Saturday, January 21, 2017

139. The Day Time Ended

139. The Day Time Ended (1979)
Director: John “Bud” Cardos
Writers: Wayne Schmidt, J. Larry Carroll, and David Schmoeller from a story by Steve Neill
From: Sci-Fi Invasion

A family moves into their newly-built house only to find themselves at the center of a vortex between time and space.

I don’t know where to start with this movie. For instance, the IMDB summary says, “Aliens visit the solar-powered house of a middle-class family, and the house is suddenly sucked into a time warp that transports it back to prehistoric times.” That includes elements that sound like things I saw in this movie, but I’d swear this was describing a completely different film. Likewise, I could talk about this being a relatively early Charles Band production featuring co-creators that’d work with him on Puppetmaster and other Full Moon Pictures’ features. It’s not like I can talk about the story. There is no story. Let me tell you the full story:

A family moves into their newly-built house in the middle of the desert. Jenny, the youngest of the family, finds a glowing green pyramid that starts manipulating things to her will, but that doesn’t really matter to the plot.

An electrical storm forms over the house placing it in the middle of a vortex. Two alien monsters appear in the front yard, attack each other, and the surviving one harries the grandfather and his son. Then the house is taken to some strange future where it’s surrounded by the wreckage of various planes and trucks only to jump further forward to a world with several moons and two suns. During the trip, Jenny is, somehow, outside the vortex and her mother, Beth, jumps through it to save her, causing them both to disappear.

After the vortex subsides, the grandfather and grandmother meet the son in the stables where he insists only moments have passed, but they say hours. They ride off on horses and, as a new, massive sun starts to rise on the horizon a la Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren, Beth emerges from a green pyramid to say everything’s okay and that she’ll lead them to Jenny and her husband, both of whom are there. The reunited family crests a hill and see a futuristic gem-like city in the distance and happily head towards it.

An early film from the star of Air Bud.
The movie doesn’t have a plot or even a central logic, it’s just stuff that happens. This family happens to be at the center of it, but their actions don’t shape or decide any of the outcomes. There isn’t even a solid idea of what’s making everything happen. The movie opens with a voice-over from the grandfather saying that he now realizes all time happens at the same time, and his metaphors are even more muddled than that. Then three stars explode at the same time and this “trinary supernova,” as the radio station KXPN—all exposition, all the time—continually informs us, is bombarding the Earth with strange, but insignificant radiation.

There is a real pleasure to be had here, though. The special effects are pretty good. The aliens and tiny spaceships that harry the family are not only nicely designed, they also move nicely. All of this is blue-screened stop-motion and there’s no doubt that this is the case, but the aliens move pretty fluidly. Compared to the herky-jerky style of Ray Harryhausen, whose stuff is amazing, this is really good.

I also felt an odd nostalgia for something I never experienced (which may well be the definition of nostalgia itself) when I saw those effects. This movie is from 1979, right on the cusp of the 80’s and those effects are pure 80’s for me. This is the kind of stuff that was popping up on USA Up All Night and that metalheads were renting from the video store. I never watched Up All Night and my family was one of the last ones to get a VCR so that was never my experience, but watching this made me feel like I could remember it.

If I wanted to be snarky and uber-critical, I could point out how this movie is essentially a void—non-characters involved in a non-story that goes nowhere—but that wouldn’t reflect how I actually experienced it. In terms of what was sincerely good: the effects stood out. In fact, when the first alien appeared, I was wondering if it was stop-motion or a person in a suit because they managed it so well. Outside of that, the movie’s hilariously bad. The acting is terrible, the characters make awful decisions, and a lot of the situations are just silly. All of which makes it a great Saturday afternoon feature. Get some popcorn, some sodas, some friends and laugh away. It’s not good, but it’s entertaining enough for 80 minutes.

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