I first heard about this one in the Mick Martin and Marsha Porter Video Movie Guide. Don’t ask me which year, but it was from their early days when they tried to offer a review of every movie ever offered on video.
There, along with their list of movies with “Time” in the title was a review for a movie I’d never heard of, to which they gave a fairly impressive star rating, and a glowing review, as a clever, low budget SF film.
Naturally, I wanted to see it, but despite repeated efforts, never did manage to find it.
And then it turned up on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
As I noted in my review for The Projected Man, I am not a fan of MST3K. In fact, I suspect the show has done more to keep the films they’ve mocked from getting a chance to find an audience than it has helped shed light on SF film (as its fans would claim). Certainly, all the other reviews of this film since then have rated it very, very, very low.
Admittedly, you can find a few contrary voices, like someone who called it one of the best movies MST3K ever showed, but that’s still not exactly high praise.
The reality? I side with Martin and Porter on the whole. It’s very much in the same vein as Back to the Future, and it gives us yet another villainous Capitalist (although for once, he’s just a stand-in for the full military/industrial complex) but, at the two-thirds mark, when I was just beginning to think it had far too linear a plot, it suddenly found a nice round of complications, crossing timelines, and reasonably accomplished action sequences (including a nicely filmed mountain bike chase, back when they were still a fairly new invention).
This is a solid, low budget effort, more popcorn than Primer, admittedly, but reasonably entertaining on its own terms.
The irony here is that this time the film broke even when MST3K bought the rights to mock it. Its director, David Giancola has gone on to direct and produce a lot of low budget SF and horror films (including Brett Piper‘s Arachnia). Thanks to the popularity of that MST3K episode, the film has built up a fan base, who even buy replicas of the hero’s Castleton College T-Shirt. Rifftracks (aka, the act formerly know as MST3K) did a live mocking of the film not too long ago, and Edgewood Studios has just released the original on DVD.