certain rough and ready charm to the earnestness and creativity of the actors, writers and directors, with some Schlock films being like the experience of watching community theater.
This film contains creative usage of a derelict airfield, filmed and edited to give the impression of a future of ruin and decay. The director also made good use of some strange architecture at the Texas State Fairgrounds, allowing the audience to make believe they are in fact seeing the underground dwellings of the future.
Stock footage of the F-102 'Delta Dagger' fighter plane is used to represent an experimental rocket...and in an unusual move, the director actually had a miniature created that matched the stock footage...the FX are extremely primitive even by 1960 standards, but I have to give them credit for finding a model of an F-102, because usually these films just show stock footage of say, an A-4 rocket and then a model of a B-52 or something completely unrelated. (BTW, the F-102 is what former president George Bush flew when he was in the 'Champagne Unit' of the Texas Air National Guard, avoiding Viet Nam.)
There are some mildly scary screaming mutants here, who for some reason, the civilized people of the future keep in a huge dungeon inside their fortress, as opposed to a safer location outside the city. The mutants are bald and wear coveralls in close ups and medium shots...but when the camera looks down the stairs into the dungeon, the mutants have long hair and wear caveman clothes. Obviously, director Ulmer obtained some stock footage of the cavemen types and edited in to save money and time. The mutants yell a lot.
Robert Clarke is pretty decent as Our Hero the square jawed USAF pilot, and Darlene Tompkins is strangely charming as Tirene, the cute mute in the short skirt. In the city of the future, everyone is sterile except for Tirene...until the arrival or Our Hero. The Supreme Leader of the City of the Future, as well as Tirene, want Our Hero to impregnate Tirene so as to perpetuate the human race.
Apocalyptic Futures were in vogue during this era, but this film is unusual in that rather than forecasting an atomic war, it instead predicts Future Earth as a place where the atmosphere is gradually degraded from unrelenting atomic testing, and the human race is decimated by a series of plagues.
The idea of a time traveler visiting a post-apocalyptic future was fairly new at this point. The George Pal adaptation of The Time Machine, also released in 1960, touched on the subject, but only in passing, and was more concerned with evolutionary changes, rather than nuclear holocaust. This film certainly beat the el cheapo 'Time Travelers' (1964) as well as the big-budget 'Planet of the Apes' (1968) to the punch. Like those two films, this one also has a shock ending.
This film somehow manages to convey a mood of melancholy and anxiety, appropriate for the story of a man who learns that his world is going to hell. The subplot regarding his role as a sperm-donor, admittedly an adolescent male fantasy, is handled as plausibly as possible under the circumstances. Perhaps Gene Roddenberry was influenced by this film, since his 1964 unsold Star Trek pilot is also a story of a science-fiction sperm donor.
Many reviewers like to discuss ne'er-do-well director Edgar Ulmer's style in this film. Certainly there are some elements of 1920's German expressionism that help this film be a little more creepy and moody than it would otherwise.
In summary, this is a fun and interesting excursion into the land of Schlock, and it is better and more interesting than most Schlock...yet it was created as Schlock, and Schlock it will always be. View it in this context, and you will be happy.
The legendary cult director Edgar G. Ulmer certainly had made better
movies than this but that doesn't mean that this isn't fun to some
degree. The main problem is that the (lack of a) budget shows: there's
a lot more exposition here than action. But the actors are sincere, the
visuals and atmosphere are decent, and there's a nifty twist ending
that one might not see coming. The result is a minor but amusing effort
that kills time easily enough.
Robert Clarke (also the producer of the movie), who'd previously starred for Ulmer in "The Man from Planet X", plays William Allison, an Air Force pilot who goes on an experimental flight. Somehow, he breaks the time barrier and ends up 64 years in the future, where a plague has decimated most of mankind and where various people hole up in an underground building dubbed The Citadel. The plague has caused various stages of mutation in people; some folk have become deaf-mutes, such as Princess Trirene (Darlene Tompkins); others are more sickly. The people of this future don't trust Allison, which just makes things more difficult for him as he seeks to find out how to get back to his own time.
The supporting cast consists of performers such as Vladimir Sokoloff, Boyd 'Red' Morgan, Stephen Bekassy, John Van Dreelen, and director Ulmers' pretty daughter Arianne in a major supporting role as the dubious Captain Markova. Co-star Tompkins is positively gorgeous and may serve as a distraction for any viewers who are otherwise bored with the movie. (One can't completely knock any movie where female outfits of the future include miniskirts.)
This may be no classic of the genre but it does entertain, and only runs an hour and 15 minutes anyway.
The makeup effects are by the great Jack Pierce.
Six out of 10.
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