Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Everyone in Hollywood has their talents, whether they be actors, directors, stuntmen or trophy wives. However even A-list individuals can be strong in one area but fail miserably in others. The great Peter Fonda, for example, was an iconic actor who faltered when he got on the other side of the camera and churned out movies like 1973's 'Idaho Transfer'.

Parts of the movie were clever. Creating a time travel movie with absolutely no budget is a notable feat. It also had evocative sound and visual effects and a plot that teased out concepts obliquely. However it was marred by terrible dialogue, worse acting, confused editing and an ending so blazingly dunderheaded that it defies belief.

A team of research scientists has accidentally discovered time travel, and are able to insert themselves fifty six years into the future. One of the vagaries of the process is that nothing metal can go with them. This means that before "transferring", the travellers need to remove their jeans and any other item of clothing with metal fasteners. One could argue that it would be less troublesome and more logical if everyone just transferred in sweat pants, but then there wouldn't be any scenes of softcore sapphic nuzzling. Priorities, people.

The time machine, as designed by Russ Meyer.

Of course they keep this invention secret from the government agency that funds them, even after they discover that the future isn't looking too swell. In 1973 it was generally accepted that the government would use any scientific breakthrough to have more Vietnam Wars, ban Procol Haram or put valium in the water supply.

In the future something has gone horribly wrong. The world has been radically depopulated by some unknown disaster. There are only vague clues: sealed cars full of dust, a stalled freight train stacked with human remains wrapped in plastic, tiny pockets of survivors suffering massive mental and physical retardation with a life expectancy that barely covers their teens.

Someone from the future left a crappy rusted 70s car by the side of the road? Impossible!

You would imagine that the characters would immediately set about discovering what had happened. It would be relatively simple - find the nearest population centre, locate a gas station or a diner, and read the latest newspaper or news magazine that was lying around. Break into a police station or emergency services office and read whatever telexes and memos you could find. Find a hospital and check the most recent patient records.

But this is the 70s and they're teenagers, so the idea of methodical research and analysis never enters their solipsistic little heads. Of course they know what went wrong: it was The Man, the government, those Wall Street and Madison Avenue fatcats. They ruined everything, leaving only The Youth to save the future.

Unfortunately The Youth are annoying 70s hippies, who are more accustomed to sulking, histrionics and Olympic-level whining than going about recreating civilisation. And so, of course, they bully each other, complain, have tantrums, go crazy, and then die.

But apparently all is not lost. After ducking government agents, her homicidal colleagues and the vast weight of her own moaning, "heroine" Karen resets the transfer machine and sends herself many hundreds of years into the future. She staggers for days through a landscape even more denuded than it was before, eventually collapsing on a roadside, where a family in a futuristic car find her. The father picks her up and deposits her in a compartment in the rear of the vehicle, and as the door closes we hear her begin to scream.

The dialogue from the family, once they get underway again, implies that Karen is now "fuel" for their car. Their car runs on hippies? Or on whining? Either way, they can now drive to the moon and back if the mood takes them.

To be fair, whining hippies are a renewable resource.

And so another 70s movie ends with everyone dying and, more importantly, with everyone in the audience happy that they're gone. The 70s really was a very misanthropic decade.


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