I don't know about you guys, but I didn't pay too much attention to the recent dustup between Spike Lee and Clint Eastwood over the lack of African-American characters in Clint's Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima. Call me cynical, but from my admittedly uninvolved vantage point, it sounded like some contemporary version of the bogus Jack Benny/Fred Allen feud of the 40s, an impression I must admit was somewhat reinforced last Friday when I saw the trailer for Spike's new World War II drama, Miracle at St. Anna (due in theatres on September 26th.) Gosh -- Spike has a movie coming out about African-American G.I.'s battling the Fascists in Italy? I'm sure that had absolutely nothing to do with his little public tantrum. Sheesh. (Incidentally, if the trailer's any indication, Miracle at St. Anna looks to be one of Lee's most accomplished films yet. I might even say genuinely inspirational. But I digress.)
In any case, I was far more interested to learn, via Variety, that the cranky auteur's next project will be Time Traveler, a bio-pic about the life and scientific career of Ronald Mallet. According to the story, Mallett was one of the first African Americans to earn a Ph.D in theoretical physics and he developed technical specs for what he believed to be a working time machine.
Yes, you read that right -- a working time machine. Wow. Let's see The Man try to take credit for that one!
That said, and since things will be mostly quiet around here until Monday, here's an obviously relevant little project to tide us all over --
Coolest Time Travel-Themed Movie (or TV Show) Ever!!!
Okay, here's my top of my head Top Five.
5. World Without End (Edward Bernds -- 1956)
A pre-Time Machine Rod Taylor battles mutants ("One eye -- no depth perception!") and ogles the paralytically sexy Nancy Gates, a scientist dressed -- like the rest of the women in the post nuke apocalypse USA of 2508 -- in revealing costumes by Playboy cheesecake artist Alberto Vargas.
4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Leonard Nimoy -- 1984)
The crew of the Enterprise lands in mid-80s San Francisco on a mission to Save the Whales. Still the best Trek film, with an all but perfect balance of sci-fi thrills, humor and pathos.
3. The Time Travellers (Ib Melchior -- 1964 )
A surprisingly sophisticated low-budget entry from the veteran sci-fi auteur, with a cameo by Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest J. Ackerman. Incidentally, there's a ghastly 1967 remake (Journey to the Center of Time) which is noteworthy only for the presence of the astoundingly monikered 60s starlet Poupée Gamin.
2.. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis -- 1985)
Horny teen Michael J. Fox rides a De Lorean into the Happy Days past, where he's forced to fend off the Oedipally terrifying advances of his horny teenage mom. A genuine pop culture classic with all the time travel paradoxes worked out to the smallest detail. Followed, alas, by two unneccessary and generally gutless sequels.
And the number one time travel flick, hands down it's not even a contest so don't, as they say, bug me, is without question --
1. Beyond the Time Barrier (Edgar G. Ulmer -- 1960)
Veteran B-actor Robert Clarke stars as a test pilot who warps into a post-apocalyptic future in a visually eerie sci-fi quickie from the great Ulmer, who shot it on the ruins of the 1959 Texas State Fair. Think a no-budget version of Metropolis and you wouldn't be far from the mark.
Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?