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Film / Terror from the Year 5000

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Terror from the Year 5000 is a 1958 sci-fi film directed by Robert J. Gurney Jr., involving Time Travel with a twist.

Professor Howard Erling (Frederic Downs) and his rich benefactor and assistant Victor (John Stratton) have developed a time machine of sorts. Said time machine, after a test, materializes a curio statue. Erling is quite excited and sends letters to museum curator Dr. Bob Hedges (Ward Costello), but when there's no reply, Erling's daughter Claire (Joyce Holden) tries sending the statue followed by a telegram.

The statue turns out to be radioactive, encouraging Hedges to fly down to Florida and check out what's going on. Erling and Hedges agree that they need to find more information, but Victor is too impatient and decides to gun the machine up to 11. He succeeds in bringing something living back and a bunch of mayhem is caused before all is made well.


For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.

"Tropes! From the year 5000!":

  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • Carbon dating would not work on objects from the future, because it's an estimate based on radiometric decay. It also only works on organic matter. The statue is made of metal.
    • In addition, numerous people essentially hold the very radioactive statue bare-handed. Scientists, agog at results of testing the device with a Geiger counter, throw it into an open plastic bin of water... which immediately starts boiling.
  • Broken Aesop: Near the end Bob is all for repairing the machine and seeing that the people get the genes they need, commenting that despite their looks the mutants are still human. Only for Dr. Earling to say that the future is what they make it *cue triumphant music*. So the moral is: do nothing even though you have the means to help people and try to avoid doing what caused it in the first place... even though there's no guarantee it can be avoided.
    • How the hell would you expect three people to change global events that aren't going to occur for another couple thousand years? Butterfly effects, maybe?
  • Butter Face: The Terror herself is hideous, but her tight jumpsuit shows a nice figure.
  • Crusty Caretaker: Angelo, amateur Jimmy Carter impersonator and professional pervert.
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  • Developing Doomed Characters: It takes a long time for the Terror to make an appearance. There's a point when the plot stops in its tracks as our characters catch a movie and hit the bar.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Around the end of the second act, Bob is seen leaving Claire's room looking rather pleased with himself.
    Mike (distressed): Ohhh... What are they implying?
    Tom: They are implying "POOM!"
  • Deus ex Machina: The scuba gear and the radiation-proof gear.
  • Easily Forgiven: Angelo is caught peeping on Claire. Everyone treats this as Angelo being Angelo and no further mention is made of it.
  • Genre Shift: Starts off as a mystery involving time travel and a radioactive statue and about an hour in terror finally appears.
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: The nurse gets her foot stuck in a fallen tree as she's running away from the Terror. She gets free after a few moments, but the delay is enough for the Terror to catch and kill her.
  • Hypnotic Fingernails
  • Informed Deformity: Due to Special Effects Failure, with her fake scarring, misaligned eyebrows and twisted teeth, the mutant woman from the year 5000 comes across as merely unattractive, even ugly, but still clearly human, and not the hideous, monstrous mutation the movie makes her out to be. This makes the nurse's overreaction seem odd.
  • Kill and Replace: The Terror kills a nurse (played by the same actress) after she runs in terror. She then uses some device from the future to steal her face and impersonate her to get near Victor.
  • Mad Scientist: Averted with Dr. Earling. He insists on official verification of his discoveries and when he learns that his experiments are resulting in dangerous radioactivity, he suspends his work until safeguards can be implemented. His assistant, on the other hand, is a complete jerk.
  • Neutral Female: Dr. Bob's assistant Miss Blake plays this totally straight with her Extreme Doormat personality. Claire, on the other hand, averts it; even outside '50s standards, she's rather intelligent and assertive. Heck, she even brawls with the titular Terror after finding out the villainous mutant was responsible for killing Angelo. This is ironic, because The Terror lampshades this trope by accusing women from this period of standing around doing nothing.
  • Non-Action Guy: Victor
  • Selective Obliviousness: Dr. Earling convinces himself that Dr. Bob's warnings about Victor are just to get Victor out of the way so he (Bob) can get with Claire. It takes Bob showing him Victor's radiation burns (a result of Victor secretly using the time machine at elevated power levels) to shake him loose from that.
  • Time Machine: Only this time, it brings things back!
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Bob gets chewed out for making time with Claire. Yep, that's it.


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