On the way home after a successful orbit of Mars, man’s first space flight malfunctions and hurls the crew into the far future. Landing on Earth, they find the planet in the aftermath of an old atomic war, with the surface populated by primitive mutants.
Prophetic science fiction adventure that plays like a clumsy role reversal of H.G.Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’ (1895); the Eloi of the novel relocated to a luxurious subterranean city and the evil Morlocks exiled to the virgin paradise above ground (albeit with residual background radiation). But there’s a catch. Generations of easy living have had a strange effect on the underground gene pool; leaving a population consisting entirely of old men, no children and stunning young women. This is good news for our ship’s crew, of course, and they waste no time in muscling in on some of the action.
At heart, this is a 1950s b-movie masquerading as something a whole lot better. For a start, it’s presented in a decent colour process and has an assured and professional cast. Hugh Marlowe leads the astronauts with conviction and Rod Taylor (on a dry-run for his solo encounter with ‘The Time Machine’ (1960)) provides the beefcake and personality. The female of the species is well represented too; by the beautiful Nancy Gates and the dusky Lisa Montell. They supply both the charisma and the emotional core that the story requires, even if plot development does revolve around some rather predictable romantic liaisons.
What lets things down are a simplistic storyline and poor action scenes. Our heroes all bring guns from their spaceship (essential equipment for space travel) and are attacked by giant plastic spiders. Fighting with the mutants becomes repetitive, even when our heroes re-invent the bazooka (will we never learn?) Future fashions are also a bit silly, with the women’s costumes looking suspiciously like they’ve been repatriated from an adult Robin Hood movie.
However, on the bright side, the film brings us a hopeful, positive message, which is unusual for the time. Also the early scenes with the astronauts coming across a graveyard are quietly effective. There are also a couple of nice touches in the script; principally that a life without challenge has left the civilised men too conservative in their thinking and hopelessly indecisive. It’s a nice idea but it gets a little lost in the shuffle. After all, there are mutants to fight and babes to woo.
A film not without its merits but somewhat handicapped by the dramatic conventions of the time.