Time Tunnel DVD review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

Thread Tools
post #1 of 1 Old 07-28-07, 06:58 PM Thread Starter
Senior Shackster
Richard W. Haines's Avatar
Richard W. Haines
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Posts: 792
Time Tunnel DVD review

When I think of images that stuck in my mind as a kid, the shot of James Darren
and Robert Colbert floating in a kaleidoscope as they traveled through time was
one of the most memorable.

This was a one season show that was broadcast from September 1966
through April 1967. There were 30 episodes. It was produced by Irwin Allen of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" and "Lost in Space" fame. This was
his best TV production in my opinion. A very imaginative concept that
was educational since some of the stories were based on historical
incidents covered in school. (That is, school back then...not now)
However, it had the same problem of other Allen sci-fi/fantasy shows.
It started out seriously and ended up very campy.

We didn't have a color television until 1970 so I originally saw this in
black and white. It was quite interesting to see it in full color and
what color! When the networks switched to all color broadcasting
in 1966, they wanted to show off the process. Most shows resembled
'Glorious Technicolor' movies with rich and vibrant hues and saturated
fleshtones. They mastered the DVDs from the original 35mm negatives
and they look sensational with the exception of the stock footage.
I projected them on my DLP and it was a bit surreal watching it this
way. Lots of close ups that were so detailed you could see the
make up and pores on the actor's faces. Production value is
excellent with a wild looking set for the actual Time Tunnel machine
which seems to go into infinity. The cinematographer was
Winton C. Hoch who shot John Ford's "The Searchers", one of the best
looking Westerns of all time. The color in this show is fantastic.

The series is being sold in two box sets. The first set is the best but
there are some good episodes in the second box too. The plot is
very clever. The US Government has built an actual Time Tunnel
to compete with the Russians since we were only a few years past
the Cuban Missile Crisis at the time. What they were actually going
to do with it is never explained. In the pilot episode Gary Merrll
appears as a Senator who visits the complex to see if it warrants
additional funding. Whit Bissell plays the General in charge of
the project. A good casting choice since he always played these
types of roles convincingly. John Zaremba and Lee Merriwether
are the technicians who operate the machine. When Merill
threatens to shut the system down, scientist
James Darren (a pop singer and co-star in "The Guns of Navarone)
turns it on and walks down the tunnel to prove the project is viable.
Fellow scientist Robert Colbert follows.

And like so many 'Great Society'/government funded projects, the machine
doesn't work and they get stuck in time. No wonder taxes
were so high in the sixties and we had runaway inflation
in the seventies...Merrill was right.

Only kidding...

The lost scientists are shown floating in the above
mentioned kaleidoscope. They land in slow motion
at a different time era in the beginning of each episode.
While they try to survive, the team back in the complex
tries to bring them back. Since this is an Irwin Allen
show, there are campy elements. The computers in
the background appear to be two inch videotapes that
spin back and forth for no apparent reason. How can
you record anything that way? Simultaneously there
are boards of flashing lights and a giant TV screen
inside the tunnel to show where they were. What
station was that? Zaremba keeps telling Bissell,
'I need more power' and they drag in extension chords.
Although Darren and Colbert are scientists, they seem
quite experienced at hand to hand combat and sword
fighting. Didn't know they offered that at MIT.
No one seems to notice their modern clothing in the
period settings and everyone speaks English. They know
they can't change history that has already occurred but
try anyway.

But if you can suspend your disbelief, this is a very entertaining show
along the lines of "Indiana Jones" in "Back to the Future".
There is lots of action and the series is staged like a serial with
cliff hanger segments between commercials breaks. The acting
for the historical incidents is very good and there are many notable
guest stars including Carroll O'Connor and Michael Rennie. The
catchy theme music is by John Williams who is credited as
"Johnny Williams" in his TV days. The animated title sequence
is also fun.

The first location the scientists find themselves in is the Titanic just
before it hits an iceberg. They warn the Captain but he doesn't
believe them. Before they go down with the ship, the team back
at the complex shifts them back into the kaleidoscope and they
find themselves in the next location. At the end of each show is
a teaser to set up the next episode for the following week.
Allen was able to secure a lot of stock footage from other movies
and then built sets to simulate them for the scenes
photographed for this show. Although the stock footage was
grainy, the color and cinematography matched nicely and gave
the illusion of a big budget production.

Among the places the time travelors accidently get sent to is
the Alamo, Devil's Island, Jericho and France during the revolution.
They confront Napoleon, Billy the Kid and General Custer.
Each historical show was very well produced and done.

But here's the rub...

Sometimes the time travelors went into the future and those
shows were awful. Typical Irwin Allen camp that you'd
see in "Lost and Space" which didn't match the quality
of any of the historical episodes. The producer seemed to
have a fondness for silver painted aliens and bug eyed monsters
that always dated his productions and made them rediculous.
This was the same problem with "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea".
Some shows were topnotch sci fi and others were grade B monster
movies. The quality difference was a bit disorienting. Although Allen
claims that the show was cancelled because of budget, the second
disc set has a lot of poor episodes and it was clear the series was
going downhill and getting campy. At least he ended it with a truly
creepy concept. In the final broadcast, the two scientists are
shifted back to the Titanic, the location of the first episode.
Apparently they will just keep going back to the same places
over and over forever. Very eerie and disturbing.

If you just want to rent the series rather than purchase it,
here are the episodes that are worth screening. The others are
the future stories which are embarassingly bad.

Rendezvous with Yesterday (Titanic) My favorite one.
End of the World (Halley's Comet)
The Day the Sky Fell In (Pearl Harbor) My second favorite episode
where James Darren meets himself as a child
before the attack.
The Last Patrol (War of 1812)
Crack of Doom (Krakatoa)
Revenge of the Gods (Troy)
Massacre (Custer's Last Stand)
Devils Island (Dreyfus case) Another excellent episode.
Reign of Terror (French Revolution)
The Death Trap (Assisination of Lincoln)
The Alamo (Before the attack)
The Night of the Long Knives (British vs. Afghan rebels)
Invasion (World War II D-Day)
The Revenge of Robin Hood (Magna Carta)
Kill Two By Two (Iwo Jima)
The Ghost of Nero (World War I)
The Walls of Jericho (Joshua)
Idol of Death (Cortes)
Billy the Kid (Wild West)
Pirates of Deadman's Island (Barbary Pirates)
The Death Merchant (Gettysburg)
Attack of the Barbarians (Mongols)
Merlin The Magician

So 23 good episodes and 7 poor ones for a single season show isn't too
bad as television goes. Video rental places near me tend to break up
the box sets and charge you a separate rental per disc so keep this list
handy if you just want to sample it. If you want to buy it, I do
think the best of them are worth repeat viewings but be aware that
there are some terrible ones in the second box set. They also
included a 2002 TV remake which was never broadcast.
Don't bother with it.

The second bonus is an Allen TV movie with a similar theme
called "The Time Travelors" from 1976. It's barely
watchable and looks terrible. Very soft with washed out color
compared to the TV series. I guess Allen was following a
late sixties/early seventies trend of rejecting the
"Glorious Technicolor" look and replacing it with defussed and
desaturated cinematography. It started with "Oliver!"
and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and ended with
"Heaven's Gate". Not all movies were shot this way from 1968
through 1980 but a number of them were. At the time critics
gave this 'look' rave reviews as innovative camerawork. For example,
"McCabe and Mrs. Miller" received accolades for it's imagery which
was drained of all primary colors and grainy. I suppose in some
cases it was appropriate for the narrative as in "Oliver!" which
made the slums look dismal. Today it just looks like bad photography
and it doesn't transfer well to DVD which exagerates the grain
and murkiness, especially if you have a large monitor or are
projecting it on a DLP, giving you eyestrain.

I don't want to be too critical of Allen's inconsistent quality
control. He was able to get some pretty good shows
on the air and operate within the system of the day which
was full of compromises and concessions to sponsors and
censors. Similar to a producer like Rod Serling. Rather than
lament what he wasn't able to do on television, admire what
he was able to accomplish within the limitations of primetime.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 07-29-07 at 06:02 AM.
Richard W. Haines is offline  


dvd , review , time , tunnel

Quick Reply

Register Now



Confirm Password
Email Address
Confirm Email Address
Random Question
Random Question #2

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address



Activation requires you reply to an email we will send you after you register... if you do not reply to this email, you will not be able to view certain areas of the forum or certain images... nor will you be able download software.


See our banned email list here: Banned Email List

We DO NOT respond to spamcop, boxtrapper and spamblocker emails... please add @hometheatershack DOT com to your whitelist prior to registering or you will get nowhere on your registration.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML is not allowed!
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome