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Idaho Transfer

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1973). Kathleen Film Production Company/Cinemation Industries. Directed by Peter Fonda. Written by Thomas Matthiesen, from his original story. Cast includes Kelly Bohanon (as Kelley Bohanon), Keith Carradine, Ted D'Arms, Kevin Hearst and Caroline Hildebrand. 86 minutes. Colour.

Dr George Braden (D'Arms) is in charge of the Idaho Transfer project which was originally intended to develop Matter Transmission, but instead accidentally found Time Travel. Braden sends several groups of young people 56 years into the Near Future; one group includes both his daughters, Isa Braden (Hildebrand), who soon dies as a result of a fall, and Karen Braden (Bohanon), a mentally disturbed outpatient. The 2029 they enter (ads for the 1988 video release adjust this to 2044) is a Ruined Earth of abandoned vehicles and uninhabited towns; an Ecological catastrophe has apparently ended civilization.

The team's return with this bad news causes the government to shut down Idaho Transfer, trapping various project members in the future. Braden manages to smuggle himself and others back to 2029; perhaps the planet can be saved. Sadly, it soon becomes clear that the kidneys of anyone over twenty haemorrhage almost immediately from the effects of time travel, and Dr Braden wanders off to die. The others, who are now sterile, decide to set off for Portland, Oregon, where survivors may be found; but Karen – after sleeping with one of her companions, Arthur (Carradine), who is killed – heads for the Transfer Device site in Craters of the Moon National Park, Idaho. The power goes back on; she returns to 1973, but only to use the Time Machine to travel back to the future, searching for a time in which Arthur is alive; but the machine takes her too far into the future, which remains desolate. She wanders through the desert until she is found on a still-used road, nearly comatose, by the jumpsuited driver of a futuristic car, who locks her into its trunk. From the back seat, a young woman wonders what they will do for fuel after the time travellers stop coming. "What happens when we run out?" she asks. "We just put another one in," is the answer.

Idaho Transfer was one of only three films to be directed by Fonda, who appears on camera at the start of the 1988 release to speak about our declining environment (these comments were excised in a later release).It was filmed on an invisibly minute budget, with an inexperienced cast (almost all of whom found non-acting jobs after making the movie); but is earnest in the message it delivers. The film had only limited theatrical release, but has since become a public domain item found in many sf film compilations. It has been suggested that the grim but vague ending rips off Soylent Green (1973); but this might not be deliberate. [GSt/JC]


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