Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Journey to the Center of Time


PreCommentary: A.k.a. Time Warp. The video box relentlessly announces:”They crossed over the forbidden limits of science, unleashingunknown and uncontrollable forces. Now, their time is runningout . . .”

Notes: American General Picture Corporation. Release date, according to videobox, 1970. 83 [or, according to video box, 86] minutes.

Stanton Jr.: Scott Brady
Dr. Mark Manning: Anthony Eisley
Dr. Karen White: Gigi Perreau
Dr. Gordon von Steiner: Abraham Sofaer
Mr. Denning: Austin Green
Susan: Tracy Olsen
Dave: Andy Davis
Vina: Poupee Gamin
Frosty Future Guy: Lyle Waggoner

Produced: Ray Dorin and David L. Hewitt
Associate Producer: J. Max Thornton
Directed: David L. Hewitt
Screenplay: David Prentiss
Special Camera Effects: Modern Film Effects

Summary: A tediously sanctimonious and dire male voice blabs about “TIME”and the “cold vast regions of the universe.” Someday,perhaps “man” will be able properly to negotiate betweenthe infinite past and the infinite future. [But then the viamedia, the center, would be . . . the present. So perhaps oneday “man” will live now? But then it’s not a journeyto the center of time since we’re already in it, right? I’m confused.]

The credits run over pictures of a sundial,an hourglass, clocks, and gears of clocks. [Obviously the ideawas to show endless images in the evolution of TIME-measuringtools, but frankly there aren’t that many.] So far, a colossalwaste of TIME!

Mr. Denning and Stanton Jr. drive to Stanton’sindustrial park inherited from his father. He’s pissy about beingcalled “jr.” and a classically fat-assed ’60s Republican. At one of his labs, Drs. Gordon, White, and Manning are experimentingin time travel, but can never travel backwards more than 24 hours. Although this was a pet project funded by Stanton Sr., thereis worry that Jr. wants to shut them down and convert the areato weapons development. At a meeting, the Drs. explain that they’vebeen able to photograph parking lots from the past and are onthe threshold of time travel, even “Phase B” which wouldinvolve looking into the future. But Stanton says he’ll shutthem down in 24 hours unless they turn up something drastic.

At night amongst the angst, we are forced to watch kissies between White and Manning. The next morning, Stanton shows up in the lab and Mark rashly decides to “open the photon cycle all the way.” Their monitor shows bombing and cities collapsing. Dear God, “the time transport circuits are completely fused!” They’re 5000 years into the future and “at the center of some sort of nuclear war!” A besilvered Lyle Waggoner comes aboard and takes the four to see Dr. Vina (who offers no wine at all). She explains that the year is 6968 and that their delegation are aliens come to colonize earth, but too late due to the global war which is resulting in the death of earth and humanity. An earthling warrior shoots her and she begs the time travellers to go back and advise 1968 about controlling weapons. In a laser-beam gun fracas, they escape to the lab and launch.

Stanton deduces that since the war they witnesseddid happen, then they must never get back to warn earth-1968;but Gordon thinks that maybe they do get back but no one listens. [I’m confused again.] On a collision course with a white blob,communication attempts fail so Stanton rashly shoots the thingwith the laser beam, screwing up the system again so that theyhurdle into the past.

The monitor shows the American view of “history”:a series of wars. Hence we see footage of naval exploits in Koreaand WWII, the Civil War, Indians vs. covered wagons, naval battles,sword duels, and armies with spears. We land “one millionyears b.c.” and Stanton for no reason goes outside. Gordonfor no reason goes after him. We see enlarged lizards on themonitor. Manning for no reason goes outside. A “dinosaur”approaches the lab and White for no reason goes outside.

She meets up with the others and lies aboutthe lizard: “He came after me and tried to attack the lab!” They hide in a cave and discover gigantic (and implausibly faceted)gems, one of which can replace the shattered one in the lab. [? Whatever.] Stanton, proud of his greed, tries to yank outof the rock wall another gem and starts a cave-in. Gordon plungesinto lava and Stanton abandons the others. He plunks down a gemin a gizmo and blasts off in, and with, the lab. But he seesanother white blob approaching and we realize that the lab metthe lab last time, crossing time-paths, so Stanton blowing upthe blob last time means he blew up himself. And he does.

The lab appears back in dino-land where Markand Karen board. [I’m really confused.] They travel back to1968, but somehow don’t hit it quite right and they end up seeingthemselves at an almost frozen still version of the meeting withStanton and Denning near the beginning of the film. Mark decidesthey now exist in a world outside time at an accelerated ratewhere they would be only shadows to their former selves and theothers at the meeting. [But what if they stayed put a reallylong time?] With echoey tedium, we watch scenes from the entirefilm again! Aaaauuugghh!

Finally, Karen and Mark zip off in their lab,with Mark announcing in self-important and conflated clichés,”We may be the Adam and Eve of a brave new world.”

Commentary: I’m really really confused. Some of the ideas are intriguing,such as coming back out-of-sync. But I’m pretty sure this moviedoesn’t make any sense; however, it also sucks away the viewer’swill to live, so one doesn’t end up with the energy to followthrough logically why this film doesn’t make any sense.

The depiction of time, or history, as a seriesof wars can be used to make a useful point about American education.

Otherwise, I’m perfectly happy to remain hereon the periphery of time.