This science fiction thriller was inspired by a mythical real-life event, the WWII era disappearance of an entire naval vessel during a radar-cloaking test. In 1943, David Herdeg Michael Pare and Jim Parker Bobby DiCicco are sailors stationed aboard a Virginia battleship. Their vessel is undergoing an experiment conducted by brilliant scientist Dr. Longstreeet (Eric Christmas), who is attempting to render Allied craft invisible to radar. The ship becomes briefly invisible, but the test is a disaster and most of the crew are horribly killed. However, two crewmen are missing. In 1984, Herdeg and Parker emerge in the Nevada desert, having somehow traveled through time. Longstreet, still trying to perfect the device after 40 years, is running another experiment that pulls the missing sailors into the present. Realizing what's occurred, Herdeg and Parker flee, fearing for their lives. Fugitives, they befriend a skeptical modern woman, Alison Hayes (Nancy Allen). An effect of time pulls Parker back into 1943, leading to a bizarre reunion between Herdeg, still trapped in the future, and Parker, now a senior citizen. The film was followed by a sequel nine years later.~Karl Williams
Filmmaker John Carpenter is one of my heroes. I try to purchase every movie he’s ever been involved with. As such, I picked up director Stewart Raffill’s THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT from 1984. Carpenter came up with the initial story (based on the urban legend), though he is uncredited, and he’s listed as the executive producer. I’d never seen the film and I was pretty excited, as I thought it generally has a good reputation. Unfortunately, it’s pretty terrible.
In 1943, a secret US military experiment to conceal battleships from radar goes wrong and two sailors inadvertently get tossed into the present day of 1984. Jimmy (Bobby Di Cicco) and David (Michael Paré) are puzzled by their strange circumstances but eventually figure out what happened. A chance encounter with Allison (the always welcome Nancy Allen) gives them an unlikely ally in their quest to return to their own time. They are aggressively pursued by a cadre of soldiers including Major Clark (Kene Holiday) for reasons that, to be honest, never become clear. With freak electrical storms increasing in conjunction with an artificially created wormhole and a mysterious affliction ravaging the time travellers, all roads lead back to a current experiment undertaken by some of the same people from 1943.
So the screenplay by Michael Janover and William Gray (based on the story by Wallace Bennett and Don Jakoby presumably based on Carpenter’s story based on the book by Charles Berlitz and William Moore) is a mess. Character motivations are absolutely unclear stretching believable interactions beyond a reasonable suspension of disbelief. Though I don’t dislike Paré as a screen presence, I’ve always found him to be a bit wooden. He works better as a character actor than a leading man. Allen does all she can with her role but her character is flat out ridiculous. The soldiers chasing them throughout the film, to my mind, don’t have any reason to do so, other than to lazily boost conflict. There are plenty of spots that elicited unintentional laughter as well. Also, the special effects are extremely dated at this point. As someone who grew up in the ‘80s and knows the filmmaking from that era well, I’d say they would’ve looked cheesy even in their day.
Does anything work? I’d say a few things. The practical effects work, such as all the explosions, holds up really well. As we continue to rely more and more on CGI in films, old school demolition and fireballs will only become more impressive with age. There’s also a really cool car chase through an apple orchard that is shot well and competently edited, providing, for my money, the only truly thrilling sequence in the movie. In a minor treat, Stephen Tobolowsky (Needle Nose Ned from GROUNDHOG DAY) has a small role.
Stewart Raffill’s THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT is almost a total mess. There’s an interesting story there, but it’s told ineffectively. It has a few aspects done well, but that’s not enough to overcome the dreadful script. I’ll be holding onto my disc, as it’s part of my John Carpenter collection, but I can’t recommend the film.
No, I would not recommend this to a friend
Rating 4 out of 5 stars with 1 review
Owned for 1 month when reviewed.
Good movie. Brought me back to the 80’s..........
I would recommend this to a friend
Rating 5 out of 5 stars with 1 review
Owned for 1 month when reviewed.
Was very realistic, Good Movie, would recommend to friends!