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  Philadelphia Experiment, The Zapped
Year: 1984
Director: Stewart Raffill
Stars: Michael Paré, Nancy Allen, Eric Christmas, Bobby Di Cicco, Louise Latham, Kene Holliday, Joe Dorsey, Michael Currie, Stephen Tobolowsky, Gary Brockette, Debra Troyer, Miles McNamara, Ralph Manza, James Edgcomb, Glenn Morshower, Rodney Saulsberry
Genre: Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: It was 1943, Philadelphia, and the experiment was top secret as the boffins fighting the war with technology tried to invent a way to stop the American battleships from showing up on enemy radar - if they succeeded this could bring the war to a swifter end. But for the sailors on the U.S.S. Eldridge, it was just another assigment and they spent the night before living it up on the dancefloor and at the bar; David Herdeg (Michael Paré) was one of those men. However, he had no idea of the important role he was about to play, one which saw the experiment need a saviour...

The main selling point for this middling eighties sci-fi was its claim to be based on a true story, although even by the standards of that original tale there was quite some degree of embellishment going on. That tale, which effectively became an urban myth over the years, stated that the ship in question was indeed the subject of a failed experiment, and that although the vessel disappeared for a short time, when it came back the crew were all sent crazy, and in some cases spontaneously combusted or vanished and reappeared stuck in walls.

This was all the product of a fertile imagination, but stuck around in the head of director John Carpenter, as he was meant to write and direct this movie adaptation in the first place, but other projects detained him. Not wishing to allow a good idea to go to waste, New World picked up the story and director Stewart Raffill was enlisted to bring it to the screen, but even on its eventual release the end result was lacking an important something to allow it to rise above the many other, better or at least better advertised science fiction efforts of the decade, and you were more likely to have caught this on a TV showing if at all.

It's not that it was a bad film, it was simply lacking in personality in spite of an intriguing plot. What happens to David is that when it all goes horribly wrong on board the ship, he dives over the side and into what the head scientist (Eric Christmas) calls "hyperspace", ending up with his best buddy Jimmy (Bobby Di Cicco) in the future year of 1984, which funnily enough was when this production was made. They take a while to get used to their surroundings, with some medium-strength charm in the scenes where they encounter television (Humanoids from the Deep is showing!) or automatic cars.

But most of the charm comes from the interplay between Paré and the woman whose car he comandeers, Nancy Allen in the role of Allison Hayes, oddly named after the star of Attack of the 50ft Woman. She's headed to California and offers to drive David and Jimmy there, except there's a mishap and the latter ends up being zapped by the terrible storm brewing overhead and going up in a puff of smoke. This leaves David to work out what is going on by himself, but what do you know, there's a connection between him and Allison that blossoms in to romance - yet how can this relationship go anywhere if he has to head back to 1943? Oh, the angst! Paré won his cult credentials mostly from Eddie and the Cruisers and Streets of Fire, but this has its fans too, and his Sylvester Stallone crossed with James Remar style isn't too bad for this type of unassuming role, but aside from minor sparks with him and then-partner Allen, this is less classic Twilight Zone and more ho-hum episode of Amazing Stories. Music by Kenneth Wannberg.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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