A rainy bank holiday is the time for sitting on the sofa all afternoon, watching bad movies. Movies like The Day Time Ended
. I remember when this film was released to cinemas in 1980, in the wake of the science fiction boom which followed the success of Star Wars
. I missed it then. Finally catching up with it now, I'm glad I didn't waste my money on watching it my local Odeon back in the day. In fact, I think that most people would feel cheated if they rented it as a direct-to-video (or direct-to-DVD as it would be today) release. Not that it is entirely bad, just that it has an incredibly ambitious scenario which its obviously low budget could never hope to realise properly. It might best be described as a poverty row 2001: A Space Odyssey
, in that it features a group of humans being subjected to a series of bizarre space-time phenomena by some alien intelligence. Except that instead of the spaceship 'Discovery', the action mainly takes place in and around a remote ranch house in California. Whilst a radio newsreader burbles on in the background about radiation from a distant supernova, hundreds of light years away, finally reaching the earth, Jim Davis and his family find themselves beset by strange phenomena, much of it apparently centred around his young granddaughter.
The initial disturbances and the involvement of the child initially seems to presage 1982's Poltergeist
, but probably owe more to the recently released Close Encounters
. First of all, she encounters some kind of alien artefact which, like 2001
's black monolith, appears to be some kind of trigger for some of the phenomena, (except that it isn't black and changes size). Then she has an encounter with a tiny, apparently friendly, alien, who protects her from the advances of some kind of hostile alien machine. Said machine then menaces the rest of the family before the house is beset by UFO flybys and mysterious whirling orbs. The characters get separated, hostile monsters appear and the house is transported through space and time to various locations, including what seems to be a graveyard of disappeared aircraft and other vehicles. At times it seems that the characters are caught in some kind of conflict between two sets of aliens. At others it seems they are simply victims of some kind of space time fracture, (caused, perhaps by the aforementioned cosmic radiation), with creatures and objects being randomly thrown from one time and location to another. Eventually, they are all reunited within sight of a fabulous crystal city, with the daughter assuring everyone that everything is going to be all right. And that's it. No further explanations are offered.
All of this would have been fine if the film had had the resources to depict these epic events convincingly. Even at the time the film was made, the special effects were poor and dated - they make it look as if Star Wars
and its computer-assisted effects had never happened - and today look like the kind of thing you can achieve with the average video-editing suite on your own lap top. Dr Who
episodes of the era had more convincing green screen work - by 1980 they'd managed to eliminate most of the 'halo' from around the green screened object. That said, The Day Time Ended
does feature some stop-motion aliens and monster - rather clunkily animated and poorly matted into the live-action, but I'm a sucker for stop motion. Also, in the end credits, the name of the great Jim Danforth is evoked, not, surprisingly, with regard to the stop motion (he animated monsters in Jack the Giant Killer
and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth
, amongst others), but rather with regard to the crystal city, which he apparently created.
So, in the final analysis, what are we to make of The Day Time Ended
? There's no doubt that it is pretty terrible by any critical standard, with a confused and perfunctory script and bargain basement effects. A cheap cash in on the late seventies/earl eighties science fiction boom, it fails on just about every level. Indeed, it isn't even as much fun as the fifties and sixties B-movies it most closely resembles. And yet - it still exerts a certain fascination. Whilst watching it, you can't help but feel that there's potentially a good idea at the heart of the film, which, sadly, remains unrealised. Still, with a running time of only eighty minutes, it's all over relatively quickly.
Labels: Forgotten Films