Friday, 10 April 2015

BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER













d. Edgar G. Ulmer (1960)


A super cheap sci fi b-movie made on an abandoned air base in just ten days, Beyond The Time Barrier isn't exactly 'the most terrifying film ever made'*, but it is a tiny triumph over adversity, a testament to the ingenuity, imagination and determination of its director, Edgar G. Ulmer - and his family, who worked on the production in various roles.

When a USAF test pilot breaks the sound barrier and the time barrier in a new plane, he finds himself projected forward to the year 2024. Things are fairly grim in the future as a space plague has split mankind into two groups: murderous bald mutants, and deaf mute 'survivors' who have become sterile. The only fertile woman on the planet is wheeled out to mate with the test pilot and, as she's rather attractive, he's not too put out, although another time traveller, a bloody Russian, is about to put a mighty spoke in the works...

Ulmer started his film career as a set designer and, no matter how cheap his films are, they always have a very definite look. Here, the survivors live underground in a sort of geodesic pyramid. From the outside it's clearly a drawing but, inside, it is nicely realised, halfway between a bomb shelter and a holiday camp, made up of dozens of interlocking triangular panels. In a nice touch, Ulmer doesn't just fade the scenes in the pyramid out, but uses triangular ellipses to move from place to place. It's  a small but important point: Ulmer isn't just here to make pointless trash: he has a vision, and he manages to bring it to screen on a shoestring. Regardless of the results, I think that's quite an achievement.   

* The trailer makes quite a lot of unsubstantiated claims. 

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