The Philadelphia Experiment (1984)

(On DVD, June 2003) Eek. Some movies age decidedly less well than others, and the deficiencies of The Philadelphia Experiment go well beyond the outdated special effects: While this time-travelling tale isn’t particularly affected by its early-eighties setting (the era’s flavour actually seems even more amusing and appropriate today), the cinematic techniques suffer from the low-budget approach of the film: The camera seldom moves, and it’s no accident if the only sequence in which the cinematography suddenly comes alive (a car chase through an orange grove, featuring a few gorgeous helicopter shots) is one of the film’s best. The muddy cinematography isn’t particularly helped by the DVD presentation and the special effects are best regarded as an endearing reminder of what was possible back then. (Said DVD edition is sadly bereft of supplements.) It may come at no surprise, given the film’s origins, that the acting isn’t particularly impressive and that the dialogue is often atrocious. Oh well: I suppose that the central premise is ingenious (if you’ve never read another time-travel tale), but the film’s highlights are few and far in-between. One of the film’s last shot features no-name characters embedded in the steel flanks of a battleship; it’s regrettable that the rest of the film can’t live up to this striking image.

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