The year is 4039 and the last remaining humans on Earth have survived against incredible odds since a vast army of robots created in the previous century have laid waste to the planet, killing any of them they find. There is only one way the remnants can get away from the machines as they are outnumbered and do not have the firepower to stand up to them, and that is to travel through time in their specially designed city, which has the power to rescue the humans by jumping around the centuries and hiding out in isolated regions until they are found yet again and must move on. But now it seems after a surprise attack the people's luck is about to run out, and their greatest warrior, Ballard (Tom Burlinson), has an idea of a solution...
If you've ever seen the Albert Brooks comedy Modern Romance, you'll know a subplot therein details his character's attempts to dub the sound on a science fiction movie starring George Kennedy that looks distinctly unimpressive. If you were ever tempted to watch an entire film of that theme and quality, then the Australian would-be epic The Time Guardian would fit the bill, especially as there was not one but two Kennedy equivalents slumming it in almost entirely superfluous roles, a couple of American imports merely hired to lend some celebrity power to the cast list that the actual leads - Burlinson and TV soap Neighbours stalwart Nikki Coghill - were somewhat lacking, though ironically it only served to make the production look more impoverished.
Legendary Ozploitation producer Anthony I. Ginnane had obviously thrown a bit more cash at this than he normally would, hoping it would take off internationally, but even so it didn't look lavish when the sets were filmed in such gloom that you could only surmise director Brian Hannant had something to hide in precisely how expensive they were, or were not more pertinently. Those Americans were Dean Stockwell, still to find his semi-iconic television role as Al in Quantum Leap and not adding very much of value as the boss of the futuristic city other than barking a few orders, and Carrie Fisher, well into her drug addiction hell and coasting on her Star Wars connections which counted for very little when any hope she would be important to the plot evaporated in the first half hour.
Well, it was nice to see them anyway, but Burlinson, who would go on to a successful later career as a Frank Sinatra impersonator, a talent sadly underused here when they got Angry Anderson to sing the theme tune for the end credits, proved to be just too bland a performer to drum up much enthusiasm for Ballard and his mission. That mission naturally sees him land in the Outback where he meets Coghill's visiting geologist Annie, and after the de rigueur spiky initial meeting, romance is in the air, though so are laser blasts as the robots track him back through time to prevent him... er, prevent him doing what he could to save humanity, the actual details lost in a fog of jargon and indifferent dialogue that took for granted you'd seen this sort of thing before and therefore would be up to speed without it being spelled out.
Although apparently aimed at kids, there were bad taste elements that you'd imagine parents of the day balking at, such as a scene where the time storm causes a freezing wave to hit Annie and others at a fuel station, turning a cop's piss to ice as he relieves himself in the gents', or the truly gratuitous bit where Coghill decides to take a swim in a pond simply so we can all get an eyeful of her topless. There were a few bloody deaths as well, leaving you wondering who this was for, as neither kids nor adults would presumably feel the need to follow any of it. Indeed, the original concepts might have made for a cult classic from Oz, but co-writer and director Brian Hannant, who was given this after his successful contribution to Mad Max 2, chose to leave the movie business after his vision for The Time Guardian was messed about with to the extent he barely recognised his material anymore. The box office returns and subsequent dreadful reputation appeared to bear out his disappointment, it's one of those films where you're constantly facing the fact it's no way as interesting as it should be. Music by Allan Zavod.