Long AWOL from Home Video — the last time I peeked it was an unwatchable pan-and-scanned laserdisc — this early Charles Band opus came at a time when the purveyor of third-class horror thrills could command a budget. A rather phenomenal list of ’70s special effects hopefuls collaborated to give the show lasting appeal, mainly by including some stop motion monsters from a parallel dimension. An average American family spends a chaotic night battling bizarre phemoneema… phelomea… stuff that’s leaked into our reality through that nuisance Sci-fi catch-all, a Time-Space Warp. A pair of big name stars twenty years past their sell-by date endure all manner of rubber critters, zipping flying saucers and green-glowing supernatural artifacts!
The Day Time Ended
Full Moon Features
1979 / Color / 2:35 widescreen / 79 min. / Street Date May ?, 2019 / Available online through Amazon / 24.95
Starring: Jim Davis, Chris Mitchum, Dorothy Malone, Marcy Lafferty, Natasha Ryan, Scott C. Kolden.
Cinematography: John Morrill
Film Editor: Ted Nicolau
Original Music: Richard Band
Special Visual Effects: David Allen, Dave Carson, Lyle Conway, Randy Cook, Jim Danforth, Paul Gentry, Gregory Jein, Peter Kuran, James F. Liles, Laine Liska, Steven Nielson, Wayne Schmidt, Jerome Seven, Tom St. Amand, Rick Taylor, Pam Vick, Joe Viscocil.
Written by Wayne Schmidt, J. Larry Carroll, David Schmoeller story by Steve Neill
Produced by Wayne Schmidt, Steve Neill
Directed by John ‘Bud’ Cardos
Once upon a time, upstart producers fought their way up from the trenches with nothing but charm, good looks and a knack for finding the lowest common denominator in entertainment. Having associated with various aspiring effects artists, I learned about the Hard Knock Life they led before the Star Wars effects revolution. Some of them had contact with Charlie Band’s exploitation program. Band was particularly good at attracting star names. Christopher Lee wasn’t exactly hurting when he agreed to star in the inert Sci-fi groaner End of the World, with Sue Lyon, no less. The stop motion devotees I knew, first checked in with Charlie for Laserblast, a low, low, limbo-stick low-concept show about a zombified JD killing folk with a ray gun from outer space. To create cameo appearances by a pair of alien lizard men, it briefly employed a gaggle of effects guys associated with animator David Allen’s effects shop. Laserblast came out not long after Star Wars, and snared kids looking for something to see after watching Luke Skywalker for the 20th time. Hoyt Yeatman told me that he was suckered into Laserblast, and that the kid audience cheered its only really successful shot, an angle of a Star Wars sign being laser-exploded.
George Lucas fever caused a lot of awful sci-fi pictures to receive real releases. Lucas also inspired lean-budget producers to think bigger — Roger Corman invested in his own effects shop, giving opportunities to more future high achievers. Charlie Band bought into an idea by his steady makeup effects wrangler Steve Neill, about a triple supernova incident that opens a portal in the desert, subjecting a family to a barrage of mind-blowing phenomena from a different dimension. The Day Time Ended was born. Band put forth sizable funds to get the visuals going, and a crew of artists and technicians came together, mostly longhaired guys in their twenties waiting for ILM to gear up, and itching to do good work.
I’m writing this before hearing the disc’s audio commentary, which will keep me from putting in too many details. I first heard about the show when it was called Vortex. My boss Greg Jein showed me plans for a futuristic house miniature that he was going to construct for it on his ‘free time’ after working a crew on 1941 48 hours a week. Always the last to know, I visited David Allen’s shop, which was located in a converted meeting hall out on Olive Avenue, in Burbank. Two close friends were there, Steven Nielson and Randall William (Randy) Cook. I’d met the rather intense David Allen several times, and he did his usual thing of corralling me at a Movieola to complain about what some producer wanted him to do, and lecture me about effects in general. Allen always behaved as if I were more important than I was, which was flattering. Dave was working on a setup with a green pixie-thing being stop-motion animated standing on a brass bedpost. Randy Cook was happy sculpting something, if I remember correctly. Vortex was allowing these artists to practice their craft, but amid the jokes and laughter was the kind of surly, anti-authoritarian attitude you’d find in a sweat shop. Somebody referred to the movie as Kotex.
Somewhere along the line it was discovered that another company had registered the Vortex titles, and the movie became The Day Time Ended. I remember somebody joking that the new title belonged on an obit for John Cameron Swayze. That really shows my age. Filming took place way out in the Apple Valley, to accommodate a scene with vintage airplanes, only for that deal to fall apart. Maybe the show could have been shot closer, or even in Bronson Caverns, but the expanse of real desert on view is a major plus. I hope the commentary covers a story Wayne Schmidt told me, about a ‘picture car’ that got used as an equipment carrier by the crew, with the result that Wayne ended up being strong-armed and literally taken for a ride by some ‘unsavory characters’ that demanded Wayne’s signature on a document holding him fiscally responsible.
The Day Time Ended is a ‘strange phenomena’ epic vaguely in the mold of Close Encounters, although the author mentions The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits as inspirations. A lot of weird stuff issues forth from a Time-Space Warp. Little of it makes sense, unless one decides that the portal in question is sucking things through from more than one parallel dimension. Thus, the unnamed family spends a scary night simply reacting to things that come at them from all directions.
Paterfamilias Grant (Jim Davis of Dallas, Monster from Green Hell and The Big Sky) picks up most of his family at the Los Angeles International Airport, which in its 1979 pre-makeover state, has more of a ‘time machine’ feel than anything else in the movie. We hear talk about strange astronomical phenomena, which the family ignores. Then all the weird s___ begins to happen. It starts when they return to the futuristic, solar-powered house Grant has built way out in a desert nowheresville — someone has trashed the downstairs living room. Little Jenny (Natasha Ryan) is given a pony, but also finds a bizarre pyramid structure behind the barn, that takes her pony away and then gives it back when she asks. The pyramid shrinks to the size of a pocket toy, but still glows green. Jenny apparently remains in good graces with the magic pyramid, that undoes various problems at her request, like a broken mirror on the staircase. Son Richard (Chris Mitchum) has to go work a few miles away, leaving Jenny, her mother Beth and uncle Steve (Marcy Lafferty & Scott C. Kolden), Grant and his cheerful wife Ana (Dorothy Malone) behind on the new homestead, just as everything hits the fan.
That ‘triple supernova’ phenomenon manifests itself with lots of glowing, swirling lights, that also buzz the house like swarms of flying saucers. Jenny is visited by a pixie-like creature, that glows green and thus might be associated with the pyramid. More menacing is a flying probe ship with mechanical arms and a blowtorch; it burns its way through a closet door to get to Jenny, but does nothing to her. Later on it menaces but does not harm the rest of the family.
Also keeping everyone up past their bedtime are a pair of oddly shaped monsters with gnarly skin, that do battle in the dirt yard. The victor smashes its way into the barn in an attempt to reach the family. Meanwhile, with the aerial disturbances making the power go out and halting communications, Richard must struggle to get back to the farm in the middle of a windstorm. When his car crashes, he ends up riding in on one of the horses, which has escaped during the chaos. In the morning, with several family members lost to the Vortex, Grant finds his property littered with a graveyard of ruined jet planes and trucks but also wrecked alien spacecraft. Beth is transfigured by a new discovery, and tells her parents that they’ll have to adapt to an altered reality. But something miraculous awaits, just over the hill.
Director John ‘Bud’ Cardos got the job on the basis of his hit picture Kingdom of the Spiders, which I’m told is not bad; his The Dark has fans as well. Cardos had a strange career, working as a stuntman and even handling birds on Hitchcock’s avian suspense classic; he also worked with and acted for the Z-picture non-mogul Al Adamson. Cardos chooses okay camera angles in some cases but not in others. His blocking in the interior of the futuristic house is good, but he fails completely to impart mystery or surprise to most of the weird scenes. The sudden appearance of a glowing green pyramid out ‘back of the barn,’ is treated as if Jenny were taking out the garbage.
The actors also don’t get much directorial help. Chris Mitchum and Scott Kolden are properly concerned throughout, but Dorothy Malone seldom registers an appropriate level of fear — downplaying things that would make a real person go catatonic, or hide out in the rocks, hoping that the green gremlins from Planet Potato will eat somebody else instead. Cardos’ lack of attention makes it seem as if all have been infected with the Galloping Complacency Virus. As every inexplicable crisis passes, poor Dorothy Malone seems to revert to a lower level of distress. I would have freaked out the moment the mirror magically repaired itself.
Natasha Ryan is just okay as the supposedly naive child who accepts fantastic events as business as usual. After her reports of bizarre happenings are dismissed, it should have been cute when she stops telling even Gramps about new miracles. I was really expecting Jenny to fix everything, with her toy pyramid acting like Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers, and rebooting reality back to default mode. As directed by Cardos, Jenny instead maintains an out-to-lunch state of disengagement. Marcy Lafferty’s young mom is properly distressed, even though no sane mom would let their kid sleep alone considering what’s happening. Ms. Lafferty is made to deliver the ethereal Sense of Wonder speech at the finale, which would have been fine if director Cardos cared enough to match her with expressive direction.
Jim Davis had weathered countless movie gigs worse than this one, and remains a committed pro. His contribution is solid and consistent. He even manages to read the film’s weakest dialogue with his usual dry conviction: “What we’ve got here is a Time – Space Warp!” For the record, I’m told that line wasn’t in the script. It was invented on the set, and something tells me that Cardos approved it to let all and sundry know that he was above the material. I guess The Day Time Ended wasn’t intellectual enough for the auteur of Mutant and Gor II. True, the movie would need a real stylist to fully express its spacey vibe of, ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore, everything you know is wrong.’ A Jacques Tourneur or Joe Dante would have injected human values into the family scenes, and enhance the proceedings with sincere humor, suspense and moments of real shock. Cardos didn’t even bother to imitate Spielberg, with allusions to Biblical miracles and wondrous faces filled with awe.
The Day Time Ended is too ambitious for its budget and resources, even though Band (augmented by $$$ from Irwin Yablans and Michael Wolf’s Compass International Pictures) eventually spent about $750,000 on it. Line producer Wayne Schmidt delivered a lot of effects work for that cash outlay, but not all of the visuals achieve the intended impact.
Nobody cheated on the effects. Lyle Conway’s animation monsters are unique in appearance. One creature could be the result of a pachyderm and a sloth getting their genes scrambled in a matter transmitter: it walks erect, but has semi-useless elephant-like forepaws. The pixie creature is less interesting, and not all that impressive; it’s not a good outing for animator David Allen. The battling monsters are given s-l-o-w movements by Randy Cook, perhaps to seem other-worldly; the animation is quite fluid. The bigger, elephant-like monster ends up being overcome in action similar to the elephant-Ymir fight in 20 Million Miles to Earth. Come to think of it, the other beast is jabbed with a pitchfork, just like the Ymir too.
Greg Jein’s house model is a good match for the house and barn constructed full size. Something about the design is off, though — The on-location buildings look as if they were 3/4 scale, until people walk right up and reveal that they are full-sized. The need for opticals probably multiplied as the filming progressed. Some are desperate, some are excellent and some are ‘good enough for A.I.P.’
Jim Danforth had a history of helping out filmmakers with matte paintings, which meant that weak but sincere efforts like The Aftermath and Planet of Dinosaurs were each graced with a couple of isolated, sophisticated matte vistas. Danforth contributes two, maybe three fantastic visuals to Ended, a sky with a giant moon and the final image of a ‘City of Light.’
Coming off very well are animated swirls of lights and similar zip-zapping UFOs, all created by Peter Kuran, who did all kinds of effects but often concentrated on slick animation work — ray gun blasts, ‘living light.’ Night shots often add kick lighting to surfaces near the light source. The swirling Vortex light effects are less magical in the Daytime, when superimposed over Kuran’s trick widescreen composites of the house.
Apparently the show came up short in the running time. The credits crawl is unusually slow. An expendable preamble with a portentous speech delays the show with dull images of star fields and planet views. Richard Band’s music score feels more generic than generic, only fitfully adding to the suspense.
Full Moon Features’ Blu-ray of The Day Time Ended is a mixed bag of a presentation. For those of us that never saw the show in widescreen Panavision, it belongs on Sci-fi / effects completist lists. It also features stop-motion animation, a specialty the young filmmakers made sure to include. Few if any stop-motion films ever fall into total obscurity — the fans never abandon them.
As entertainment the movie lies somewhere between mediocre and adequate, but we were primed for a good presentation. Full Moon can’t really deliver full value for that. Although Charlie Band kept good materials for his library, Ended was co-owned by Compass International. That outfit made a fortune from John Carpenter’s Halloween, and likely abandoned this picture while concentrating on their moneymaking franchise. All that could be located was a 35mm release print. It has a few scratches and frame damage around reel breaks, but is otherwise in remarkably good shape.
The print was given a good transfer, but in this case ‘digitally remastered’ only refers to formatting. Paul Gentry spent considerable time re-coloring the show, and has done a rather good job making it watchable. I’m not particularly critical, and think the colors are by and large just fine — just a few scenes have faded backgrounds. A few composite shots have density issues, especially a couple of monster shots that reveal garbage mattes in what should be continuous black night around them.
Not helping is a soundtrack that was likely pulled off the print as well. Pops and crackle are under control, but the track feels compressed and crushed, which muffles some of the earlier dialogue. Sure, the film was digitally scanned, but the end result of Ended is more of a save-job than a polished remastering.
Fans just happy to see the long-AWOL feature will like the extras Full Moon has come up with. A BTS still section with images from the effects shop is great; I wish it could have been given captions identifying the effects folk on view. All look barely out of their ‘teens. Someone shot good 16mm footage of the location out in Apple Valley, with Jim Davis acting through sandstorm effects and Marcy Lafferty rushing out to rescue Jenny. Roger Corman would likely raise his eyebrows at the size of the crew — there must be thirty people out there in the heat.
Paul Gentry and Wayne Schmidt deliver a pleasant, informative and often very funny commentary; Steve Neill dropped out at the 11th hour. Paul and Wayne even have pleasant voices, and know how to think on their feet. They tell great stories and lay out the facts clearly, and some of what they say answers questions I had above. Paul might confuse some listeners in that he frequently references flaws that he’s in the process of correcting, flaws that are no longer present in his retimed final product.
Paul and Wayne confirm that the show came in short — the slow preamble and the ultra-slow credits crawl add a full 8.5 minutes to the running time! Wayne unnecessarily defends his screenplay, reporting that last-minute rewrites removed dialogue that made sense of the now-unorganized parade of ‘screwy stuff’ that emerges from the Vortex. Some alien forces were benevolent, some neutral and others hostile — but in the first script they actually had a logical relation to each other.
I remember being impressed in 1980 to see a two-page color spread in Variety touting The Day Time Ended, and also seeing that the movie was trade-reviewed on the same day as Heaven’s Gate. It was ironically described as more commercial than the $40 million dollar western.
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
The Day Time Ended
Movie: Fair +plus / Good-minus, but Good+ for diehard fantasy fans.
Video: Good -minus
Sound: Good -minus
Supplements: Commentary with Wayne Schmidt and Paul Gentry, BTS footage, photo gallery..
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? N0; this is Full Moon, ya know.
Packaging: One Blu-ray in Keep case
Reviewed: May 27, 2019
Text © Copyright 2019 Glenn Erickson