This film is sure to give you nightmares if you are a scientist. The onslaught of ridiculous inaccuracies could traumatize someone with a PhD or maybe even a masters. If you are a geologist in particular you really need to give this film a wide berth. The film is most likely safe for your average layperson. The less you know about the world the better.
We begin with a group of scientists climbing aboard their little metal sphere and launching themselves into the time-space continuum. Of course, they were already in the time-space continuum, we all are, we don’t get much of a choice. There are no emergency exits. Anyway, our intrepid scientists go somewhere and get lost in time or spacetime or something. The important thing is they are out of control and the camera spins a lot, I mean a lot a lot like I’m glad I wasn’t full of heavily oiled popcorn, gummy bears, and Sprite a lot.
We get to see their time traveling on a big tv screen that takes up one wall of their ship. Someone in production got a hold of a whole box full of editing room leftovers and made a Humanity Is Too Violent for Its Own Good Montage. There’s the obligatory stock footage from WW2 and WW1 and pieces from some Civil War movie, and a few scenes from some Cowboys and Indians films, some Ancient Roman stuff, and then the coup de grâce, one of those dinosaur movies where they use live animals on tiny sets to simulate dinosaurs. This one uses a monitor lizard, a roaring monitor lizard. Monitor lizards don’t have vocal chords but maybe 10 million years ago they did. Like I said, if you’re a scientist you may want to set this article aside.
The past is fun but the future is where they meet, Lyle Waggoner, the hunky fellah who used to play Colonel Steve Trevor on the 1970s tv version of Wonder Women. If you are as old as I am you probably hear the chorus from the Wonder Woman show every time someone says Wonder Woman. You don’t hear the whole song just the part where they sing “Wonder Woman!” Theme music aside, Waggoner is pretty cute but in Journey To The Center Of Time (oh yeah, that’s the name of the movie this article is about) they cover him with white makeup to illustrate the fact that he is a space alien. He has come to warn humanity that we are going to destroy ourselves.
Actually, all the aliens are pretty cute. The alien queen has, well she has… let’s just say her space suit is a little small for her frame. As a group, she and her alien brethren like to hang around what appears to be a dark go-go lounge with plenty of plinths for posing.
The color pallet for Journey To The Center Of Time is aggressively red and orange. The inside of the scientist’s ship is orange so we get a healthy dose of that, but for some reason when our team of scientists runs into a prehistoric cave to hide from the monitor lizard the cave is mysteriously lit by glowing red lights. Later the scientists take cover inside a volcano that bears a striking resemblance to the cave but this time it’s even redder. In the volcano, they hop from rock to rock in a lava pool without spontaneously combusting which is convenient. Speaking of convenience they happen to be looking for a ruby to power their laser and they coincidentally stumble into a room full of softball-size rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. The gems are all stuck to the walls like a climbing wall in a gym. One guy rips one off the wall and releases a high-pressure geyser of steam which makes the volcano erupt. You geologists were warned.
The gem thief is named Mr. Denning. He is the narcissistic, capitalist who doesn’t care about science, war, humanity, or progress he just wants to make a buck. Mr. Denning has the special privilege of unwittingly killing his future self and then going back in time and reliving the murder with the roles reversed. Technically it’s his past self who is killed by his future self but it happens in the future so the future self that is killed is really a past self of a third self which is discovered later. It’s no Looper, but I couldn’t understand Looper if I watched it every day for the rest of my life so I’m glad of that. Fucking Looper.
Not satisfied with simply dumping stock footage into every other scene the director of Journey To The Center Of Time, David L. Hewitt, starts cannibalizing his own film. To simulate the confusion of time travel he starts replaying scenes with added reverb. Near the end of the film, it feels like Hewitt just gives up and just edits together whatever is left into a long, very red montage. There is one thing that intrigues me. There is what seems to be an easter egg nestled in the middle of this film, or whatever you would call an easter egg in 1968.
While they are time traveling and all these historical images are flashing on the screen there is a brief clip from a film called The Angry Red Planet. It’s only on the screen for a second but it shows the scene where the characters in the film are facing down a 40-foot spider-bat. I don’t have a degree in history but I’m pretty sure our textbooks are spider-bat free. I don’t know what it was doing there but I was very glad to see it. It’s an awesome monster.
In the end, Journey To The Center Of Time fits easily into the cold war science fiction genre. The message is the same as all the rest. We humans can’t handle the destructive power we now possess and unless we awaken to the wisdom of the rational mind we will destroy ourselves.
There is an interesting contradiction at the heart of this message that has been a constant all the way back to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Science is seen as man’s greatest accomplishment that will usher in an era of progress, and yet there is a deep fear of the inhumanity of technology. Science and reason will save us from ourselves, but it might steel our humanity in the process. If science saves us will we still be ourselves once we are saved? I can hardly think of a science fiction film that doesn’t have this message somewhere in it.
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