Thursday, September 06, 2018

Idaho Transfer (1973)

WARNING:  This review gives away details, including the ending.

Some things are pretty straightforward.  A vessel that goes under the surface of the ocean is called a submarine.  You look at the name and you have a good sense of what it does.  Maglev comes from magnetic levitation.  Again, this gives you a good idea of how it operates.  Idaho Transfer gets its name from the fact that it’s about an experiment in Idaho dealing with matter transfer.  This is the only part of the movie that I really understand.

At some point before the start of the movie, someone was trying to figure out how to build a transporter.  They accidentally invented time travel.  For some reason, the people running the project chose 56 years as a good arc of time.  (The movie was made in 1973, meaning that the future is 2029.)  I’m not sure how they know the date, as there don’t seem to be any signs of civilization.  They’ve checked the area and everything looks abandoned.  There are also no TV or radio transmissions.

Time travel comes with several limits.  First, you can’t wear anything metal.  This includes jeans and eyeglasses.  It doesn’t seem to include any metal already in your body like iron.  I suspect that this is a way to get the teenage girls to strip down to their underwear.  (The girls are young enough that it’s a little pervy.)  Another thing is that anyone over 20 gets hemorrhaging in their kidneys, so no adults.

What this means is that the project sends a bunch of teenagers to study the future.  (By study the future, I mean pick up snakes to measure and tag them.)   The long-term plan is to send lots of teenagers through to rebuild society.  I’m not sure how they’re going to do that, since adults (read: people with any sort of proficiency or training) can’t be sent through.  I guess no one read Lord of the Flies.

Mostly, it’s the teenagers just doing stuff.  Two sisters, while in the present, talk casually about one of them being raped.  On a trip back from the future, one of them dies.  The other hides in the future and seems to mope around about it.  Oh, and the government takes over.  It’s never really said why.  Do they know about the secret time travel?  Are they tired of waiting for transporters?  Either way, the kids can’t get back to 1973.

So, they all decide to walk from whoever they are in Idaho to Portland.  (Yes.  The one in Oregon.)  They split into three groups.  A few stay behind in case the machines start working.  The main group takes a river path while two people take another path.  I’m not sure why it was a good idea for two people to travel separately like that.  It doesn’t seem like a safe thing to do, since they’re supposed to help rebuild society.

When the two teams finally meet up, another big revelation is laid out:  Going to the future makes you sterile.   Yes, the future of humanity depends on kids who can’t have kids of their own.  Apparently, at least the doctor knew.  I’m not sure if the rest of the adults knew, as well.  It seems like a bad idea to send the future of humanity ahead without fixing this.  This is despite the mopey girl thinking that she’s pregnant.

When she gets the news, she goes back to the main encampment to find almost everyone dead.  One girl attacks her, but little miss mopey manages to make it back to 1973, where she’s greeted by military personnel.  She locks herself in the room so that she can play with the controls.  She manages to send herself to another time, forward of everyone else.  (We can tell this because there are a bunch of supplies without any people.)

She’s picked up by a car and put in the trunk.  I think the implication here is that she’s been used as fuel.  Either that, or the family will be saving her for a snack.  (We can’t hear any screaming, but the trunk might be soundproofed.)  the girl in the back seat wonders what they’ll do when they run out of people to use.  Maybe they’ll have to turn on each other.

There are so many questions here.  First off, how did they manage to build the chambers in the future?  Time travel seems to rely on being deposited into a chamber.  It’s never stated that it’s necessary, but it does seem to be.  Even if you built it in the present, you have to trust that it will be there 56 years in the future.  What happens if a meteor hits and leaves a big crater?  There could be a landslide that covers the compartment?  So many things could go wrong.

Speaking of which, whatever happened to humanity didn’t seem to affect the chambers.  Why not send people into the future in increments?  This would at least narrow down when it happened.  Given that there were people in the future, it seems like they did really crappy reconnaissance.

I think the movie was made with a shoestring budget in mine.  Take that very few of the actors have any other acting credits.  Also, they’re almost all teenagers.  I think someone had access to a deserted area and a warehouse and decided to see what kind of script they could come up with based on that.   The one redeeming quality is that there seems to still be some good scenery in the future.  Some of the shots look like they were from ads for the National Park Service.

The big complaint that I have is that there’s no real tension or danger.  There’s no talk of grandfather paradoxes.  There’s no one chasing the teenagers.  It seems like the big threats are a train full of dead people and snakes that don’t bite.  This is the kind of script that might have been written by a bored teenager one weekend.  Had I not had access to this movie already, I probably wouldn’t have watched it.

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