Reviewed by: Brett Willis
Starring: Robert Hays, Catherine Hicks, Sam Wanamaker, Wayne Tippit, James DiSteffano, Tracy Fraim, Brian Smiar | Director: Bruce Seth Green | Producers: David Roessell, Michael Weisbarth, Lori-Etta Taub, Carole Katz Fetner, Pat Finnegan, Sheldon Pinchuk | Screenwriters: Stanley Shapiro and Robert Glass, from the novel “A Time to Remember” by Stanley Shapiro | Released By: MCA Home Entertainment
This little-known time-travel film uses imagery borrowed from several other films, most of which were comedies (pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo, a spinning machine with flashing neon lights, an eccentric scientist with a scruffy little dog); but it isn’t a comedy. It revolves around an attempt to deliberately change the past.
History Professor David Rhodes (Robert Hays, “Homeward Bound”) has never gotten over the death of his older brother in Vietnam. When David’s live-in girlfriend, reporter Laura Whittaker (Catherine Hicks, TV’s “7th Heaven”), gains an interview with the mysterious Dr. Koopman (Sam Wanamaker) and when David accidentally sees firsthand what Dr. Koopman’s research is capable of doing, he concocts a plan to volunteer for time-travel, prevent the assassination of President Kennedy and thereby head off the Vietnam War as promulgated by President Johnson.
The upshot of the film’s plot is that some events in history can be changed, but others are inevitable. Actually, since backward time-travel is impossible, nothing can be changed. Laura is correct when she tells David that there’s a difference between having regrets/wanting to change the past and being obsessed with the wish that you could actually do so. But after she’s drawn into the time-travel project against her will and she sees that David is in trouble, Dr. Koopman wants to stop interfering with the past because they’re “playing God” and Laura responds “Maybe God wants us to try harder.”
Content Warnings: There’s no bad language to speak of, no on-screen sex and only mild violence. But the setting of the assassination of President Kennedy is replayed several times. The portrayal of President Johnson (Brian Smiar) isn’t very flattering, although it’s theoretically consistent with his personality [Johnson won the 1964 election by letting his opponent Barry Goldwater be labeled a warmonger, while carefully concealing his own plans to escalate the Vietnam War until the election was over].
Nitpicking: There are several annoying/disturbing theological references. David makes up a nonexistent “Bible quote” in an effort to have sex with Laura one more time before they leave for work in the morning. Later, to his history class, he throws out the thought-provoker “What if Christ hadn’t been born?.” Laura is a serious person who says she prays for her lover every night (apparently no one worries any more about the fact of having a lover).
In real life, Catherine Hicks has a degree in Theology in addition to her acting studies; her roles have ranged from family-friendly fare to not-so-friendly. She’s done other time-travel material (Peggy Sue Got Married; Star Trek IV) and horror (Child’s Play.)
This film is more intelligent and less offensive and exploitative than most Sci-Fi. The acting, historical recreations, and special effects are good. Aside from the problems that are inherent in all time-travel films, I recommend it.