Tuesday, August 7, 2007

An overlooked sci-fi classic involving time-traveling without pants

Idaho Transfer (1973)
Starring: Kelly Bohanon, Kevin Hearst, Caroline Hildebrand, and Keith Carradine
Director: Peter Fonda
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

Time travel is a reality, but only if you don't wear pants.

Such is the case in "Idaho Transfer" where half a dozen young scientists partaking in an illicit time-travel experiment are stranded 57 years in the future after a mysterious disaster has wiped civilization (and possibly even human life) from the world.

Despite my amusement at the fact that the time machine only works if those using it take off their pants--the movie gives a rationale for the need to do so, but it's so laughable that the real reason had to have been the director liked to see young women in their panties--this is a dark, bleak film that ultimately conveys the message that there is no hope for humanity, no matter what we try. However, unlike many other movies of this kind, it's a message delivered by decent actors, with interesting visuals, and a script that although nearly devoid of action is never boring.

This is one of those films that doesn't deserve the obscurity it has been consigned to. Its fate was sealed the week of its release in 1973 when its distributor went bankrupt. It was released briefly to home video some 15 years later, but soon vanished again. It took nearly two additional decades for it to see a true wide release, and it is now available in a couple of different DVD editions that are easy to come by.

And this is a good thing, because not only is this a quality movie that deserves an audience... and one might even be able to assert that it's a true classic that's fallen through the cracks of the movie business.

"Idaho Transfer" carries a message that's just as timely now as it was in 1973. It will even speak to more people than it did back then, as there are even greater numbers of those are convinced that the world will come to an end the day after tomorrow, due to pollution, over-population, and sinister government plots that there were some 35 years ago.

If only the similarly-themed "An Inconvenient Truth" could have delivered its message with the same level of class as "Idaho Transfer", it might have been tolerable to sit through. Yes, one is a supposed documentary and the other is pure fiction, but the makers of "An Inconvenient Truth" could have taken a lesson or two from the 35 year old film "Idaho Transfer" in regards to delivering a message about the dangers of excessive exploitation of the planet. The chilling, quiet ending to "Idaho Transfer" and the pall that hangs over the entire film stays with you far longer than the with a megaphone-and- and-sledgehammer approach of "An Inconvenient Truth".

I highly recommend "Idaho Transfer" to those who like well-done but downbeat sci-fi films in the "end of the world" mold. I recommend the film even more highly if you're a member of the Cult of Al Gore and only wipe your ass with one piece of toilet paper at a time, and if you've stopped washing your hair to save energy. This is a movie that will speak volumes to you (pants or no pants).

"Idaho Transfer" is included in Mill Creek's 50-movie pack "Nightmare Worlds", and it's one of several reason why that set is a very worthwhile purchase.

(The film can also be had as a stand-alone DVD, but you'll be paying almost the same to get it that way as you will if you get "Nightmare Worlds" (at least if you order the set set from Amazon.com.) The smart money says you shoud get the Big Box with the 49 bonus movies--some of which are actually pretty darn good.)