The Philadelphia Experiment

The Philadelphia Experiment

The last time I saw this film, I was a young and impressionable wee little snapper.  It was a time before TV on demand, before DVD even.  I must of been 6 years old when my mum rented this 80s sci-fi action adventure and it left a lasting impression on me.

And then time caught up with it I guess – among the other 80s sci-fi films out there, it just got lost.  In a decade that brought us Back To The Future, Blade Runner, Aliens, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and urm, Short Circuit, it’s not surprise it’s fallen by the way side.

And then the other day, I was going through one of my John Carpenter moments. Having watched The Thing and then Big Trouble in Little China, I thought it was high time I revisited Star Man.  Now, for some reason I had a flashback to the film that involved an experiment gone wrong, involving a black hole and a plot involving time travel.

Star Man involves none of that, however watching it again it evoked the feeling of those memories (I did see both films around the same time) and I made it my mission to find out what that film was.

After a quick search online, I realised it was The Philadelphia Experiment and made a somewhat hesitant decision to purchase it on DVD.

Having watched it this evening, I was taken aback at the fact that John Carpenter was the executive producer for The Philadelphia Experiment.  Considering such a big and respected name is attached to this film, you’d assume it would still be on everyone’s radar.

Anyway, enough natterings about my story of rediscovering the film and on with what the film is like.

Inspired by the urban myth of the real Philadelphia Experiment, the Stewart Rafill directed film starts off in 1943, where a US naval base is experimenting with making things invisible to radar.  For some unknown reason, not wanting to test this on a smaller object (like say a car or a small airplane), they opt to test this technology on something slightly more ambitious – a giant Navy ship.

The good news for the navy is that the technology works, the bad news is that not only has the ship disappeared from radar, it has disappeared completely.

Well, it’s in a weird limbo state where things have gone a little bit Tron (80s version, not the new Legacy one). Everything is changing colour, almost like god himself is playing around with the hue settings in a real life Photoshop.

David Herdeg and Jim Parker, two sailors on board eventually jump ship and land not in the water, but slap bang in the middle of the 1980s. What are the chances!

Along the way, they meet Allison, played by Nancy Allen (pre-Robocop) and like all good 80s leading ladies, she decides to assist our heroes – despite the fact they’ve kidnapped her at gun point and hijacked her car (which is the only thing left in her life apparently).

As the film progresses, we learn that there is a new experiment taking place where they landed and the accident in 1943 is linked somehow to the accident in present day.  Naturally, all this messing around with physics and science stuff has caused a rift in the space time continuum and a black hole has eaten a whole town somewhere in the Nevada desert.

When I was younger, I remember being impressed by the special effects while the experiments were taking place. As mentioned earlier, I had never seen anything like the effect and the fact that the ship was trapped in-between two points in time and space blew my mind.

Now those sequences looks slightly dated, and the elements of the film that intrigue me the most were the scenes that dealt with time travel.

The plot gives the protagonists the chance to meet the same faces in both the past and the future, advising them of events that have happened while they’ve been away.  It’s an interesting idea that isn’t explored enough really.

Overall, it’s still an entertaining little film that doesn’t deserve to be stuck in the past.  If I could rip a hole in the space time continuum, just to pluck this little gem back into the spotlight, I wouldn’t hesitate.

About The Author

Colin lives in south west London. Looks like a hobbit and has been watching films ever since he saw Return of the Jedi at the age of 3. You can follow Colin on Twitter @obicolkenobi.