‘From time unborn… a hideous she-thing!’
Terror from the Year 5000 is a 1958 American science fiction horror film written, produced and directed by Robert J. Gurney Jr. It is based (uncredited) on the short story ‘Bottle Baby’ by Henry Slesar. It stars Joyce Holden, Ward Costello, and Frederic Downs.
Editor Dede Allen went on to have a noteworthy career editing mainstream Hollywood hits such as The Hustler, Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and Reds.
American International Pictures released the film in the US as a double feature with The Screaming Skull. In the UK, it was released in a BBFC censored ‘X’ certificate version by Anglo Amalgamated as Cage of Doom.
Working in the privacy of his Florida island estate, nuclear physicist Professor Howard Erling constructs a machine that breaks the time barrier. With his assistant Victor, Howard conducts a number of experiments and successfully transports a small statue from the future.
Concerned over the vast amounts of energy needed to conduct the experiments and realizing that their unique work needs formal verification from another professional, Howard calls a halt to the research, despite Victor’s protests. The statue is then sent to premiere archaeologist Robert Hedges, who runs a carbon dating test on it and discovers it comes from the year 5,000 A.D…
“This movie has a lot of problems: it’s cheaply shot, it’s not directed particularly well, the acting is quite poor at times, and the soundtrack has too many moments that sound like they were lifted from sitcoms. What it does have is an interesting story and some very nice touches and ideas here and there…” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
“Some intriguing ideas are there, but the budget and crew (including most of the actors), are just not up to pulling it off. The acting ranges from wooden (Downs), to eccentric (at one point Costello, for no explicable reason, skips merrily part way down a corridor), to quite good (starlet Joyce Holden’s career in B movies and TV started and ended in the ’50s).” Brian Schuck, Films from Beyond the Time Barrier
“The Terror From the Year 5000 herself also wows us with her mysterious powers of the future when she steals the face of a visiting nurse and then proceeds to hypnotize Victor with her silver fingernails! Top it all off with a scene of Hedges yawning while the professor yammers on about something and bring it all to a thought-provoking conclusion…” MonsterHunter
“The ‘mutant’ from the future was rather silly […] and what was the whole point of Angelo peeping on Claire? Did I miss something there? I must admit that I’ve never seen somebody hypnotize another by waving their sparkled fingernails in front of them. This film could have been a whole lot better with crisper direction and a tighter plot.” The Monster Shack
“Robert J. Gurney, Jr seems greatly obsessed with seeing Joyce Holden undressing (at least as much as the censorship of the day allowed him to get away with) – into her bathing costume behind some bushes, down to her petticoat to get into bed in silhouette behind the blinds of a window, as well as the servant Angelo (Fred Herrick) peeping in and later being found by Ward Costello looking at dirty magazines in his room.” Moria
” …the film doesn’t know what to do with its own ideas. The meandering and talky screenplay is most concerned with verifying the fact that the time machine works and with establishing a love triangle. Contemporary viewers must have squirmed in their seats wondering if the “terror” would ever show.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“The film is crudely photographed, with no noticeable interest in continuity and little attempt at convincing settings.” BFI Monthly Film Bulletin
“Terror is only adequate in terms of production; a few of the actors do fairly good work; there’s a hangdog air to the whole movie. Most audiences probably found it of little interest, but I don’t think it deserves to be completely overlooked. It has some imagination in its conception and enterprise in its execution.” Bill Warren, Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties
“…intriguing, if clumsily mounted Science Fiction thriller.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction
Cast and characters:
Ward Costello as Doctor Robert Hedges (Star Trek: The Next Generation; Bloody Birthday)
Joyce Holden as Claire Erling (The Werewolf)
Frederic Downs as Prof. Howard Erling (Bug; Night Gallery; The Addams Family)
John Stratton as Victor
Salome Jens as Future Woman / Nurse (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Tales from the Crypt; House of Evil; Seconds)
Fred Herrick as Angelo
Beatrice Furdeaux as Miss Blake
Jack Diamond as First Lab Technician
Fred Taylor as Second Lab Technician
Bill Downs as Doctor Blair
William Cost as Joe the Bartender
Dade County, Florida
The working title was The Girl from 5000 A.D.
Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures – Mark Thomas McGee, McFarland, USA, 1996
Image credits: MonsterHunter