Arianne Ulmer and Robert Clarke in Beyond the Time Barrier (1960)


(director: Edgar Ulmer; screenwriter: Arthur C. Pierce; cinematography: Meredith Nicholson; editor: Jack Ruggiero; cast: Robert Clarke (Maj. William Allison), Darlene Tompkins (Princess Trirene), Arianne Arden (Markova), Vladimir Sokoloff (The Supreme); Runtime: 75; AIP; 1959)

“The cardboard sets and flat acting and primitive story line reminded me of the ’50s Captain Video TV program I got a kick out of watching as a kid.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A cheapo Ulmer production, what else would you expect from him! The cardboard sets and flat acting and primitive story line reminded me of the ’50s Captain Video TV program I got a kick out of watching as a kid. Here, a test pilot (Clarke) goes beyond the fifth dimension in 1960 and lands in this subterranean place called the Citadel; the year he lands is 2024. He is promptly taken prisoner and finds out that only 2 of the inhabitants can speak: the supreme master and the captain (there are 3 others who can speak, but they are being held as prisoners since they came here in 1971 — after the cosmic plague). Everyone else is a deaf mute and sterile (I guess, that was one way Ulmer got around the uninspiring acting!). The lovely mute (Darlene) is the only one who is not sterile, she is the supreme master’s grand-daughter, and she is also the only one there who can read minds.

The plague was caused by A-bomb dust from too many experiments destroying the cosmic screen that is needed to filter out the cosmic rays from our atmosphere. It is interesting to note that scientists in 1998 claim that the physical aspects of such tests are not now needed because certain computers have been built with enough memory in them so that they can simulate an actual nuclear test.

Ulmer throws out enough ideas for me to buy into this thin story and to overlook the cheesy production values and all the loose ends of the story that he never tied together. But, hey, if a Hollywood director worked on his shoestring budget and got the results he gets from his films as far as quality and artiness, it would be a miracle! So what if this film is not on par with 2001! After all this is an Ulmer movie and we love him and the contributions he has made to films over his long career with classics such as Detour, Ruthless, The Black Cat,andMurder is my Beat. Ulmer’s biggest grossing film (a million and half dollars) was an educational training film on venereal disease, that was banned because of its explicit sexual content.

With the cosmic plague, people by the 1970s tried to escape from our atmosphere. They became damaged goods: deaf mutes and sterile, and, in some species (the mutants), they became violent. The mutants became the enemies of those in the Citadel and many of them were captured when they attacked the Citadel and were placed in the pits. The fate of all mankind was doomed and the only hope was for Clarke to take his rocket ship back to earth. This he accomplishes with the help of Darlene and, I might add, with no thanks to his brilliant fellow prisoners, those darn foreign scientist. Also, with no thanks to those non-believing Citadelians.

Anyway, how Ulmer wrapped up the film is fantastic, as the camera zooms in on the test pilot who returned to warn the earthlings of the impending danger looming in the near-future. We see the pilot lying in a hospital bed, his face considerably aged, as he tells his story to skeptical military and state department officials; and, he offers them a ring from the land he just visited as further physical proof that he was there in that time period, plus he gives them the names of the scientists he met and how they must be stopped from doing the evil experiments that will contribute to the world catastrophe.

The question we are left with is– Will these dignitaries believe him? So it seems, the more that things change, the more they remain the same, as we ask ourselves…Can we ever completely trust our leaders? Do they possess sound judgment to lead?