Countdown to Halloween: "B" is for Beyond the Time Barrier (1960)
Beyond the Time Barrier (1960) opens with credits you don’t often see in an "old" movie: a Star Wars-type crawl in which the words roll up toward the top of the screen and become smaller before fading away. Considering the blockbuster film it evokes, this movie is no epic space opera; however, it takes some clever ideas and stretches them to fit snugly within its limited budget.
As I wrote yesterday in my review of The Amazing Transparent Man, it and Beyond the Time Barrier were shot back-to-back during two weeks in Dallas. This is the more ambitious of the two productions, maximizing the availability of unique locations that capture the architecturally potential far-future year of 2024; for example, buildings at the Texas Centennial Exhibition Fair Park.
Production designer Ernst Fegte had more to use for imagination than he did with The Amazing Transparent Man, and he seemed to carry a triangular motif further than just the sets when they were incorporated into scene transitions. Sure, control rooms and sleeping chambers still look like sparsely decorated warehouse spaces, but they’re not quite as noticeable here as they are in other cheap sci-fi movies.
U.S. Air Force test pilot Major William Allison (Robert Clarke) breaks the speed record just above Earth’s atmosphere, and then lands 64 years into the future, where a plague has transformed most of humanity into underground mutants and a few survivors, although deaf/mute (and sterile), rule society from smooth round towers that stretch into the sky.
A third group of people, scientists who also landed in the future, but from different eras, attempt to… well, I’m not sure what. But, when Allison arrives, they concoct a plan to send him back to 1960 so he can prevent the plague from happening. The details of the typical class structure rebellion aren’t as important here as the personalities…
The Supreme (Vladimir Sokoloff) wants Allison to perpetuate humanity by mating with his pretty young granddaughter, Princess Trirene (Darlene Tompkins.) The intentions of Captain Markova (Arianne Ulmer) are not as clear. Is she one-third of a romantic triangle, a hero, or a villain? Captain (Boyd “Red” Morgan) is a clear-cut villain, not really wanting anything but death for their strange visitor.
It’s all very talky, but the dialogue is supported by some strong ideas. For example, the source of the plague isn’t typical for an apocalyptic movie of the 1950’s or 60’s. Screenwriter Arthur C. Pierce (The Cosmic Man, Invasion of the Animal People and The Human Duplicators, among others) thinks outside the box to give us a little more than expected from preconceived notions.
Edgar G. Ulmer directs Beyond the Time Barrier with slightly more spunk than he did with The Amazing Transparent Man. Considering what he accomplished with these two movies in only two weeks, he deserves credit for them being as good as they are. I prefer this one because it provides more than I expected, which, to be honest, was not much at all.
Written by Arthur C. Pierce
Directed by Edward G. Ulmer
Starring Robert Clarke, Darlene Tompkins, Arianne Ulmer, Vladimir Sokoloff, Stephen Bekassy, John Van Dreelan, Boyd "Red" Morgan Released July, 1960 RT 75 min.
Home Video Sinister Cinema (DVD)
Part of the Countdown to Halloween. Click here for a list of all the blogs participating. Each offers its own distinctive month long celebration of the chilling holiday we all love.