Between Time and Timbuktu (TV Movie 1972) Poster

(1972 TV Movie)

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Did I ever tell you my driveway reminds me of Mars?
chris-506 March 2001
When I was 14, I saw Between And Timbuktu for the first time. I even tape recorded it on my old portable Panasonic cassette player (the one with the blue and white piano-like keys) and used to listen to it over and over again. It made a lasting impression on me that persists to this day. Other than being very entertaining and quite funny, it, (1) introduced me to the works of Kurt Vonnegut, (2) introduced me to Bob & Ray (3) introduced me to a number of diverse actors who I will always first and foremost associate with their roles here including William Hickey, Kevin McCarthy and Susan Sullivan. And even though I have long since lost that tape, and Kurt apparently continues to block any efforts to make this film available (while allowing Slapstick to stink up the ether), it will always have a warm place in my heart.
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A Vonnegut potpourri with some great moments.
Brian Leonard8 April 1999
Between Time and Timbuktu was an effort at doing an introductory "best-of-Kurt-Vonnegut" for national TV. Although some Vonnegut fans think it's a diluted mess (see the book reviews), it serves well as a quirky intro to some of his themes and characters. William Hickey is wonderful as the bewildered "astronaut", and Bob and Ray are at their peak, with some hysterically funny dialogue. Why isn't it available on video?
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Write a jingle and win a trip into space
dcorr12329 July 2000
NASA decides to launch the first "ordinary" man into space, based on writing a winning jingle. Our astronaut gets more than he bargained for with a bizarre trip through space and time. For myself the most memorable parts include: 1) Bob and Ray's ongoing commentary and their attempts to remember Armstrong's "one great step..." line and 2) a future in which the government tries to make everybody equal by reducing them to the lowest common denominator of abilities. It's a real trip watching a ballet performed in which the dancers have to wear weights to make themselves clumsy.
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Could PBS ever do something this bizarre today?
marknyc8 August 2006
I was mesmerized by this strange film back in 1972, and it lingered in my memories for years until I was finally able to view it a few months ago. The parts that I recall held up beautifully, especially Bob & Ray's work (which was largely ad-libbed). Some of the Vonnegut stories work, some don't: the "Handicapper General" piece is quite scary and all too real, as is the section about ethical suicide parlors. But in the end it's Elliot and Goulding (and Hickey) who save the day.

I still can't think about "ex-astronaut Bud Williams, Jr." telling his story about Tang without smiling. Wish they would release this on DVD (and another early NET special - America, Inc. with Jean Shepherd).
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An interesting introduction to the works of Kurt Vonnegut (thru 1972)
theowinthrop5 March 2006
When I went to college in the early 1970s the leading contemporary American novelists who were popular were Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan. Brautigan's TROUT FISHING IN America was very popular, but his subsequent writings failed to maintain his popularity. Not so Vonnegut, whose string of successes lasted far longer. I read SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, GOD BLESS YOU MR. ROSEWATER, CAT'S CRADLE, THE SIRENS OF TITAN, MOTHER NIGHT, and the other books. So this particular television show really interested me.

It was like a selection of episodes from the various novels and short stories of Vonnegut, hosted (as news reporters) by Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding. Goulding is reprising the role of "Walter Gesundheit" he played in a movie a few years earlier. Eliott is playing an astronaut (like Wally Schirra, who frequently appeared with Walter Cronkite at space shots). They get bogged down trying to recall Neil Armstrong's first words upon the Moon surface. William Hickey played Stony Stevenson, the best friend of the hero in THE SIRENS OF TITAN. He is chosen to be the world's first time traveler, and we see him going from one place to another.

Hickey meets Dr. Hoenikker/Hurd Hatfield (creator of "Ice 9" - and an example of the short sightedness of government sponsored science), and Bokonon/Kevin McCarthy (the ultimately powerless religious leader) from CAT'S CRADLE. He meets Wanda June from Vonnegut's play. He sees the threat of puritanical-ism mixed with inane political correctness in the future when he crosses the path of one woman vigilante Diane Moon Gompers.

The show as an introduction to Vonnegut was very good. Parts of it were shot in Flushing Meadow Park, not far from my home. So I thoroughly enjoyed the program.
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A really great quiet little film
lucens29 October 2006
I saw this film one time and one time only, in a Sci-Fi Lit class in my senior year of high school in 1980. This made a big impression on me to this day. There were moments of joyful silliness (Walter Gesundheit is actually a double pun, if you are studying German, which I also was taking that year), and scenes of incredibly pure beauty. I found large parts of this movie promoted a philosophy of hope, which was very important to a (then) suicidal teenager. This film kept me out of the knife-room for MONTHS.

I don't know where the teacher obtained the print, and if I could get a copy these days, I would without hesitation, even if I had to pay a lot. Quick, someone tell Mr. Vonnegut so it will be released.
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Release this video Kurt!
notmtwain16 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
My high school library had a copy of this video available on demand back in 1975. (We were pretty technologically advanced.) I'll bet I watched it 20 times. I can still hear Bob and Ray killing time on the air while they awaited news of Stony Stevenson's flight into the chrono-synclastic infundibulum. The echoes of Walter Cronkite were astounding.

Stony's sudden arrival back on Earth in the middle of some unknown city and asking for a dime to make a phone call to report back in to NASA is one of the great comic bits I've ever seen. Is it satire of NASA or just a satirical joke by Kurt Vonnegut that man's exploration of space will take him to places he never expected? This made for TV production is certainly not really a 10 but it's not a 1 either and it should be made available at least for online downloading. In reality, it's probably a good 10 for Vonnegut fans and a 1 for everyone else.

If anyone knows where to get it, I surely would appreciate hearing about it.
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Between Time and Timbuktu (or Prometheus-5) is a space fantasy comprised of excerpts from novels and stories by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
J.R. Stewart8 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Between Time and Timbuktu (or Prometheus-5) is a space fantasy comprised of excerpts from novels and stories by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. He was commissioned to be an adviser on and contributor to the script in 1971. The program was nationally aired on Public (Broadcasting) Television Stations on March 13, 1972. Many good people created funny stuff as the filming progressed, most notably Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding, and with Fred Barzyk, the director. Created at WGBH Television studios in Boston. Starring William Hickey, the reluctant astronaut "Stony Stevenson", who won a sweepstakes "Blast-Off Space Food – Jingle Contest", and they come to the door of his house like Publishers Clearinghouse. His mother Mrs. Stevenson (Dortha Duckworth) answers the door. She later relocated to Mission Control during the time Stony is in space. The spaceflight is followed by Walter Gesundheit (Ray Goulding) and Budd Williams Jr. (Bob Elliott). In mission control is lead by Col. Donald "Tex" Pirandello (Franklin Cover) and Sandy Abernathy (Russell Morash) is a reporter covering the protest from the radical evangelist Dr. Bobby Denton (John Devlin), who was released yesterday from Federal Prison. He preached that Prometheus-5 is a Tower of Babel. The movie is a medley of the following Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. stores:

Transported in time by the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum, he travels "one hundred and twenty million miles in three months, four days, thirteen hours, three minutes and seven seconds." The Island of San Lorenzo: (Cat's Cradle) He meets the leader "Bokonon (Kevin Mc Carthy)" who wrote "The books of Bokonon" and his "children" (followers) are referred to as Bokononoists. An island girl (Edie Lynch) and all are being chased by soldier (Jerry Gershman). The religion was outlawed by the President (to give more zest, more tang) and it did in the beginning… Then people practicing the religion started being executed. "I suppose that it goes to show that you have to be very careful who you pretend to be, because one day you may wake up to find that's what you are". The next stop in the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum is (Player Piano) where we meet Dr. Paul Proteus (James Sloyan) who is on trial for armed insurrection and treason. The prosecutor (George Serries) has a classic line: "In this unbiased essay we will see the fruits of our great society. This is the same society that the defendant wishes to destroy. This is the same society that is paying you for jury duty today. It is indeed "A Land of Plenty" (animated movie is shown). The next stop in the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum is a telephone booth in Schenectady (also from Player Piano), asking for change from a drunk (John Peters) who gives him coins saying "That is the saddest story I ever heard". Then next stop in the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum onto (Cat's Cradle) into the lobby of the "Hoenikker Laboratory of Immortality" (Hurd Hatfield) and assistant Miss Martin (Helen Stenborg) laying on a table, being thawed out. Disclosed is his research on "Ice Nine", a seed with a melting point of a hundred and forty degrees Fahrenheit, to freeze mud for military applications. The next stop in the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum falls onto (Welcome to the Monkey House) with a Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers (Benay Venuta). This is a society where true equality is based on "handicapping everyone". In a TV studio, a ballet is being performed by two dancers, shackled and masked. Harrison Bergeron (Avind Haerum) suddenly breaks out of his handicaps, and removes the Ballerina (Alexis Hoff) handicaps. The strains of "Romeo and Juliet" fill the air. They dance. Meanwhile, a double-barrel shotgun is being loaded, and fired at the two dancers. Our next stop in the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum falls into "The Ethical Suicide Parlor, the population explosion has people massed and pressed against one another outside. Stony is escorted by Nancy (Susan Sullivan) delivers a tray of food to Lionel J. Howard (Charles White) while a TV commercial announcer (Phillip Bruns) plays in the room. Lionel J. Howard has chosen cyanide. His wife wanted him to take the carbon monoxide, but he told her "cyanide's more masculine". After taking the needle, his last request is "What are people for?" Next is a long line of candles quietly flickering and Stony with a kitten on a flat dry ground in wide empty arena at night (Happy Birthday Wanda June). Noise of a fire truck approaching: "Hi, I am Wanda June" (Ariane Munker). Stony asks "Am I dead?" Wanda replies "Nothing to be ashamed about, today was going to be my birthday, but I was hit by an ice cream truck before I could have my party. I am dead now, I am in heaven. Everybody up here is happy." The celebration comes to a discordant end as Hitler (Page Johnson) appears, goose-stepping and snarling from a balcony. "What a poor specimen of a man you are!" Stony replies "That's been said before". Hitler "Do you know who I am?" and Stony says "Yes. And you scare the hell out of me. More than anything I've seen in my life." Hitler: "I am death, and I am final. (Aside, awed by himself) God, am I ever final!" speaking to Wanda June "Go to the worms, my blond Teutonic child" Stony commands people to randomly appear and disappear. Next we see Stony working his way out of a grave in Brooklyn cemetery, reading epitaph on tombstone "Stony Stevenson. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt." Stony walks away from the grave and approaches a man with a lawn mower (McIntyre Dixon) There's a tombstone back there… "Tombstone? An understatement is what that is." It says "Stony Stevenson, astronaut". He's not actually buried there, that's just a memorial his mother put up. He is out there in space or time, who knows where he is? His space capsule splashed down in the Pacific with a note and a half-empty bottle of Tang. The note said what's written on the tombstone.
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A great satire!
Alan Smith24 August 2001
I saw this on Public Television When I was 17 and really enjoyed it. Although the special effects were a bit hokey, the screenplay was well written and the production was wonderfully cast. I would love to have a copy of this in my video collection but short of that would at least like to see it again. If anyone out there has the rights to this they would do us a great service by re-releasing it.
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Not Disappointed!
bboswell324 November 2006
I am a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut's novels. And, like Mr. Vonnegut, I am also a huge fan of Bob and Ray. This teleplay has been on my wish list for decades, but it is incredibly elusive. I finally found a copy of it on DVD online. It Does Exist!

In short, all of the elements of a great Vonnegut novel are there. It has some great ideas and incredible insights.

There are some elaborate visual effects which must have been state-of-the-art in 1972, but seem to be a bit dated. The effects seem to be a bit overdone by today's standards, but serve the important purpose of showing the viewer where Stony becomes "unstuck in time" to use a Slaughterhouse-5 expression.

Above all it was great to see Bob and Ray doing what they do best: Witty, yet understated humor.

My biggest fear was of being disappointed in the production. I was afraid that I had built my hopes up too much. But in the end, I must quote the film itself:

Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
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A fine adaptation of several works of Kurt Vonnegut.
shane013a-115 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The pleasure derived from watching this film was very close to the same joy I got from Mr. Vonnegut's books. This original piece of work done by David O'Dell and then submitted to Mr. V to "fart around with" is perhaps one of the best collaborations between fan and author it's been my privilege to watch. An outstanding performance by a caring cast add volumes to this not so tongue-in-cheek masterpiece. Although Mr. Vonnegut doesn't claim credit for this work per Se, it could have only been possible through his genius. He was a man of the times, it's too bad there are so few films worthy to tell his love of his fellow man, this is one.
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Broadcast Museum NYC
CardBoardBox Cliff19 November 2013
The Broadcast Museum (Museum of Broadcast Communications in New York) was given the ONLY copy of this WGHB produced movie, which is available for viewing on site, according to the WGHB letter decades ago.

Rick Doughty did have a copy on 1/2 inch, reel-to-reel video tape while at Pratt Institute in 1973 but it is unlikely to have survived.

The scenes described in the other review are powerful. When a ballerina has drooping sand bags to handicap her, so as to be no better than the worse dancer, the result is awkwardness.

The final scene of a gathering, or parade, appearing and disappearing, with music, needs some refreshing after 40 years. This is unlikely to occur and since the production was a combination of 5 (?) stories, there is no hard copy basis to draw from.
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release this please!
Gordon Clark1 March 2013
I saw this when it came out, and wanted to see it again ever since. I did finally find a DVD bootleg, but it is a copy of a lousy videotape. It really should be available without the crummy copy! It is a great movie, thoughtful and funny. It was fun to spot several places I know in it, like the shores of the Wachusett Reservoir, the Lindemann Center building in Boston where my dad had an office, the Quincy Market cold storage facility in Watertown. Bob and Ray's reference to the red driveway reminds me of Lincoln, where roads only get patched, and they have Martian pavement after over 50 years. This movie is far too good to keep under wraps. I only just thought to look here because I saw an article about Glamping, figuring it must be what Diana Moon Glampers does, but it is some other silly thing altogether.
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afetrmath224 August 2008
As a Vonnegut fan, I loved the film. It was thrilling to see his character's come to life. I have issues about which of his stories were dramatized, but I will not nitpick about the film's interpretation, continuity, depth of character, etc.

I am equally forgiving about "Slaughterhouse-Five", which did a good job in telling the jumbled story of Billy Pilgrim.

I also enjoyed Bob and Ray's deadpan repetition of the phrase "Chrono-synclastic Infundibulum." It was another phrase which I happily memorized for the sheer joy of knowing it -- similar to "Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!"
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A Wondrous Video Introduction
bimp-330 May 2006
"I've said a lot of things in this vale of tears. One of them might have been cy-- cyanide." How wonderfully intricate, how absolutely unsalable for its time, how typifying of the occasional gallant attempt of 'Seventies television, especially 'Seventies public television, to experiment audaciously.

Yes, it wasn't the most faithful nor expert adaptation of Vonnegut's, or anybody's, work that the world has ever seen.

But God, when Diana Moon Glampers came on the air, I knew I was in for some amazing entertainment.

I saw it chiefly as a college video offering at my school, over closed circuit. It, like many of the entertainments we rented and "broadcast", garnered only small interest. Some of those entertainments included "The Prisoner" and "The Producers", which tells you something of the tastes of middle-Georgia student audiences in the late 1970s.
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I love and want this movie.
Heidi28 May 2006
If this movie was out on DVD, I would buy it today. My brother and I used to watch it every time it was on public television. I wish I could remember more of the plot. I remember it was funny, and poignant, and socially relevant. Please, somebody, release this movie for us fans!

There was one "chapter" where the protagonist finds himself in a society where everyone is handicapped to the lowest level of ability, so no one will feel bad about not being good enough. Dancers wore big bags of sand, so they couldn't be more coordinated than their audience. The hero gets in trouble for insisting on letting people be who they really are. Maybe that's what I liked most about the movie, Vonnegut's insistence on the individual right to creatively express whatever they did best, at their best level of performance. It's not about perfectionism, but about expressing the gifts we are given.
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I'd love to see this again
tarnower6 February 2006
I saw this movie only once in the mid-70s at the Student Union in college. I must have been the exact right target demographic. I've never had an easier time to "suspend disbelief" because this movie doesn't try to justify its content, it's just fun to watch. Maybe it was because at the time I had recently read all (most?) of the books that this movie borrowed from, and I felt it resonated with my mind's eye version of the written stories.

I agree with many of the other writers that Mr. Vonnegut should remove his objections to the redistribution of this highly enjoyable film.

I have a very small DVD collection, mainly because there are so few movies I care to see more than once, but I'd buy this one.
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Surprised it was as good as I remembered
Charles Herold (cherold)12 February 2015
I saw this when I was 13 years old and I thought it was amazing. It was funny and crazy and sometimes profound, and it stuck in my head as something especially special.

Decades later, I went to the Museum of Television and watched it again. I kept my expectations down - what I liked at 13 is not the same as what I like as an adult - but you know what, I still thought it was brilliant.

I just watched it again. I was a little more aware of how dated it's early-seventies vibe is, partly because I was watching it with my girlfriend, who was pointing it out, and I noticed that it flags in parts, but overall I still enjoyed it, as did my girlfriend.

This is based in large part on Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkeyhouse, which I didn't read until after the second time I'd seen the TV movie. I think it's great how the creators of this took the best of Vonnegut's random ideas and distilled them into something remarkable.
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Worth seeing once. (Truly)
meadow-331 January 2000
Saw this in a revival theatre. I was mentally (you know) ready for a sci-fi film and totally enjoyed it.

I don't know if I would "buy" the premise of the story today, but the time travel venues were thought provoking. Food for thought for a (then)-seeking youth.
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Made and impression on me...
ejr-428 April 2006
I remembered hardly anything from this movie, which I saw on TV during it's original airing when I was a big Vonnegut fan. It must have made a strong impression on me, though, because my first thought whenever I see William Hickey, even before I recall the actor's name, is, "Hey, it's Stony Stevenson." Maybe it's just that the name is so catchy.

Reading these comments gave me a strong desire to see it again -- hey, while I'm writing this, I just remembered, in the phone booth scene referenced in an earlier post, didn't Stony explain to someone that he was in Schenectady? Would sure like to see this one again, or even read it but it can't be read, can it, since it's a compilation of many different Vonnegut stories. I do remember the Chrono Synclastic Infidibulum from The Sirens of Titan. Did Billy Pilgrim go through that as well?
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