The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Beyond The Time Barrier (dir by Edgar G. Ulmer)


This 1960 film tells the story of Bill Allison (Robert Clarke), an air force test pilot who flies his test craft into space and then returns to discover that Earth has totally changed!

The Air Force base where he previously worked is now deserted and desolate.  After he’s captured by a group of silent soldiers, Allison is taken to an underground city known as the Citadel.  He meets the head of the city, an older man known as The Supreme (Vladimer Sokoloff).  The Supreme explains that only he and his second-in-command, The Captain (Red Morgan), can speak and hear.  The rest of humanity communicates through telepathy.  Though the Supreme’s granddaughter, Princess Trirene (Darlene Tompkins), telepathically insists that Allison is not a threat, the Supreme and the Captain still exile him to live with a bunch of angry, bald mutants who are determined to destroy the city.  Allison meets three other exiles and discovers that they too are time travelers.  The scientists explains that Bill has found himself in the far future.  The year is no longer 1960.  No, the year is …. 2024!

OH MY GOD, WE’VE ONLY GOT TWO YEARS LEFT!

Actually, we’ve probably got less than two years left.  This is October and the film appears to be taking place in the summer so we’ve probably only got 18 months to go!

(Cue Jennifer Lawrence: “We’re all gonna die!”  Cue Leonardo Di Caprio: “I’m so scared!”  Okay, tell them both to shut up now.)

Anyway, Allison assumes that society must have collapsed due to a global war but the scientists explain that the first manned spacetrip to the moon actually ushered in an era of peace.  (Wow, how did I miss this?)  In fact, humans had colonized the Moon, Mars, and Venus by 1970.  (Woo hoo!  Yay, humanity!)  However, years of nuclear testing had weakened the Earth’s atmosphere and, in 1971, the planet was bombarded by cosmic rays.  (Uh oh….)  Humanity was forced to move into underground cities.  Some of them developed telepathy and became super advanced.  Others became bald mutants.  Unfortunately, everyone is now sterile and the Supreme probably expects Allison to impregnate Trirene and do his part to repopulate the planet.

On the one hand, Allison and Trirene are falling in love.  Allison is handsome and strong.  Trirene has pretty hair and is the only citizen of the Citadel who gets to wear anything flattering.  They’re a cute couple.  On the other hand, if Allison sticks around the repopulate the planet, he’ll never be able to go back to his present and warn everyone about the upcoming cosmic ray plague.  Plus, it soon becomes clear that the scientists have an agenda of their own.  Allison finds himself torn between the two factions trying to control the Citadel.

Made for next to no money and filmed at Fair Park in Dallas, Beyond The Time Barrier is a surprisingly good film.  It was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, an Austrian director who started out as an associate of Fritz Lang’s and who followed Lang to the United States.  Ulmer made films for the Poverty Row studios and he was a master of creating atmosphere on a budget.  He was one of the pioneers of film noir and he brought that same style to his horror and sci-fi films.  As envisioned by Ulmer in Beyond The Time Barrier, the future is full of menacing shadows, dangerous con artists, and untrustworthy authority figures.  It’s a fatalistic film, one that ends on a surprisingly downbeat note.  Even if Allison can save humanity, will it really be worth all the trouble?  Much like Detour, Ulmer’s best-known film, Beyond The Time Barrier plays out like a deliberately-paced dream, full of surreal moments and ominous atmosphere.

Beyond The Time Barrier is available on YouTube and Prime.  Watch it now before we have to go underground.

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