Beyond The Time Barrier (1959)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/6/20
Cast: Robert Clarke, Darlene Tompkins

US Air Force Major William Allison (Robert Clarke) is flying an experimental plane through the Earth's stratosphere in excess of 5000 mph when he breaks "the time barrier" and is propelled into the future. When he lands, the air base is in ruins and there are no signs of life. A group of underground dwellers capture him and imprison him, thinking he's a spy from some unknown enemy. Only two people in this strange society can speak, while the rest are either deaf, mute, and sterile, or barbaric mutants from the surface world who are kept in cages. Lucky for Allison, the Supreme Leader's granddaughter Trirene (Darlene Tompkins) takes a liking to him, otherwise he'd be fed to the mutants. Trirene is not only royalty and the prettiest girl on the planet, but she's also the only fertile one, and she intends to save what's left of the human race with Allison's untainted DNA. It turns out that it's the year 2024, and humanity was nearly wiped out by a deadly plague in 1971. Allison meets a handful of scientists who also slipped through the time barrier and they secretly make plans to send Allison back to his own time by reversing the phenomenon. This leaves Allison with a difficult moral choice: Does he stay in the future with his super sexy girlfriend and hope that his offspring will be healthy and able to save the human race, or does he doom Mankind to die out by taking a wild gamble that he can return to 1960 and try to prevent the plague? (assuming anyone will listen to him)

The film starts out promising enough and feels like an extended episode of "The Twilight Zone." The ruined and abandoned military base is a fascinating location, and the triangular motif of the subterranean citadel looks fantastic. Unfortunately, the film also has its fair share of bad matte paintings and tacky visual effects which betray its low budget. Additionally, some of the mutant footage was blatantly taken from some other movie, which creates some hilarious continuity flaws. The future is an interesting place, and with nearly everyone mute, the only sound that can be heard is the clicking of women's stiletto heels as they strut around in their futuristic mini-dresses and fishnet stockings. Unfortunately, the pacing grinds to a halt as Allison weighs his options and contemplates his moral duty, and the action doesn't pick up again until the very end.

Robert Clarke does an adequate job as the handsome and bewildered test pilot, although his repeated demands of "Where am I? Who are you people? Answer me!" become tiresome very quickly. Darlene Tompkins has little to do other than look pretty and flash her devastating smile. Naturally, her love for Allison leads her to betray her people, only to be betrayed herself. The Supreme Leader actually gives a surprisingly poignant performance as he desperately attempts to negotiate the future of Mankind with Allison.

Apart from the time travel angle, the film also serves as a cautionary tale about the space race and nuclear war. The world didn't end in nuclear war as most people feared it would, but rather the radioactive dust from atomic weapons testing ruined the atmosphere's ability to shield Earth from deadly cosmic rays, similar to a hole in the ozone layer. These cosmic rays were responsible for the plague that destroyed the planet. While the science in the movie is a bit ridiculous, it's treated seriously enough to give the story weight and provide some heady social commentary. Overall, it's a mildly entertaining and contemplative low budget picture that provides an interesting window into another time.