Behind the Screams!
Some fun behind the scenes shots of horror and sci-fi films…
This review is part of Forgotten Films Blog, 1984 Blog-A-Thon which is covering just about every film released in 1984. When deciding to participate, I looked over the list and chose to review, The Philadelphia Experiment. I hadn’t seen the movie in many years, but I remember liking it. This would give me the perfect opportunity to revisit this film.
Directed by Stewart Raffill
produced by John Carpenter
Bobby Di Cicco
This sci-fi film concerns an urban legend about the US Navy experimenting with a cloaking device in 1943, and the mishap that arises from the ill-fated experiment. When the naval vessel, The USS Eldridge, goes completely invisible it actually travels in time. When it returned several minutes later, it is said that some of the crew members were fused into the bulkhead and deck of the ship itself. Some crew members came back inside-out and others experienced long term mental problems. It is also said, with a flash of light, the Eldridge was sighted in Northport Virginia, over 200 miles away from Philadelphia for those few minutes.
In the film, we follow two sailors, Dave and Jim, crew members on the Eldridge at the time of the experiment. They travel with the ship from 1943 and jump off in 1984, in a Nevada desert. They discover that the experiment was being revisited in 1984 and the new experiment interacted with the original creating a vortex or wormhole between the two time periods.
The sailors are immediately being chased by the modern military. They hide out in a dinner where they meet Allison (Dave’s love interest for the film). Not able to drive a modern car, they get Allison to drive and flee the scene with them. The military attempts to end the experiment but the vortex keeps getting bigger, threatening to suck towns and whole cities into the space hole. Eventually, the military needs David’s help in closing the vortex and he is sent into the maelstrom where he will shut down the generator on the Eldridge, therefore severing the link.
I must say, I liked this film better when I first saw it in the 1984 than I like it now. The problem is that this film is book ended with two interesting and gratifying sequences, but the middle is bogged down with the budding romance of Dave and Allison. Some of the dialogue is hokey, but to be expected from a film that is 30 years old. There are a few time warp discoveries for the two men and Allison, but they are nothing mind blowing for a film about time travel. Considering this was released the same year as Terminator, I think they could have infused something more paradox.
I do like that Nancy Allen’s character is named Allison Hayes, an homage to Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. The TV in the diner is showing Humanoids From the Deep which I reviewed just a few weeks ago. The TV in the Motel room plays part of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. We also see an Ad for a very early computer. The effects in the film are dated, even for 1984, but convey the story well enough. The biggest aspect in time travel discovery is the actual film itself. As the men from 1943 look strangely at Pay Telephones, Cars with Chrome Bumpers, and free-standing Arcade Games, I am reminded that my children would probably look at these items the same way today as our movie characters do in 1984.
Some of my disappointment with the film is that my memories got this mixed up with another film about the same subject matter, released around the same time called, The Final Countdown. TFC had better special-fx and because of that, I was waiting for scenes in The Philadelphia Experiment that never came.
All in all, it’s not a bad movie, perhaps just a little light on the sci-fi aspect for such a serious film subject.
I give it 3.3 wormholes out of 5 for vanishing vessels and valiant heroics.
Haven’t done one of these in a while, so let’s compare some remakes to the originals.
The original is a 50’s sci-fi classic, exemplifying the fears of the unknown at the time. Roswell had just happened a few years prior, the US was starting its space program and science was making discoveries in leaps and bounds. It also demonstrated the ill effects of a love triangle. The remake started out good with a nice looking UFO in the desert and the resulting gigantism, but soon got overburdened with relationship issues. And I was figuring on a remake using some special effects advancement to create some real havoc and destruction. This was made a year after Jurassic Park and this movie used the same masking techniques as the original 1958 film! I don‘t get it? Daryl Hannah’s 50 foot woman was just too nice and dainty. There was far more anger and destruction in the original.
Thumbs up with an explanation
The original film despite its campy, teen-party qualities had some creeped-out and scary parts. The make-up and FX conjured shadows of the Exorcist, as Angela became possessed and dished out the nasty demise of her friends. Her first appearance in that black ‘wedding’ gown, floating toward her classmates was a classic visual scene. The remake had neither the charm nor the scares of the original. However, the remake is watchable and had some great make-up effects. I just found the characters to be more on the annoying side and didn’t care much when they were killed. Despite that, I’m giving this a thumbs up for the make-up effects. Its not better than the original, but worth a watch.
The original Toolbox Murders was a definitive Grindhouse slasher, which showed a lot of naked women being killed. There is even a scene with a woman pleasuring herself in a bathtub as the killer looks on through a crack in the door, right before he nails her to a wall with a nail-gun. It is considered one of the forerunners to the slasher-films that would dominate horror in the 1980’s and had been banned in the UK as one of the Video Nasties for its violent content. The remake was a completely different story, different characters, different ideas, with some unique and original themes and concepts. So, it just boggles my mind, why they wouldn’t give this film its own title and let it stand on its own merits. It was directed by Tobe Hooper and stars Angela Bettis, who‘s acting talents are clearly evident in this film. It is a really entertaining film for the horror/slasher fan, but it will forever be relegated to standing in the shadow of the original. Neither film gets a high rating from critics but I like them both. I give a thumb up to the remake as a stand-alone movie.
The original with Rutger Hauer was a tense thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat. Before that time, serial killers were always shown in the dark, said little, and their intentions were a secret until they sprang into action. Hauer’s psycho killer was a taunting, menacing, sadist who enjoyed the sparring and inflicted pain in slow but efficient measure. The remake was so ineffective that I had forgotten that I had ever seen it. It certainly had some new ways to die, but I felt no empathy for the victims. I have more emotional involvement watching a video on “Potato Farmers of the Northeast.”