Journey to the Center of Time (1968)

Rating:

USA. 1968.

Crew

Director – David L. Hewitt, Screenplay – David Prentiss [David L. Hewitt], Producers – David L. Hewitt & Ray Dorn, Photography – Robert Caramico, Photographic Effects – Modern Film Effects, Production Design – Edward D. Engoron. Production Company – Borealis Enterprises/Dorad Corporation

Cast

Anthony Eisley (Mark Manning), Scott Brady (Stanton Jr), Gigi Perreau (Karen White), Abraham Sofaer (Dr ‘Doc’ Gordon), Austin Green (Denning), Andy Davis (Dave), Tracy Olsen (Susan), Poupee Gamin (Dr Vina)


Plot

At Stanton Industries, a team of research scientists are attempting to crack the secrets of time travel but so far have been unable to send a person back in time any more than twenty-four hours. Stanton’s son inherits the firm after the death of his father. Determined to close down any unnecessary costs, he demands that the scientists show results. In a determination to make the process work, Mark Manning pushes beyond safety limits but instead transports the entire laboratory through time. They first arrive in the year 6968 after civilisation has been destroyed where they are plunged into the midst of a war between advanced aliens and the remnants of humanity. Next they are flung back to prehistory amid the dinosaurs where they then discover that they have no means of powering the lasers that open up the time warp.


David L. Hewitt’s name might not be as well-known as that of Edward D. Wood Jr, or any of the other competitors in the same ballpark like Al Adamson, Larry Buchanan and William Beaudine. However, David L. Hewitt has been responsible for some of the most miserable and cheap films of the 1960s and 70s including The Wizard of Mars (1965), Dr Terror’s Gallery of Horrors (1967), The Mighty Gorga (1970) and The Lucifer Complex (1978). Into the 1980s and 1990s, Hewitt retired from directing but continued to contribute effects to various cheap productions. He even managed to work on a number of A-budget films including Willow (1988) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989).

Hewitt also came up with the original story for The Time Travelers (1964), one occasion where he actually surpassed himself and contributed a moderate degree of intelligence to the work, in particular devising an imaginative twist ending. What one realises about halfway through Journey to the Center of Time is that Hewitt has simply gone and remade his script for The Time Travelers – but with about only a tenth of the budget. There are a few changes – not as much time is spent in the future and there is the addition of the journey into prehistory – but all the other essentials are there right down to the twist ending where the time travellers return to the present and see everything happening in ultra-slow motion and then repeat the whole cycle all over again. The title has clearly been designed to mimic the Jules Verne hit Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959).

That said, Journey to the Center of Time is thoroughly cheaply made on all counts. There is a dreary dullness to it. There is a complete lack of action, with the film almost entirely consisting of people sitting around a single control room set and talking, with what is happening outside only being relayed by footage on a viewscreen. The journey into the past is represented via stock footage from various historical films – WWII films, Westerns, swashbucklers, Civil War dramas, what looks like a Three Musketeers film and Roman centurion battle scenes – playing on the viewscreen. However, the worst part is the dinosaur scenes. The dinosaurs are represented by stock footage – possibly taken from One Million B.C. (1940) – that is in black-and-white. Indeed, there is only a single colour shot of the lizard, which looks utterly pathetic, and none of the lizards are ever seen in the same shots as the actors they are supposedly menacing. The action scenes in the future are incredibly cheaply directed – merely people running around in darkened corridors and some badly overlaid raygun opticals.

Hewitt does offer up one decent twist [PLOT SPOILERS] – a scene where Scott Brady’s hot-headed businessman shoots at the vehicle coming at them through time, only for it to later prove to be himself coming back through the time tunnel after he abandons the others and escapes in the pod. (Although the script fails to explain, if the laboratory was destroyed with Scott Brady in it, where the subsequent pod that turns up to save the abandoned scientists comes from).



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