Hi, everybody, it's Pam. Today I'm going to be reviewing a movie I first watched on TV when I was a teenager, which was quite a long time ago. Still, for some reason it stuck in my head, although I couldn't remember most of the details, including the title or who played the main characters. For that reason, it took me some time to find out which movie it was, but I did at last learn the title, and I was able to find that it has been posted on Youtube. It's Beyond the Time Barrier, a science-fiction movie made in 1960. As with so many of the movies MMT reviews, the film quality is poor, so the screencaps aren't the best. Sorry about that.

The first thing we see as the movie opens is this.

I'd hate to have to parallel park this

Out steps a man in an Air Force uniform.


This is Major Bill Allison, the hero of this movie. He's played by Robert Clarke, an actor, director, and producer who made a lot of movies but never advanced beyond B level. (The same can be said of most of the other actors who played the main characters in this movie.) A brief exposition tells us that Bill's been assigned to test a new rocket engine at an altitude of 100 miles above the Earth, and once that's over, Bill is in his flight suit, in his airplane, and on his way.

Does anybody know what type of jet this is? Nate?

Everything seems to be going well. The aircraft reaches an altitude of 100 miles and the rocket engine is functioning as designed, when back on Earth, his radio transmission fades out into static, and he doesn't respond to hails. Meanwhile, 100 miles above Earth, there's a weird twanging sound from the aircraft, and the image of the aircraft splits into two images, one of which disappears. Bill is now bringing the aircraft back to Earth, still accompanied by the strange sound, and he doesn't seem to think it's odd that nobody is responding to his radio communications. He goes ahead and lands the aircraft without any ground clearance.

What does he see? Well, the base is still there, although the buildings look very much the worse for wear. (However, the runway was in perfect shape when he landed his plane, although I think we're not supposed to notice that.) There are a few decaying vehicles here and there. What there aren't are any people.

What could have happened?

Bill walks around a good part of the base but can't find anyone. He finally gives up and tries looking outside the base, where he finally comes across this.

Somewhat unexpected

If I saw something like this, I'd head straight for it, and so does Bill. We don't actually get to see the entire city, just the interior of a building which seems to be on the outskirts, but it's enough to show us that we aren't in 1960 anymore.

Why can't I work in a place like this?

Bill might have done better to stay on the base, as the inhabitants of this city don't seem to be friendly to strangers. The man at the console operates controls to line up crosshairs on Bill, then the man presses a button and Bill collapses. He's picked up by two people in fully-encapsulating suits, and when he wakes up, he's standing in a transparent tube surrounded by several people who are holding what is clearly some kind of gun. They finally raise the tube, and Bill naturally demands to know where he is. Nobody answers no matter how much he yells, but they do release him from his restraints, at which he becomes even more belligerent and starts shoving and hitting the people in the room. They show surprising restraint and seem to be trying to subdue him without using their weapons. Nobody gets hurt, but nobody's backing down, either, until a pretty young woman steps in and gestures for them to stop.

What is this vision of loveliness?

The young woman escorts Bill through a series of corridors filled with people. They eventually arrive in the room we saw first, where the man used some sort of device to knock Bill out. There are two men in it: one a middle-aged man with a beard, the other an older man with a foreign accent. (Vladimir Sokoloff, the actor who played the older man, was Russian.) The younger man refers to the older man as "The Supreme" and addresses him as "My Master," and the older man calls the younger one "Captain." From their brief conversation, we learn that Bill isn't the only prisoner they've taken. The Supreme seems rather impressed that Bill can speak and hear, and he tells Bill that that's because except for himself and the Captain, all of the other inhabitants of the city are deaf-mutes. This includes the young woman, although she appears to be telepathic. She is the Supreme's granddaughter, and her name is Trirene. I can't tell you how to pronounce it, because everyone seems to pronounce it differently. She's played by Darlene Tompkins, an actress who acted in only a few movies besides this one. She's certainly pretty, but it's hard to tell how good an actress she is, since she never says a word.

The Captain and the Supreme make it clear that they think Bill is a spy. They are unfamiliar with his flight suit and the insignia on it, and they appear to have never heard of the United States Air Force. They tell Bill that he ought to cooperate with them, because if they hadn't captured him, "the mutants" would have. Just how far in the future are we?

Bill says that he can't answer their questions because he doesn't belong here and has no idea how he got here. The Captain doesn't believe him and wants to rough him up to make him talk, but Trirene conveys to her grandfather that Bill is telling the truth. The Supreme tells the Captain to "follow through with his plan," which sounds like bad news for Bill. However, as Bill is led away, the Supreme suggests to Trirene that she seems to have quite a bit of interest in Bill and tells her to be careful. His soft tone and her smile lead me to believe that Trirene will make sure that Bill's treated well, and the Supreme won't stop her.

At first it seems as though these peoples' idea of good treatment is somewhat different from ours. Bill is dragged to a part of the building that doesn't seem to belong to what we've seen.

All hope abandon, ye who enter here

It looks like a dirt-filled pit, and the other inhabitants sound like raving lunatics. They may in fact be lunatics, because they are the mutants the Captain and the Supreme were talking about.

So this is what's outside the city

The mutants hate the inhabitants of the city, because the city has food and the mutants are starving. The mutants tell Bill that they are mutants on account of a long-ago plague, and furthermore, they hate Bill because he and someone named Carl Cruise left them here to die. But they also say that the city's inhabitants are also infected with the plague, and sooner or later it'll catch up with them. Bill doesn't know what to make of this information, but before he can question the mutants further, two of the deaf-mute guards open the door to the pit and drag him out.

Bill is taken back to the Supreme and Trirene. The Supreme tells him that Trirene is indeed telepathic, and she has sensed that Bill can be trusted. The Supreme has decided that Bill's to be allowed to go wherever he wants in the city. That's lucky for Bill, it didn't look as though he had a very long life expectancy with the mutants.

Bill is led to a fairly comfortable bedroom and given food. He decides to explore a little, and shortly he stumbles upon Trirene's quarters. These people don't seem to value privacy, since the bedrooms have no ceilings and are open to public corridors. Bill asks Trirene what has happened since he disappeared from his own time, and fortunately she really is telepathic and knows just what he wants to know. She manages to convey that her grandfather lived in the city when he was a young man, and it seems that this was around the time that Bill lived there. The building they are in now was built when Trirene's parents were young adults, and somehow Bill knows that the people who live in this building almost never go out. Although it hasn't been evident until now, the entire building is enormous and is underground. (It's not clear if that city Bill saw earlier really exists or if there's nothing there but this one big building.) The threat of plague and the mutants resulting from the plague drove the survivors to shut themselves up underground. It seems that the mutants killed Trirene's parents.

Trirene doesn't seem to know much more, but it turns out that the Carl Cruise the mutant mentioned is still alive and living in the building. She takes Bill to see him, and Cruise turns out to be a man in his mid-50s. He in turn introduces Bill to a Professor Boreman. In addition, a Captain Markova is present. As it happens, Captain Markova is a sultry brunette woman who immediately starts teasing Trirene about her attraction to Bill. (She's played by Arianne Ulmer who is the daughter of Edgar G. Ulmer, the man who directed this movie.) The embarrassed Trirene slaps Markova and runs out of the room, but Markova says that she did it to make Trirene leave so she couldn't read their thoughts. Once Trirene's gone, they switch on several pieces of equipment and tell Bill that this will enable to speak freely, although they'll have to talk fast because the Captain will be coming once he realizes the equipment is on.

Cruise, Boreman, and Markova refer to themselves as escapees from the plague that created the mutants. They tell Bill that the city's inhabitants have been exposed to the plague themselves and are first-stage mutants, which is why they're all deaf-mutes - and sterile, adds Markova, with the possible exception of Trirene. Not too surprisingly, both the mutants and the city's inhabitants hate the escapees. Markova thinks that the Supreme wants Trirene and Bill to try producing some children.

Cruise also informs Bill that the current year is 2024, and the plague began in 1971. What's more, colonies had been established on Mars and Venus by 1970. So what caused the plague? According to Cruise, all of the atomic testing done in the 1940s and 1950s caused radioactive particles to enter the atmosphere, which destroyed the ozone layer and allowed cosmic rays to reach the Earth. This is what caused people to mutate and become sterile, although it doesn't seem accurate to refer to it as a plague. Then what about the colonies on Mars and Venus? Boreman says that the people on Earth who had not been affected by the cosmic rays were allowed to go to the colonies.

Just then, the conversation is interrupted by the sound of the elevator bringing someone to the room, but Bill has time to tell them that his airplane is still at what's left of the airbase, and the plane is still operational, before the Captain enters the room, accompanied by two armed guards. The Captain chews out the three escapees, shuts off the equipment that was jamming the listening devices, and marches Bill out.

On the way back to Bill's bedroom, the Captain informs Bill that the escapees are dangerous and ruthless. He feels they are a threat to the people in the city, but he doesn't explain why the city people keep them around if they're such a threat. He deposits Bill in his room, tells him to be nice to Trirene because she's the city's only hope, and leaves.

It seems to me that everybody's being a little too slow to tell Bill the full story, and I'm wondering if this means everybody has something to hide, or if the writers are doing this to build suspense. Whichever it is, the movie's half over and I'm not bored, so I guess it's working.

Bill mulls over the Captain's words briefly, then goes to find Trirene. We now see that her bedroom is right next to Bill's, and oddly has a door on one side but is open to the common area on the other. Design of living space, and architecture in general, has evidently changed a lot in 64 years.

These people have developed a real obsession with triangles

Poor Trirene is crumpled on her bed, clearly grief-stricken. Bill apologizes to her, and the apology becomes flirting. Trirene seems to like it, but before it can go too far, she shows him out. Outside her room, Bill smiles, but then spots Markova lurking outside. He's not happy to see her, but he becomes friendlier when she tells him that Cruise and Boreman know how to return him to his own time. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn't be in such a hurry to go back, because if Cruise was right, Bill will have only a few years before the plague develops. However, Bill doesn't see things the way I do, and he seems willing to cooperate, especially when she says that when he gets back to his time, he may be able to prevent the plague. I'm wondering whether an Air Force major will really be able to convince the world powers to stop atomic testing, but he seems more confident of his powers of persuasion than I am.

Cruise and Boreman believe that they can get Bill back home the same way he got to 2024: by flying very fast. In fact, that's how they and Markova got to 2024 themselves. It seems that when you travel too fast, you can slip into the fifth dimension and come out into a different time. Markova came from 1973, and Cruise and Boreman from 1994. All Bill has to do to get back to 1960 is to fly his jet the same way he did to get to 2024, but in the opposite direction. Now why didn't I think of that?

However, it seems that getting back to his jet might be a problem. No one is allowed to leave the city without permission from the city's rulers, which they believe Bill won't get. If Markova's right, they want Bill there to make some babies with Trirene. Cruise says that the Supreme has a map of the Citadel complete with secret exits, but the only one who could possibly get it is Trirene. I don't know why the Supreme bothers to keep the map secret, since any inhabitants of the Citadel would have to be crazy to want to go outside, but anyway he does, and Trirene will have to get it. Bill's initially reluctant to sweet-talk Trirene into stealing from her grandfather, but his reluctance lasts literally less than a minute before he agrees to do it.

So Bill marches off to do his duty, and he comes across Trirene swimming in a swimming pool. A pile of clothes beside the pool hints that she is naked, but the water is colored so that all you can see are her head and arms. Bill is gentlemanly enough to turn his back as she climbs out and wraps herself in a large towel. She modestly indicates with an outstretched arm and pointed finger that he is to leave her while she gets dressed. I guess this scene was at least mildly daring for 1960, especially to the teenagers who likely made up most of the audience, but as I said, you really don't get to see much of her.

Once fully dressed, Trirene joins Bill and apparently knew as soon as she got out of the pool what it was he wanted, because we see Bill making notes and rolling up what looks to be a map. He tells her that he's going back to 1960 to stop the plague, so that she and the rest of the people can live on the surface. (Then what was that city with the tall buildings we saw earlier?) She looks sad but nods her head in agreement, then she and Bill finally kiss.

Is this relationship going to work out?

Trirene agrees to get Bill past the guards at the exit of the Citadel. Unfortunately the Captain has noticed that the signals from his spy devices in Cruise and Boreman's lab have been jammed, and he's sure they're all planning an escape. The Supreme agrees and says that Trirene is helping them, but he's not sure that letting them go is a bad thing. The Captain thinks that Cruise, Boreman, and Markova are in cahoots with the mutants and want to help the mutants invade the Citadel, although I can't imagine what the three think that would get them. There's some back and forth between the Supreme and they finally agree that the Captain will bring Bill to the Supreme so the Supreme can discuss this with Bill.

Bill doesn't come quietly, but two guards drag him to the Supreme. There is much debate between the two of them, and they don't reach an agreement - Bill still insists on going back to 1960, and the Supreme has made up his mind that he's going to keep Bill here. Can this be resolved? Maybe. Just then, we see Markova lurking in the background, and she is armed with a large knife.

Sinister! (And more triangles)

Do you remember the mutants' cell? There's an armed guard posted outside, and Markova sneaks up on him and stabs him in the back. He collapses without a sound, she helps herself to his rifle, and just like the godless Communist she surely must be, she lets out the mutants and urges them to revolt against their oppressors.

While this is going on, the Captain decides to put Bill in the mutants' pit and is dragging him there, when out jump some mutants and Markova. The mutants commence to fighting with the Captain and his goons, while Markova leads Bill back to his "room" so he can get his flying suit. Bill wants to get Trirene and take her with him, but Markova says that this can't be done, because Trirene wasn't alive in 1960. Markova emphasizes her opinion with her rifle and announces to Bill that not only is she coming with him, they'll be going to 1973 where she's from rather than 1960.

What would Cruise and Boreman think of this? We find out immediately as they arrive accompanied by Trirene just in time to hear Markova's plan, and Cruise doesn't take time to argue with her but draws a pistol and shoots her. He kills her with one shot, and Bill, Trirene, Cruise, and Boreman take off running through the Citadel to find an exit.

The corridors are full of mutants and Citadel people fighting, and it appears that some of the mutant men are taking some time out to rape a few Citadel women. It's hard to say which side is getting the best of it, and in the confusion the quartet have little trouble making their way to an exit. But when they're almost there, Cruise bites the dust when Boreman hits him over the head with the rifle he's carrying. Boreman tells Bill and Trirene that Cruise was planning to kill them. Trirene indicates that he's lying, and Bill thinks so too, but Boreman pulls a gun on him and orders Bill to take off his flight suit. Boreman is planning to fly Bill's jet back to 1994. Bill attacks Boreman, and in the struggle, Boreman's gun goes off and Trirene is hit. Bill finally gets the best of Boreman and goes to Trirene. She's in bad shape, but she manages to communicate to Bill that she wants to be taken to her grandfather.

Doom, destruction, and despair!

Bill carries Trirene through corridors filled with bodies. The first signs of life we see are two armed guards outside the door to the Supreme's office. Once inside, it seems that the Supreme is alive and well, but Trirene has died on the way. Bill tells the Supreme that he will go back to 1960 and stop the plague from happening, and now the Supreme is ready to agree, since with Trirene dead there's no need for Bill's stud services, although the Supreme doesn't actually say that. The Supreme removes a ring from Trirene's finger, slips it onto Bill's finger, and takes Bill to the exit to the surface.

So Bill flies off in his jet, which fortunately hasn't been vandalized by mutants or damaged by exposure to weather (it hasn't been said how long Bill was in the Citadel). He reaches the same altitude he was at before, the shadow plane rejoins his, and he's greeted by the welcome sounds of ground control at the air base. By the time he lands, he seems to be exhausted by his ordeal, and he has to be lifted out of his plane and taken to the base hospital. Apparently the flight was a lot rougher than it seemed, because he's taken to an operating room. His superior officer shows up and goes straight into the operating room, even though the doctor appears to be actually beginning to operate on Bill. We never do learn what Bill's injuries are, because the nurse gasps with horror, and a close-up shows that Bill is now much older. Don't ask me why the nurse is just noticing this.

Poor Bill, first a broken heart and now this

Not surprisingly, there is considerable concern about how Bill could have taken off a young man and landed no more than an hour or two later an old man. We don't see anything more about Bill's medical treatment, but they apparently get him patched up enough to tell his story. The scene switches to a conference room, where several high-ranking military officers and civilians are listening to a tape recording of Bill telling what happened. Nobody is scoffing at it, and shortly after it's over, they all go to see the now-aged Bill. It seems that they have checked up on Boreman and Cruise and have found that they really do exist, although in 1960 they're only university students. Bill gives them Trirene's ring, although there doesn't seem anything about it that suggests it came from the future, and reiterates that the plague has to be prevented. The movie ends with the statement from one of the higher-ups that "Gentlemen, we've got a lot to think about."

This was a pretty good movie, and I have only a couple of things to pick at. In the first place, why can the Supreme and the Captain hear and speak? It's mentioned that they were already born when the plague started. Is it possible that you have to be exposed to the cosmic rays in utero to become deaf and mute? But if so, are the Supreme and the Captain the only people in the Citadel less than 53 years old? And this brings up another point. If the plague started in 1971, this means that only about two generations have elapsed since Bill's time. How could the Supreme and the Captain be unfamiliar with Bill's uniform and with the Air Force? The Supreme, at least, looks old enough to have been at an age in 1971 to remember what the Air Force was. (The actor who played the Supreme was 70 when the movie was made.) Do most people who are exposed to the cosmic rays die when they're, say, about 40 or 50 so that there are actually few if any people left in the Citadel who remember the Air Force?

These are trivial points, however. The movie's still good, and well worth watching. Edgar G. Ulmer knew what he was doing.

[Editor Bradley: I've always liked this one, too, Pam. Ulmer's previous production, The Amazing Transparent Man (1960), played a double bill with this film and may be found elsewhere on MMT here. The original screenplay for Beyond the Time Barrier was written by Arthur C. Pierce, and is fairly typical of his work in that it's full of good ideas but poorly developed due to time and budget restraints. We last encountered Pierce's work here. He also wrote Cyborg 2087 (1966), the film James Cameron straight-up ripped off, without credit or acknowledgement, when he made The Terminator (1984).]

Written by Pam Burda in August, 2021.

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