January 26, 2010

TIMESLIP (1955) aka THE ATOMIC MAN - British B-movie still packs a punch!

(1955, UK, aka THE ATOMIC MAN)

The best reason to watch this is for leading starlet Faith Domergue at her most delectable, here proving she's also good at light comedy. She starred in Timeslip in the same busy year she also headlined in two absolute classics - the incredible, must-see This Island Earth (alien-abduction, bug-eyed monsters) and Ray Harryhausen's giant octopus rampage It Came From Beneath the Sea.

Timeslip isn't as spectacular as either of those, but compensates for its B-movie budget with a snappy story full of new-fangled ideas, for the time: nuclear radiation, atomic terrorism, plastic surgery and even a far-fetched sci-fi concept... The various twists are easy to see coming now, but are realistically handled and sprung on the audience as a series of surprises.

A man with no memory is fished out of the Thames. He seems confused and certainly doesn't think he's the nuclear scientist which ace reporter Mike Delaney thinks he resembles. Despite being told to lay off the case, Mike and his photographer/girlfriend investigate further this dangerous, possibly catastrophic plot...

The nuclear sub-plot still preys on our paranoia today, and is dealt with as a realistic thriller, rather than the giant monster mutations in Tarantula or Quatermass.
It's low-budget, but never looks as tatty as its B-movie status, helped by an A-list cast taking it seriously. I actually found the climax exciting...

Like the Quatermass films, the story of Timeslip had previously been produced on TV (in 1953), but was nothing to do with the 1970 children's series of the same name. The original story was written by Charles Eric Maine, who also wrote the sci-fi novel that was later adapted as The Mind of Mr Soames (1970) starring Terence Stamp.

Admittedly I watched this because it was made at Merton Park Studios, but it's more tightly made than many of their later horror films. No surprise that the director Ken Hughes went on to helm such huge productions as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and Cromwell (1970). He was also one of the five directors on the zany Casino Royale (1968) and ended his career with a horror - Terror Eyes (1981).

Faith Domergue gels effortlessly with co-star and love interest Gene Nelson, who plays a renegade reporter (and wannabe detective action hero). There's certainly one careless and unintentionally funny moment - after Nelson has been carefully nursing a wounded arm for scene after scene, his stunt double suddenly leaps into a fight with both fists flailing! Nelson stayed with acting for decades, mainly on US TV, but also directed episodes of many classic shows, including the classic Star Trek episode 'The Gamesters of Triskelion'!

Peter Arne is one of the most recognisable faces, (Straw Dogs, The Oblong Box, Return of the Pink Panther) here in a pivotal dual role as the mysterious 'Isotope Man'. Arne gets some great showcase scenes and his scarred, scared face reminded me strongly of Leslie Banks as Count Zaroff in The Most Dangerous Game.

Another actor surprised me by just opening his mouth. Out came the distinguished voice of Colonel White, from Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967)! Donald Gray also voiced the eerie Captain Black in this special effects heavy TV series. I'd listened to his voice for 40 years but never seen his face in action before! The series was rebooted recently using CGI motion-capture rather than 'Supermarionation' puppets, and with an all-new voice cast.

Brit-com fans may delight in seeing a pre-'Carry On' Charles Hawtrey providing a couple of moments of very loud, scene-stealing comedy relief.

I thought it would be hard to find Timeslip nowadays, but Turner Classic Movies (in the US) have it for sale, and hopefully even show it occasionally. (The frame-grabs you see here are from an old TV broadcast, and not the DVD).

But beware, there's also a Sonny Chiba film being sold in the US under the title Timeslip, though it was called G.I. Samurai in a previous DVD release. The UK children's TV series Timeslip is also out there on DVD - which certainly caught my attention in the 1970s, though the method of time travel was a little primitive - crawling between two posts! Rather like Phantasm, now I come to think of it...

For more films shot at Merton Park Studios - see my recent article...


  1. Black Hole is as beautiful as ever. I hope I did this correctly--I have passed along the blog award and left you a thank you in my latest post.

    Thanks again! - S.P.

  2. Just caught up with TIMESLIP. Intriguing, even if I didn't really buy the central concept, but let down by slightly lacklustre pacing, some unnecessary humour and weak lead performances. I loved Faith Domergue in THIS ISLAND EARTH, and she's fine in the likes of IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA and WHERE DANGER LIVES (it's best to ignore the near-unwatchable VENDETTA), but I found her work here pretty unconvincing and half-hearted. This was made the same year as TIE and ICFBTS and it's interesting that she came to the UK and made three films in three years pretty much ending her career as a Hollywood leading lady. It seems she moved to London after separating from her husband, director Hugo Fregonese, though it would appear that she had quite a turbulent time time while under contract to Howard Hughes, as can be seen in THE AVIATOR in which she was played by Kelli Garner.