Time Travelers (1976 film)

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Time Travelers
Genre Science Fiction
Written by Jackson Gillis
Story by Charles Willard Byrd
Directed by Alexander Singer
Starring Tom Hallick
Sam Groom
Theme music composer Morton Stevens yrd
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Irwin Allen
Cinematography Fred Jackman, Jr.
Editor(s) Bill Brame
Running time 78 minutes (TV broadcast)
Distributor Irwin Allen Productions
Original network ABC
Original release March 19, 1976

Time Travelers is a 1976 Science Fiction movie starring Sam Groom, Tom Hallick, and Richard Basehart. The teleplay was written by Jackson Gillis from a story by Charles Willard Byrd. The film was originally produced by Irwin Allen to be a remake of the 1960s series The Time Tunnel which ran only one season. The pilot did not sell due to litigation and was repackaged as an ABC Movie of the Week. Byrd claimed and proved in court that his story had been used for this movie. The names used in the movie and the plot were nearly identical to what Byrd had written in the early 50's.


During a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, a young girl in a marching band is the latest victim to fall sick to a deadly virus named "XB". Dr. Clinton Earnshaw (Sam Groom) has been following the outbreak but has thus far only been able to diagnose it. He is told to meet with Jeff Adams (Tom Hallick). Jeff's credentials say he's been sent by Washington to help, but with no medical background, Jeff has little to recommend himself as being anything other than a drag on Earnshaw's limited time. (He sums himself up by describing his M.A. being in sociology from a "Cow College", and having dropped out of the space program.)

Just as Clint's patience is at an end, Jeff reminds him of the discovery over a century earlier of a virus with similar characteristics to XB, but then referred to as Wood's Fever by its discoverer, Dr. Joshua P. Henderson (Basehart). The problem, as Earnshaw and Adams both know, is that all of the notes and any results from Henderson's research and treatment would have been burned up in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. So, if a cure ever did exist, it might have been lost in that fire. After a brief plane ride (in which Adams explains that the only artifact of Henderson that's left is a gold pocket watch), Adams introduces Clint to Nobel prize physicist, formerly of NASA, Dr. Amos Cummings, and his colleague Dr. Helen Sanders, who have been experimenting with time travel. It becomes clear that they have a shared purpose in the two men, Clint and Jeff, traveling back in time to find the cure. The two don period clothing, Clint is provided with a period doctor's bag (but with two modern-technology devices), and, after a briefing on the "rules" of time travel, step through a vault-like door into a room with a view of endless cloud-filled sky. The time-travel process engages, and they are sent on their way.

Arriving in 1871, they discover that the machine's calculations were off not only by location, but by time. Instead of arriving with three days to spare, and in the countryside a few miles north of Chicago near Henderson's rural home, they've arrived with less than two days and in the heart of the city. They quickly make their way to the hospital and introduce themselves to Henderson as being doctors who have come from Washington to help with his clinic. They express interest in knowing how Dr. Henderson keeps his patients alive. Henderson surprises them by saying that he does not know why his patients are surviving, his treatment being strictly palliative drugs washed down with homemade elderberry wine. Using the modern equipment - a microscope and a centrifuge, they perform their own tests on the patients, but remain baffled as to how Henderson cured the patients. Jeff tries to obtain a blood sample from an apparently cured patient, a temperate sailor, but realizes he may have killed the man... until they discover he hadn't been cured and would have died anyway. In a complication, Henderson's niece, Jane, who volunteers as a nurse, has developed an affection for Clint, and it is returned.

With time running out (the fire has broken out at Mrs. O'Leary's barn, (although no mention is made of the apocryphal cow and O'Leary is implied to be already sleeping), Jeff decides to take all of Henderson's paperwork and return to the future, but his "raid" is interrupted when a suspicious assistant enters the room, holding a telegram that indicates Washington - to whom Henderson cabled appreciation for the help - does not know who Jeff and Clint are. Earnshaw himself is very ill with the disease.

Clint realizes Henderson's homemade wine is the solution. A substance in the wine is curing Henderson's patients (the sailor had refused to drink it) and the time travelers must race to find the holder of the last bottle of the wine. They show Henderson the microscope and centrifuge and recite the inscription inside his pocket watch, which convinces him that they do know the future. The Hendersons, despite knowing their fate, try to save a young patient left behind in the hospital, perishing in an explosion. Jeff and Clint find the bottle and make it to the departure point just in time. Once they are back in 1976, Henderson's cure saves both Clint and his patient. In the final scene, the time travelers go to modern day Chicago, find Henderson's and his niece's (who died in the fire) graves and place a letter of thanks (from the President) for curing the disease on Henderson's grave. Clint stands at Jane's grave and admits he "fell in love with history."


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