Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Yesterday Machine (1963)

I usually applaud filmmakers for what they’re able to achieve on screen unless their product is so incoherent, so incompetent, that I want to do physical harm to the movie in some metatextual bloodsport.  It takes a hell of a lot to actually produce a film from soup to nuts and even more to get it distributed in any fashion.  This has arguably changed some with the rise in technology and its effects on the business.  Does this lessen my admiration?  If I’m being totally honest, yes, to some degree it does, but we’re not here to discuss that today.  We’re here to discuss Russ Marker’s The Yesterday Machine, a film about a Nazi scientist hiding out in the American Southland with a machine that can twist time.  Sounds at least mildly interesting, right?  Well, it isn’t.  Despite the low-fi charm of the production (including lots of post-dubbing, which is partly distracting, but when you hear the actors’ actual voices, it makes a bit more sense), and despite some of the more intriguing aspects inherent in the film’s basic idea, this is one deadly dull affair.  While it isn’t completely irredeemable (this is a very debatable statement, admittedly), it is most definitely something I would never recommend as a watch for anyone (unless that person were a masochist).  

It was keeping this in mind, combined with my general dislike for simply bashing on a film in my writing that lead to my approach to this particular review.  Here’s the lowdown: I asked my seven-year-old nephew (whom we will refer to as “Charles” hereafter, partly to keep his identity private and partly so I can claim authorship if anyone ever wants to pay money for this crap) to reinterpret the plot of The Yesterday Machine by drawing scenes he would rather see and stringing them together with a flimsy narrative.  To add some excitement (a la an episode of Family Feud), I gave him a time limit of three minutes per picture.  I’m a jerk, I know.  What follows is his pictures and a combination of his and my words, some concerning the plot, some concerning our conversation about clarifying said plot.  Enjoy.

Howie (Jay Ramsey) and Margie (Linda Jenkins) are out in the woods dancing one night, when Howie is suddenly attacked by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Howie screams as he is ripped apart by the dinosaur, while Margie screams.  But then she dances some more.

Dr. Von Hauser (Jack Herman) teleports the evil Hitler to the present, but a dinosaur gets in the way while the time machine is working.  Hitler and the dinosaur are put together into a monster with two heads.  To keep his master alive, Von Hauser builds a deadly robotic armor (might even be cybernetic) and puts Hitler and the dinosaur (which can be any except a Diplodocus) in the armor.

“How did Von Hauser put together armor fast enough to keep these guys alive?” I asked.

“He already had an armor built, just in case.”

Two-Headed Hitler uses Von Hauser’s Yesterday Machine to bring a giant ape (who is TOTALLY NOT King Kong - Todd) from the past.  But aliens from the future intercept the machine’s signal and send a giant monster to fight the ape.  The monsters destroy the city with their fighting, and the alien kills the ape with his chest lasers.  But with his dying breath, the ape chokes the giant alien monster to death.

“You know there were no such things as giant apes in the past.”

Blank stare.  


“Where’s Margie and Jim at this point?”

“Who’s Jim?”

“The reporter.  Remember?”

“Yeah.  They’re not here now.  They’re boring.”

Jim (James Britton [I guess he’s needed after all now – Todd]) gets control of the time machine and brings planes from World War Two to fight the Nazis.  But the aliens from the future send back spaceships too, and a giant battle takes place.  Everything blows up, but the good guys win it.

“But what about Two-Headed Hitler?”

“Jim threw him off the cliff.”

“A classic maneuver.”

Charles nodded.

“Where are the Nazis’ planes?  Don’t they have any?”

“They didn’t bring any with them.”

Jim sends all the planes back to World War Two, but Dr. Von Hauser is hiding in the lab.  They have a fight, but Jim kills him, and then he blows up the lab.  The End.

“That picture’s a little bloodthirsty.  I mean, bloodthirsty-er.  Don’t you think?”


“Why not?”

“Because he’s the bad guy.”

Fair enough.  

Please direct any option inquiries courtesy of this post.  Until next time.  Good day.  

MVT:  The concept behind the film, while old hat, is still one from which a lot of compelling stories can be wrung.  It just isn’t the case here.

Make Or Break:  The first scene of the film (nay, the first shot) is of Margie’s hips gyrating to the “hip” rock ‘n roll music blaring from her tiny transistor radio.  Had the rest of the film been as entertainingly offbeat as this setup, I would have been in, at least on some level.  Unfortunately, these first few minutes are as much fun as you will have in this entire movie.

Score:  2/10 

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