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Film / Terror from the Year 5000

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Terror from the Year 5000 is a 1958 Sci-Fi Horror 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 uses the concept of radioactive decay to estimate how much time has passed since a living object died, with the current date being a reference point. Any item from the future would be incorrectly dated as it would still use the current date as a reference; the process will never date an item into the future. 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.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: The opening sequence proclaims that Dr. Earling will soon "unleash upon the world TERROR - From The Year 5000!", and sets Earling up as the sort of amoral, insane scientist so prevalent in this era's sci-fi. Dr. Earling himself is actually a completely Reasonable Authority Figure, and a notable aversion of the Mad Scientist trope; the one to blame for the eponymous terror's escape from the lab is his Jerkass assistant Victor.
  • 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. Dr. Earling stops him, saying that the future is what we make it. Cue triumphant music. The problem is that there's no way of knowing whether they'll be able to change the events that aren't even going to happen for three thousand more years. As a result, the moral ends up coming across as "don't bother helping people even though you have the ability to do so, and instead just hope it all works out on its own."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: While discussing how to properly authenticate the statue, Dr. Hedges' assistant gives what is supposed to be a very ignorant "layman's version" description of carbon testing, thus allowing the doctor to exposit to her and to the audience as to what carbon testing really is. The problem is, while her description of it as "that carbon-14 thing that tells you how old things are" might be stated in a rather simplistic way, it's actually far more accurate to how carbon testing actually works compared to what's shown in the movie. The movie shows it as giving specific dates-of-origin, and is somehow even able to date the relic Hedges is studying into the future.
  • 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 Eyes: Fingernails, actually. The terror's fingernails somehow have the power to hypnotize people who look at them.
  • 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.
  • Love Triangle: Downplayed. One sort of develops between Bob, Claire and Victor, but Claire has roughly one moment where she shows Victor any kind of affection, even though he's her fiance; she spends the rest of her time macking on Bob.
  • Mad Scientist: Averted by 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; he plays the trope straight, but not out of a desire For Science! He just wants to make money.
  • 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, in stark contrast to the manly Bob Hedges.
  • 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!
  • Title Drop: During the opening sequence, the announcer bombastically claims that Dr. Earling will soon "unleash upon the world, TERROR - from the year 5000!"
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Bob gets chewed out for making time with Claire. Yep, that's it.