The Time Travelers (1964 film)

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The Time Travelers
Theatrical release poster by Reynold Brown
Directed byIb Melchior
Produced byBill Redlin
Samuel Z. Arkoff
Screenplay byIb Melchior
Story byIb Melchior
David L. Hewitt
StarringPreston Foster
Philip Carey
Merry Anders
John Hoyt
Music byRichard LaSalle
CinematographyVilmos Zsigmond
Edited byHal Dennis
American International Pictures
Dobil Productions Inc.
Distributed byAmerican International Pictures
Release date
  • October 29, 1964 (1964-10-29)
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$250,000 (estimated)[1]

The Time Travelers (also known as Time Trap) is a 1964 science fiction film directed by Ib Melchior and starring Preston Foster, Philip Carey, Merry Anders, Steve Franken, John Hoyt, and Delores Wells. The cast also includes superfan Forrest J. Ackerman in one of his many bit roles in science-fiction films. The film inspired the 1966 TV series The Time Tunnel, as well as the 1967 remake Journey to the Center of Time. The plot involves a group of scientists who find their time-viewing screen allows them to travel through time. American International Pictures released the film as a double feature with Atragon.


Scientists Dr. Erik von Steiner (Preston Foster), Dr. Steve Connors (Philip Carey), and Carol White (Merry Anders) are testing their time-viewing device, drawing enormous amounts of power. Danny McKee (Franken), a technician from the power plant, has been sent to tell them to shut down their experiment. During the test, odd shadows quickly cross the room before the screen shows a stark, barren landscape. Danny discovers the screen has become a portal and steps through.

As the setting is becoming unstable, the others enter the portal to bring him back. The portal disappears, stranding them. Then they are pursued by hostile primitives, ending up in a cave, where they find an underground city – all that is left of civilization in a future devastated by nuclear war.

The year is 2071 AD. City leader Dr. Varno (John Hoyt) explains that Earth is unable to support life. The residents are frantically working on a spacecraft that will take them to a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri. The four time travelers, told they may not join that space voyage, are allowed to work on recreating their time portal to return to their time. Before the colony residents can lift off, the degenerate mutant humans break in and destroy the ship and encroach on the city.

Dr. Varno determines that now the only hope is the time portal, so he commits the city's remaining resources to help von Steiner, Connors, White, and McKee rebuild the time portal with future technology. As they feverishly work, the mutants are invading the colony; along with a few people from the future, the four travelers escape back to the present just ahead of the mutants. One person throws an object back through the portal that damages the equipment on the other side and shuts down the portal.

The survivors return to the lab, where they make a strange discovery. Their past selves are still in the lab, yet to pass through the portal, but they appear frozen. Through some error, the travelers are experiencing time at an accelerated rate; the rest of the world, including their past selves, is moving in extremely slow motion. Their only option is to travel to the date the portal had briefly been set to before being set to 2071 AD, a date over 100,000 years in the future, but the screen is dark and what lies ahead is unknown. They quickly cross the room, casting their shadows.

When the last one goes through, the screen flashes on briefly and shows the travelers walking in a clearing with trees and grass with the surface of the Earth habitable again and people able to build a future there. The film then shows their past selves moving at normal speed again, repeating the actions seen at the beginning of the film. The sequence of events of the entire movie is rapidly reshown, and repeats with ever briefer and fewer clips, leaving the viewer in a loop until it abruptly ends without further explanation.



Under the working title, Time Trap, production took place in 1963. Director Melchior was unable to secure an adequate budget to fully exploit the potential of the storyline. His work, however, was notable in that later reviewers regarded the production as secondary. "In spite of the low budget, this still looks pretty good thanks to intelligent use of the resources available. The portal the scientists create, as Danny discovers, is more than a mere window on the coming years, because they can actually walk through it and pass through the decades to exist in the future."[2] A number of well known magic tricks are used as special effects in The Time Travelers.


At 44 minutes into the film, Forrest J Ackerman appears briefly in a scene depicting several technicians. Ackerman's only line in the film is, "Don't worry. I'm keeping our spacemen happy. Getting things squared away". The joke is that his character works on a device that turns a circular frame into a square frame. At the time, Ackerman was editing a science-fiction magazine titled Spacemen. The Time Travelers was heavily promoted in his magazine on the basis of Ackerman's cameo appearance in the film.


The Time Travelers was a B film, evident by its meagre production values, although both the plot and actors were singled out for mention by critics. Leonard Maltin considered the film, "not bad with a downbeat ending, one of the first American films photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond."[3][N 1] The film was lampooned on the Netflix revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In 2003, a survey conducted by the International Cinematographers Guild placed Vilmos Zsigmond among the 10 most influential cinematographers in history.[4]


  1. ^ Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Clark, Graham. "The Time Travelers." The Spinning Image. Retrieved: October 29, 2014.
  3. ^ Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2009. New York: New American Library, 2009 (originally published as TV Movies, then Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide), First edition 1969, published annually since 1988. ISBN 978-0-451-22468-2. p. 1442.
  4. ^ "Top 10 Most Influential Cinematographers Voted on by Camera Guild.", October 16, 2003. Retrieved: January 28, 2011.

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