A group of scientists at this Californian university campus are pioneering a device which allows them to see backwards and forwards in time. This portal is being tested today, and they are getting criticism for using so much power and draining the resources of the establishment; technician Danny McKee (Steve Franken) has been sent to tell them to ease off. However they are too far into their work as the portal they use first shows the campus from two days ago, then the picture breaks up and they see a barren wasteland appear. According to their instruments, this is the Earth in one hundred and seven years time....
Ib Melchior toiled away at the coalface of science fiction for a number of years, and while you could argue he never came up with an all-time classic, he did manage to conjure up a few memorable images and concepts, with The Time Travelers often referred to as his crowning achievement, mainly because of its mindbending ending which has been seared into the memories of thousands of kids watching old sci-fi movies on television, who are now grown up. Obviously indebted to H.G. Wells, Melchior's film essentially embraces the whole idea of science fiction and spends just under ninety minutes doing the most he can with it on limited means.
In spite of the low budget, this still looks pretty good thanks to intelligent use of the resources available. The portal the scientists create, as Danny discovers, is more than a mere window on the coming years, because they can actually walk through it and pass through the decades to exist in the future. This they do, one following the other to persuade them to go back before the portal breaks down, yet by the stage that it does they are all four of them wandering the wasteland and being chased by some pesky mutants. They seek refuge in a cave, see the mutants unable to follow, and are greeted by some androids and a woman who explains all: Earth has been devastated by atomic war, but there's still hope.
Inside this cave network, there is a futuristic world endeavouring to build a spaceship that will take the advanced and non-mutated survivors there to the stars, where they have pinpointed an Earth-like world somewhere in Alpha Centauri. At first the four from the past want to get back to warn the world and stop the war, as being a science fiction tale from this era the worries of the bomb were still very much in everyone's mind, but the first hints that this may not be the optimistic view of things to come that you might have hoped is when one of the officials informs them that if they had gone back to prevent the war, then it would have already happened. So they haven't.
There may be a deep pessimism about The Time Travelers, but Melchior is clearly in love with the ideas of the genre, so there are androids who in magic tricks are separated from their body parts (and reattached in the case of one robot's head - all in one shot), an electronic musical intrument that provides its own psychedelic lightshow, and oranges which grow under lab conditions to supply vitamin C for the journey. In fact, the film tends to be distracted by the wonders it presents, so by the time the mutants are attacking you've been lulled into a false sense of security. As an example of the movies tackling "hard" sci-fi, it's still a little goofy, and has a cameo from superfan Forrest J. Ackerman to boot, but it does work itself up into a truly bleak finale that sends its characters into an inescapable fate, not something you've been led to expect from what had gone before. Music by Richard LaSalle.