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Film / The Time Travelers

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The Time Travelers is a 1964 B-Movie written and directed by Ib Melchior (Reptilicus) and released by American International Pictures. The plot involves a group of scientists who are attempting to open a "window" through time but, due to a series of misfires, actually create a portal into the future and get themselves trapped in an After the End world. Now they have to help the last vestiges of humanity flee a dead Earth for a new home (dodging radioactive mutants all the while) whilst trying to find a way back to their own time.

There was a TV Movie of the same title in The '70s, produced by Irwin Allen and with a story by Rod Serling; but, other than the underlying premise of Time Travel, the two films are entirely unrelated.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 (The Return) episode featuring this film, link on over to the episode recap page.

The Trope Travellers:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: "Laser" is constantly pronounced with with a soft "c" instead of a hard "z".
  • After the End: Nuclear war has devastated the world, leaving Earth a completely barren planet. Subverted at the end when the characters manage to travel tens of thousands of years farther into the future to find that the Earth has rejuvenated.
  • The Alleged Expert: Carol, who is presumably a exemplary quantum physicist given that she helped build a functional time machine, has to ask one of the future scientists what a photon is.
  • Alliterative Title
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: As Steve and Willard discuss whether they can arm the androids with guns, they carelessly point their own handguns at each other several times.
  • Babies Ever After: Reena expects there's going to be a "population explosion" once the colony ship reaches the new Earth. And she's eagerly looking forward to doing her part.
  • Beta Couple: Surprisingly, the two lead characters, Steve and Carol, are this. Much more time is devoted to developing a relationship between Danny the electrician and Reena, a nice working girl from the future.
  • Body Horror: The human/mutant hybrid who sneaks into the human colony has only stumps for feet, a couple of fingers (and thumb) 'welded' into a crab-like pincer, radiation burns and no voice. The first two are real deformities of the actor.
  • The Cameo: Forrest J. Ackerman is the guy spinning circles into squares.
  • Cold Equation: Councilman Willard points out that the four time travelers cannot be brought on to the rocket to Alpha Centauri because the number of passengers has been precisely established. Adding four extra people would require extra air and provisions, which would reduce the amount fuel they could carry, which would cause them to miss their rendezvous with the planet. The time travelers will have to remain on Earth and either find a way to survive in the caves or attempt to rebuild their time portal.
  • Commander Contrarian: Councilman Willard is hostile toward the scientists from the very beginning (and not only them).
  • Cosmic Deadline: When the human colony's food supplies and power sources have been loaded onto the Retro Rocket and with only a couple hours before liftoff, the mutants stage one last desperate attack. Justified in that it's stated the mutants have been watching the colony's activities, therefore they know when the power supply has been loaded onto the rocket (thus de-powering the colony's force field).
  • Easily Detachable Robot Parts: The android workers. At one point the workers even replace the head of an operational android. In a single take.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Subverted, as the scientists (and electrician) ultimately have little problem understanding and integrating into the future human colony.
  • Force-Field Door: A barrier of solidified electricity keeps out the mutants. Until the climax.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • At the start of the film, as the scientists are getting ready to open their "time window", there is a brief flicker of shadow (it looks like a projector error, but the characters notice it). At the end of the film, it becomes clear what has caused this.
    • As they are attempting to fine-tune the "time window" shortly after the above, they note that it is very briefly tuned in on an era hundreds of thousands of years into the future.
    • When Council Leader Varno attempts to integrate the scientists into the human colony, Councilman Willard calls for calculations/verifications on the Retro Rocket's passenger capacity.
  • Future Music: When Danny and Reena go on a date, Reena serenades him with some synthesized, exotica-sounding music. She plays the music, and makes an accompanying light show, by waving her hands over a multicolored keyboard.
  • Girlfriend in Canada: Danny, realizing that he can't stay in the future with his Love Interest, tries to break it off with her by claiming that he has a fiancee back in his own time anyway. Given the description he gives (which involves flashing eyes and the ability to answer any question) he's likely talking about the laboratory's supercomputer.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: For all his Designated Villain antics, Willard proves entirely correct when he shows that the colony's Retro Rocket cannot accommodate another four passengers; nor can the colony delay their launch window in order to help the scientists re-create a time portal to their own era.
  • Move in the Frozen Time: The ending has the characters coming back to when they'd left, only to find their own past selves frozen in time. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 version also ends with Jonah and the Bots finding Crow and Tom Servo frozen; presumably Jonah was in the can.
  • Not So Above It All: Even after arguing in favor of compassion for the human/mutant hybrid, Carol instinctively shies away from him when he extends a deformed hand out to her.
  • Pun: From Danny, when a worker in the android construction facility hands him an egg carton filled with android eyeballs.
    Danny: And I thought I was giving her the eye!
  • Race Against the Clock: There's a very narrow window in which the future humans' rocket can launch to reach the planet. Since they have to take all their food and supplies with them on the rocket, and the time travelers can't come along on the rocket, the time travelers will be doomed if they can't build a new time portal before the rocket launch.
  • Random Events Plot: Downplayed. There is a solid and coherent plot, but the actual plot elements take up maybe 20 minutes of this hour and a half long movie. The rest of it is basically just the characters watching a series of cheap magic tricks masquerading as futuristic technology.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Varno and Gadra, in stark contrast to Councilman Willard, are willing to help the time-displaced scientists in any way they can—but, in the end, they have no choice but to accept Willard's arguments.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The Retro Rocket the human colony will use to travel to another planet is destroyed mere minutes before liftoff; most of the future humans are either killed by attacking mutants, or will slowly die when their supplies run out. Subverted with the main characters who manage to re-create the time portal and travel to the far-distant future.
  • Smart People Build Robots: The human colony of the future has constructed a cabal of android workers.
  • Stable Time Loop: Of a sort. The scientists finally manage to open a time window from the future to the present day; but they discover that they're living in hyperaccelerated time and are unable to affect anything in the present, and so they have no choice but to step through the time portal again when it opens. Lampshaded when the film ends with a couple of rapid-fire flashback sequences depicting the events of the film all over again, and again, and again.
  • Stealth Pun: The Forrest J. Ackerman character is busy squaring circles.
  • Technical Pacifist: When Steve brings up the possibility of arming the android workers to help repel the mutant attackers, Willard tells him that they (the androids) will act only in pure self-defense, and that they consider firearms too aggressive to use.
  • Technobabble: Gadra gets some particularly chunky lines as she describes the future society to the time-displaced scientists.
  • Teleportation with Drawbacks: The future humans have one that can teleport objects and people over short distances. It never gets much use, mainly because it requires a receiving unit at the destination.
  • Time Travel: Exactly What It Says on the Tin. In this film it's unintentional; the scientists only wanted a window through which they could view the future; but Danny notices that he can step into/through the window's image, and his curiosity gets the better of him.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Danny casually jumps through the time portal without a second thought, forcing the scientists, one by one, to go in looking for him — especially after they see mutants hunting him. This ends up getting them all trapped in the future.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: If Danny hadn't entered the time portal, the rest of the movie wouldn't have happened.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Zig-zagged; the androids are made for labor and defense; but we see only humans doing any actual work in the future colony.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: One human/mutant hybrid manages to sneak into the human colony. Despite the fact that he is not being violent (and is being only somewhat aggressive, mostly out of fear), and even after Carol demonstrates that he can understand others talking to him even though he himself is The Speechless, Willard is all too willing to shoot him where he stands, or at best throw him out to the mutants. The other characters call him out on his heartlessness.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: At first the humans of the future think that the scientists might take foreknowledge of the future back to their own time in order to avert the Bad Future, but they admit that they cannot change history (not even future history). Carol takes it one step further, noting that it means they will be unable to return to their own time at all. She proves partly correct.