Major Bill Allison (Robert Clarke) is a test pilot for the United States Air Force. His latest task is to take an experimental, sub-orbital flight so the country can decide what steps to take toward launching a spacecraft into orbit.
Major Allison makes the flight successfully, but loses radio contact. When he lands back at his base, he finds that it is abandoned and that it looks much older than it did when he began his flight.
Naturally, this can only mean that his flight wasn’t quite as successful as he thought it was. Bill hasn’t returned to the base as he knew it in 1960. In the distance he spots a futuristic city, which he decides to walk to in search of answers.
Bill soon discovers that he has entered a wormhole and time-traveled to the year 2024, where Earth’s inhabitants have been struggling to survive ever since a cosmic plague struck in the early 1970s. Though peace between all nations had been achieved and colonies had been made in space, cosmic rays began striking earth and infecting everyone. Some of them remain human, but some of them have become mutants.
Edgar G. Ulmer directs 1960’s Beyond the Time Barrier, which was produced by its star, Robert Clarke. The film’s script was penned by Arthur C. Pierce of Invasion of the Animal People fame.
Filling out the cast are Darlene Tompkins as mute, psychic future-princess Trirene, Vladimir Sokoloff as future-society leader “The Supreme” and Arianne Ulmer as Captain Markova.
Clarke had initially planned to direct the film himself, but wanted a break after the completion of The Hideous Sun Demon, which he had produced, directed, co-written and starred in. Ulmer was selected to directed because Clarke had enjoyed working with him on The Man from Planet X and felt they shared a common vision for the film.
I originally selected Beyond the Time Barrier on Netflix in hopes that it would be well-suited for the Classics of the Corn series, but it doesn’t quite make the cut. There is some corn here, mostly through the special effects and sound effects/score, which are all very stereotypical of mid-century sci-fi .
Clarke’s performance brings a bit of corn as well, but is perfectly suited to a film of this type. He starts out serving up quite a bit of exaggeration, bringing laughs to the early scenes of the film, but at the same time he seems entirely absorbed in his character’s story. This serves him well later on in the film, when the story takes less-corny turns. His performance is no Oscar-caliber masterwork, but it’s believable and works well here.
Part of what kills this film’s potential for corn is the fact that it’s extremely talky. The beginning and end of the film definitely bring the corn, but it’s nowhere to be found in the middle. It amounts to about 15 or 20 combined minutes of beautiful cheese. If Beyond the Time Barrier had more action/”monster” moments it could have entered the CotC hall of fame, but instead the script spends its time trying desperately to explain itself. The film’s Cold War/space race message is never fully realized; all we get is that Bill Allison needs to go back to his own time and stop the plague.
Still, the film is a fascinating watch, and the sets are quite beautiful. I’d probably watch it again for the set design alone! The buildings of the 2024 portion of the film are highly geometric and futuristic.
Beyond the Time Barrier isn’t what I expected to be, but it’s a good watch. The story it tells is simple and somewhat anti-climactic, but I still enjoyed watching the film overall. The score: 3.5/5 – 0.5 bonus points for the final five minutes