Review of “Terror from the Year 5000” (1958)


This is the result of our latest Saturday night pizza and bad movie foray. The pizza was good. The movie—well—

Plot:

In isolation on an island off Florida, Professor Howard Erling (Frederic Downs), along with his financial backer Victor (John Stratton) work to break the time barrier. As the narrator has already informer the viewer, the sound barrier was broken in 1947, and the “space barrier” broken in 1958. Huh? (Sputnik was launched in 1957.)

In the chamber of their time machine, which resembles perhaps an overgrown and reinforced water heater with a viewing portal, a metal statuette appears. For a moment, a negative of a woman’s face flashes over it. Victor tries to call the Professor’s attention to what he sees, but by the time he does, the image is gone. All that’s left is—huh—another statue, a headless nude female, twisting as if in agony.

This is 1958. No bare lady parts are visible. The viewer knows the statue depicts a female from its abstract shapely tushie.

The statuette is delivered to museum curator Dr. Robert Hedges (Ward Costello), along with a letter requesting verification of age. He explains the purpose of carbon-dating to his assistant, Miss Blake (Beatrice Furdeaux), who is for some reason quite fuzzy on the concept.

The learned Dr. Hedge dates the object (cue the Theremin) to 5200 AD—not BC.—three thousand years in the future.

Yeah, ‘cause carbon-12 dating works like an expiration date or something on inorganic objects.

Upon further investigation, Hedges comes to understand that the statue is radioactive. He hurries down to Florida to find out more.

Thoughts:

We watched this via Mystery Science Theater. Their comments were hit and miss, as usual, but many of them provoked outright snickers. Some alluded to old TV shows and function as age tests.

When a Geiger counter goes nuts as a lab technician runs is over the statue, the MST3K crew compares it to Jolly Time popcorn.

“Always dive first into an unfamiliar lake.”

Prof. Erling and Victor become convinced the objects they put in their time machine are being exchanged with objects from the future. Dr. (“I know all there is to know about carbon-14 dating”) Hedges is understandably skeptical and sends his fraternity pin through the time machine. It is exchanged with a wafer inscribed with a message in Greek:

(MST3K: “Good for a bumper ride at Chuck E. Cheese’s.”)

Dr. Hedges: ““Help us.”

Prof. Erling’s daughter Clare (Joyce Holder) is seeing Victor, but she instantly falls for Dr. Hedges. Victor is making some unauthorized use of the time machine. Seems his dating life is about to get all the more interesting. So now not only is Dr. Hedges snooping around his time machine, he’s making moves on his girl.

The movie is such a jumbled mess, but underneath it is a reminder of the horror of nuclear war and atomic radiation. Throw in a little bit of (very tame…) sex you’re primed for a hot mess.

A streak of misogyny also runs through the film. The viewer is treated with needless scenes of Clare undressing before she joins Hedges swimming and before she goes to bed. The “terror” summoned by Victor is also female, a damaged female in this case, who is looking for some good breeding stock. She’s willing to dispatch some rivals to make this happen.

I found this more creepy—but for all the wrong reasons—than terrifying or even fun.

The film can be watched here.

Title: Terror from the Year 5000 (1958)
Director: Robert J. Gurney Jr.
Writer: Robert J. Gurney Jr. and Henry Slesar
Released: January 1958
Length:  approx. 1 hour, 32 minutes.

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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