TIMESTALKERS is the second time travel/old west movie I’ve seen this month. This one was enjoyable, though I thought TIMERIDER was the better film, if for no other reason than they didn’t beat us over the head with special effects in the time travel sequences. I will allow that there was more in this film than the other, but to many times they seemed too reuse the same effect to excess.
Nevertheless, a fun movie. I like this kind of stuff. Even if this film had a few plot holes and inconsistencies.
William Devane is Professor Scott McKenzie, a history teacher with some expertise in the old west. As the film opens, he’s playing “Tombstone” with his young son, wearing two cap pistols and shooting it out before the boy has to go to school. Mom and he leave as McKenzie prepares to head for the University.
While all this is going on, scenes intercut with the police chasing a drunken driver(a shot of beer cans flying out the windows establishes that).
As mom backs the station wagon out, the two cars smash together, bursting into fire, and killing everyone.
Jump a year.
McKenzie is wearing a double gun rig, practicing drawing and firing(his fantasy is to have been a gunslinger in the old days) when his best friend, General Joe Brodsky(John Ratzenberger) drives up. The two are headed for an estate sale of old western memorabilia. They settle on a pair of trunks, pool their money, and split the two trunks.
While the auction goes on, we start getting cuts backwards and forwards in time. The first item up is an old, weathered Bowie knife. Suddenly there’s a flash and we’re back in time when the knife was knew, following Klaus Kinski’s thread. He’s Dr. Joseph Cole(though we don’t know that yet) and is looking for a man with a two gun rig, black handles with silver stars. For what reason is unknown at this point.
A barber with a straight razor flops us “back to the future(oops)” where it’s just been sold. The trunks are next and McKenzie wins. As he’s examining the contents later, we return to a saloon where Cole is being accosted by three would-be gunslingers, who figure he’s a bounty hunter. They are easily gunned down and lined up in coffins for a newspaper photograph(one of the gunmen is played by Tracey Walter: he’s also in TIMERIDER. Is this type of movie a specialty for him?).
At the photographer’s flash, McKenzie is looking at a tintype of the three dead otlaws and notices a man in the background(Cole) reloading his pistol. Something is peculiar and he uses computer techniques to blow it up until he’s astounded to note the gun is a .357 magnum with a roll out cylinder. Impossible for the old west.
At first, he thinks the picture is a fraud. but test show it’s a hundred years old.
That seems to get him started thinking about time travel?
Enter Lauren Hutton, who gets him to help her hunt for the town in the photograph. Just in case we don’t get that she’s a time traveler, she makes comments like “we’ll try your music device” to which he replies “that’s the lighter.”
She uses her crystal/time machine to jump back in time when they find the town, jumps on a horse and rides out of town with no protest by anyone, let’s Cole spot her, and leads him back to the future.
This was a TV movie, a pilot it looks like, that didn’t sell. Near the end, Cole’s time travel device, apparently undamaged, sinks into 1886 mud. One could see McKenzie finding it in the future, setting the stage for a series.
Plot holes. Cole appears at McKenzie’s home looking for him(he’d spotted vanity plates, GNFIGHTER, stolen a pick-up truck, and finds the address much too easily for a man from the future). Looking for something, anything that will give him a clue to McKenzie’s identity, he intercepts a phone message from Ratzenberger about finding what McKenzie had asked for, gets his address from a file, shoots it out with and murders two cops that had spotted the stolen truck. That’s never mentioned again. The murder of two police officers in a prominent history professor’s home should have required a bit of delicate explanation.
At the military base, Cole jumps back in time to before the base had been built to get inside the perimeter(the cost of time travel must be fairly cheap to use it in such a manner). Yet after murdering Ratzenberger, instead of jumping away, Cole has a running gun battle through the base with McKenzie who’d arrived just too late(where were the military in all this) before finally jumping out.
Once again, Devane and Hutton apparently leave the base without a lot of explanation.
And somewhere along the line, Cole’s white duster becomes dark gray. I missed when that happened, just suddenly realizing.
Forrest Tucker(in his last acting role) pops up as Texas John Cody, a man who,”if he doesn’t know something about the old west, it didn’t happen.” He gives them a clue in why Cole has such an interest in July, 1886.
If one doesn’t expect a lot, an enjoyable romp. Lauren Hutton looks good. All the other players turn in serviceable jobs. It was TV of course.
One final note. You know how these things work. Hutton can’t break the rules of time, “but I can certainly bend them.” McKenzie is sent back one year to prevent the death of his family. But what happened to the version of him that lived that following year?