Terror from the Year 5000 (1958)

Terror from the Year 5000

Written and Directed by: Robert J. Gurney

Tagline: “From Time Unborn … A Hideous She-Thing!”

Run Time: 66 min

Other titles: "Cage of Doom ", "The Girl from 5,000 A.D."


Summary:

Scientist break the "time barrier" and bring back an unexpected visitor with sparkling fingernails and spacey high-heels.

Recap:

Two scientists, Prof. Erling and Victor, are busy researching "the time barrier" but end up pushing "the voltage too high" during a "forced experiment". This extra voltage results in the materialization of a statue in some sort of ‘time chamber’. Erling nonchalantly remarks "Oh, just another statue", but this one is different. (Huh?! Are they so jaded that materializing statues from other times has become as exciting as taking out the garbage?)

This in itself is rather odd, since carbon dating reveals the age of item based on atomic decay, so how in the hell they could place an objects age in the future is just one of those fun little anomalies found in 50’s sci-fi. My advice to you: go with the flow. Moreover, as mentioned above, carbon dating works on, duh, carbon, i.e., material that was once "alive". Thus, carbon dating would be of no use if used on something metal. But hey, let’s just see what happens.

Erling sends the statue to a Museum Curator, Dr. Hedges (Which museum? Who knows. It simply says "Museum Curator" on his door.) Through a helpful wad of exposition (and when the run time is only 66 minutes, you know there’s going to be a lot of it!), Hedges wonders out loud why Erling would send what appears to be a brand new statue to him for carbon dating. (I was wondering that too since carbon dating works on, duh, carbon, i.e., material that was once "alive". Thus, carbon dating would be of no use if used on something metal.)

Terror from the Year 5000Later that night, Hedges is going over the startling results of the carbon dating: The results were negative! (???) Ok. Stop. If carbon dating dates objects from the past, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that things from the future would have a negative carbon date. Even for a 1950’s sci-fi movie this "negative result" monkey-business is a little hard to swallow.

Anyway, Hedges calculates, via the, *ahem*, negative result, that the statue is from the year 5200. (Um, then why exactly isn’t the film called "Terror from the Year 5200"?) Unable to accept the fact that the statue is from the future, Hedges opts to send it to the "Eastside Laboratories" for chemical and metallurgical analysis. Sure, like that’s gonna help!

At the labs, a couple of scientists (complete with white lab-coats of course) find out that the statue is radioactive ("It’s hot as a firecracker!"). In order to neutralize the radioactive threat, they pick up the statue with a pair of tongs and toss it into a convenient bucket of water (!). When Hedges comes to hear the results, one of the Eastside scientists suggests that Erling sent the statue to Hedges in an effort to kill him by radiation poisoning ("It would be the perfect crime!"). Hedges blows off that suggestion, but still, the seeds of doubt are planted.

Unable to contact Erling, Hedges books a flight down to Florida to visit Erling in person and get to the bottom of this nonsense. Upon arrival in Florida, Hedges picks up his rental car and notices that somebody is giving chase. Could this be the evil Prof. Erling intent on killing him? (This whole "Erling might be trying to kill Hedges" sub-plot really comes out of left field, and makes no sense to me at all. You would think that a movie that lasts just a couple minutes over an hour would barely have time to deal with just the main plot, let alone side-track into a pointless side story.)

Hedges finally pulls over after a…yawn…exciting ‘chase’ scene. It turns out the person in the other car is none other than Claire Erling, yes, Professor Erling’s young daughter. Claire explains that it was she who sent the statue under her father’s name in order to "shock [Hedges] into sending a response" (?). Ok, if you say so. Claire promises a full explanation once they get back to her and her father’s house.

It turns out that the Erling residence is located on a swampy island, requiring Claire and Hedges to be ferried out by Angelo, Erling’s handy-man. On the way over, Claire explains that she and her father had to move to an island because his "electrical equipment is so powerful that it messes up TV reception for miles around." There you have it.

By the way, will there be any terror happening soon?

Well, the electrical equipment is also so powerful that it stalls the boat motor, requiring them to row half-way across the bay. Wow! Terror from the Year 5000!!!!

OK, let’s get this moving along here. As Hedges, Claire and Angelo arrive (sweaty and exhausted no doubt) at the island, Victor (who is also Claire’s fiancee) notices the viewing window on the ‘time chamber’ has been shattered. Scary music plays as he replaces the broken glass. Terror! You see, due to the radiation, Erling demanded that all experimentation be discontinued until he and Victor could discover more about the "powers" they’re dealing with. But Victor has been a bad boy and has secretly continued his time experiments.

In an effort to keep tabs on Hedges, the wily Victor lies and says that the key to the "spare room" is lost, and has Hedges share his room instead. (Dude! You could at least sleep on the sofa!) Later that night, Victor sneaks out and into the "spare room" and removes a suitcase from a dresser. Hedges is awoken by Victor opening the door to the spare bedroom and follows Victor out into the swamp where he sees Victor toss the suitcase into the water.

Terror! Terror! Terror! Oh terror? Where for art thou?

The next day, Hedges and Claire are out for a swimming trip (!). (Umm, is Victor OK with that?) Instead of the ‘normal’ swimming spot, Hedges decides to take a dip in the same location where he saw Victor toss the mysterious suitcases so he can see what’s inside. While Claire ducks behind a stand of palm trees in order to put her suit on (Hedges already had his trunks on underneath his clothes (!)), Hedges dives down and opens the suitcase to reveal: a dead four-eyed cat!

Terror from the Year 5000The terror continues as Claire and Hedges play around in the water. Angelo, in the meanwhile, has been watching their aquatic frolicking from a nearby tree. After checking out Claire’s goodies while she changes, he pops out and tells them that Erling and Victor have the "experiment" prepared and are waiting for Hedges so they can begin.

Back in the lab, we see that Erling has placed a bottle in the chamber and managed to transform it into another statue. Erling explains to the amazed Hedges that the bottle hasn’t been transformed, it has been "traded" for the statue with being in the future. (Um, how exactly is this all supposed to work?)

Hedges is still a bit skeptical (What? After all this terror?) and demands that Erling place his college graduation ‘key’ in the chamber to see if this is all just some sort of pre-arranged hoax. What comes back is a flat coin with 2 greek words on it which Hedges translates as "Save us".

Moving right along, Hedges agrees with Erling to stop the experiments because of the radiation. Victor gets pissed because he wants to continue, not to mention that he’s jealous as hell because Claire seems to side with Hedges on the whole "stop-exchanging-items-with-a-future race" debate. (As much as Victor is a jerk, I have to side with him. Let’s keep this in perspective: They are capable of teleporting and receiving physical objects to and from the future…yet they want to suspend experiments because the objects that ‘come back’ are slightly radioactive?!)

Later that night, Victor is at it again. This time more than just a statue comes back. A black arm reaches out of the chamber and attacks Victor, cutting his arm with its claws, but Victor manages to force it back in and teleport the creature back to the future

For some reason, Angelo is spending time peeping into Claire’s room, but is chased away by Hedges when Claire’s screams bring him running. For his bravery, Claire promptly rewards Hedges with a tongue-wrestling session (Is Victor OK with this?). Alas, Claire’s father walks in, catches them kissing, scowls, and storms off. But this fatherly disapproval is not enough to stop them from another hot round of 1950’s kissing.

Finally having his fill of Hot Lips Claire, Hedges scampers out of her room and spots some blood on the floor. He follows the trail and discovers that Victor has an injured arm. With a typical "Amazing Jump In Deductive Logic", Hedges concludes that Victor has managed to bring back life from the future, and the dead animal that he threw into the water was one of his failed attempts. Hedges confronts Erling with this information, but Erling poo-poos the accusations as just Hedges’s way of discrediting Victor in an attempt to win over Claire. (Whatever. Do they really need a love triangle in this movie?)

Hedges says he can prove it and goes out to pull up the suitcase from the bottom of the marsh. Victor sees what he’s up to and follows him to the water’s edge where an exciting fight ensues. (By the way, I was being sarcastic when I said this scene was exciting.) To make a long, long scene short, Hedges kicks Victor’s butt, drags him up on the beach, and shows Erling the radiation burns on Victor’s arm.

Terror from the Year 5000Now that the cat is out of the bag (no pun intended), they evacuate Victor to the mainland hospital in order to find out how much radiation he’s actually absorbed. As Hedges, Claire, and Erling go downtown to get some dinner, they leave Victor behind in the hospital to await the results of the tests. But no! We see Victor sneaking out and heading to a bar for drinks (!). When Hedges and Erling hear of the escape, they assume that there’s just some "confusion" at the hospital and decide to see a movie (!!) until things settle down. (The movie they end up seeing is "I was a Teenage Frankenstein", which coincidentally enough is a AIP production, ahh..good old AIP, "The House of No Shame")

Victor gets drunk, steals a boat and returns home. Inside the house, he forces his way back into the lab and fires up the ‘time chamber’. Meanwhile, back in town, Hedges and the others find out what Victor is up to and rush home to confront him.

Terror from the Year 5000This time Victor’s experiment is a ‘success’ and we see that he has managed to bring back some sort of creature. (A woman wearing a sequined body suit. Terror!) Erling and Hedges rush into the lab and find that Victor has been beaten half-to-death and is laying on the floor in a state of shock. Victor is carried to the sofa where his condition eventually ‘stabilizes’, but he keeps mumbling about something "horrible". (No, not this movie.)

The next day Angelo is out by the water and spots the sparkling woman from the future. She promptly attacks and kills our friendly peeping-tom.

Meanwhile, or the next day, I don’t know, Hedges dives down and retrieves the mutated little beast that Victor had thrown into the water. (Oddly wearing scuba gear this time! Why does he need gear now?) While Hedges is busy retrieving the cat, Claire walks around a bit and stumbles across Angelo’s body laying in the reeds: covered in ‘horrible’ radiation burns! Terror!

When Victor hears of Angelo’s murder, he admits that he brought a creature through the time machine. (Doh!) Realizing that Something Must Be Done, Hedges and Erling try to come up with a plan to keep the "Terror" from escaping the island "and killing somebody else".Later that night, a nurse has been dropped off to help care for Victor while he recovers. Oddly, she is shown trudging through a dense marshy area…so I can’t imagine why they didn’t drop her off at the docks which are, oh, 50 feet from the house. Oh yes. I see why. It’s so the Woman can ‘sneak’ up on the nurse and kill her.

Instead of immediately killing her, the Woman calls out to the nurse in Greek. ("A Language from the Year 5000"! She calls out in Greek because of the Greek lettering on Hedge’s college ‘key’ that was sent to the future) When the nurse calls out "Who’s there?", the Woman begins speaking in English. (Whew! That was convenient!) As the Woman comes out of the shadows, the nurse sees her disfigured face (a few plastic warts and a set of those "Jim Bob" false teeth) and tries to flee.

After running for several hundred yards (just where the hell did they drop her off?), the nurse stumbles over a branch and is killed by the Woman. The Woman then takes out a blank rubber face and "steals" the nurses face. This was kind of cool actually. Future Woman uses a blank face ‘template’ that removes the face of the victim, leaving a blank, featureless head. Kind of creepy actually.

Inside the house, Hedges and Erling take on their radiation suits (convenient!) and head out to deal with the threat. As they are heading out the door, the, *ahem*, ‘Nurse’ appears at the door and goes up to ‘take care’ of Victor. (Oh no!)

In Victor’s room, the ‘Nurse’ reveals her true identity (and gives us some useful exposition…really…anything to move this plot along is more than welcome!) It turns out that "…due to the ever increasing radiation in the atmosphere, by the year 5000 every fifth child born was a mutant." The mutants have been placed in isolated colonies, where they suffer from increasing mutations. Anyway, Victor’s time machine "probed" one of these colonies, and now the future-mutants want Victor to come back, or um, forward, whatever, to the colony to help them. Future Woman explains that if they could just use his "clean blood" and "undamaged pre-atomic genes" they might be able to reverse the increasing rate of mutations.

Terror from the Year 5000Terror ensues as Claire pops in and suspects something fishy between Victor and the Nurse. (Victor doesn’t tell her who the nurse really is because he was hypnotized by the nurse’s fingernails (!!!) when she told him who she was.) In an effort to be rid of Claire, the Nurse suggests that Claire go to bed and get some sleep. Claire reluctantly obliges but first she’s going to get the Nurse some fresh water. Fumbling with the water pitcher, Claire spots the Nurse’s "Shoes from the Year 5000"! Terror! (I’m not making this up), and immediately suspects the worst.

After the coast is clear, Victor and the Woman go down to the lab and prepare for the trip to The Year 5000. The Woman removes the nurses outfit revealing her cool, flashy, spacey, body suit while Victor dons a radiation suit to protect him once he arrives in the apocalyptic future.

Meanwhile, Erling and Hedges, still stomping around the swamp in radiation suits, find the ‘faceless’ nurse, realize what’s happened, and scurry back to the house to deal with her fraudulent replacement.

Terror from the Year 5000Back at the lab, Claire discovers Future Woman’s plans and a cat fight breaks out when she tries to stop the abduction. During the scuffle, Claire rips off the Woman’s face revealing her true identity. (Victor upon seeing the Nurse’s true identity: "You’re one of those freaks!" What a charmer.) Note to Victor: Never call an ugly woman a freak! The Woman attacks and kills Victor just as Hedges bursts into the lab and shoots her with his shotgun. Mortally wounded, Future Woman falls against the time chamber and is electrocuted (!).

In a fit of compassion, Hedges wants to fix the machine immediately and begins sending ‘clean blood’ to the future in order to help the mutants. Claire doesn’t think that’s too smart because then the mutants could come back again and try to take them by force. At this point, Erling has a light-bulb moment and begins with our "Moral of the Film" (cue triumphant music):

The future is what we make it. Whether there will be creatures like her depends on us. On all of us. On mankind. On what we do today. In the present.

<sniff><sob> He’s right.

Can I go home now?

Dennis Grisbeck (May 2005)

Afterthoughts

This film was originally the second-half of a double bill featuring "The Screaming Skull." I actually thought the idea of trading items with the future beings was rather interesting, i.e., the idea of learning about (and deceiving) each other simply by trading objects could have been developed more if anybody had cared.

The ‘mutant’ from the future was rather silly (and the sequined body suit? Reminded me of that ‘disco-ball woman’ from the Wang Chung "Dance Hall Days" video), and what was the whole point of Angelo peeping on Claire? Did I miss something there? I must admit that I’ve never seen somebody hypnotize another by waving their sparkled fingernails in front of them. This film could have been a whole lot better with crisper direction and a tighter plot. As it is, if you can make it past the first half, it just might hold your interest.

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6 comments to Terror from the Year 5000 (1958)

  • Movie has good premise.a bigger budget,better acting,character developement,fixing up the plot & storyline. Could be a good cautionary tale about war,nukes,and the horrible consequences,that follows such uses or should I say misuse.our future woman who is in pain and desperation was not evan given a name

  • Sean

    I remember seeing this movie as a kid one Saturday afternoon on the local “Shock Theater” hosted by Dr. Creep. Me, my little brother Mark, and our friend Lisa were all creeped out. So much so for me that I actually had a serious nightmare about it! Then, back in the kinder, gentler 90’s I saw that MST3K was giving it one of their “hommages,” so I eagerly tuned in. Ah me. Creeky low-budget charm mixed with slow pacing. And the scene where the radiated woman from the future bursts out into the present – that’s the scene that really freaked me out as a kid – well, just as Tom Servo joked, she looked like a drum majorette practicing a marching routine. A homely drum majorette with a serious acne problem. As a kid I got the terror. As an adult, that was replaced by pity, and I’m left wondering about the virtue of innocence.

  • guts3d

    Her sequined suit always reminded me of the suit worn in the Peter Gabriel video ” Sledgehammer” near the end when the lights go out and he walks away. Great review!

  • Paul Christman

    Fun old flick. But if she wants folks from the twentieth century to help her, why does she try to kill everybody she encounters?

  • guts3d

    I wondered about that as well. And if the future humans needed only “clean blood”, she sure wasted a lot when she killed the nurse.

  • MSTK3’s riff on this is one of their best. Even without that, tho, it really is a fun film. I’m surprised it isn’t a little more well known.

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