Scientist Colin Trafford (Tom Bell) is late for possibly the most important experiment of his life, where he will be working with atomic particles to find out how they can be harnessed. However, when he arrives his colleague Tom Lewis (Denholm Elliott) joshes him about his timekeeping, but the other officials are not so lighthearted about being kept waiting, so they plunge straight into the experiment without the proper precautions. Suddenly there is a loud noise and blinding light, and Colin is thrown to the floor clutching his head. But when he awakes, he is at a gentlemen's club...
What could possibly have happened to render the lowly scientist a member of an exclusive club in London, where the barman (Coronation Street's Johnny Briggs, unbilled) recognises him but Colin can't think how? And why are people referring to his writings when he's never had a play performed or a book published in his life? And when Tom arrives, why does he have both arms when previously he lost one in the Vietnam War? Not to mention being a newspaper film critic now? Then there's the newspaper headlines which tell him John F. Kennedy has been elected President of the United Nations. Well, if you haven't worked it out then this film is happy to spell things out for you.
Yes, we were in parallel universe territory in a movie adapted from a John Wyndham short story Random Quest, though somewhat less thrill-packed than his usual adapted work such as Day of the Triffids or The Midwich Cuckoos. This tale was also made into a BBC drama under the original title, but where that was quickly forgotten Quest for Love, thanks to occasionally showing up on television down the years, was rather better remembered, with a small but loyal fanbase edging it into cult movie areas. This was not so much because of its science fiction aspects, however, for they were neglected in comparison with some in the genre, no, this was a romance we were dealing with.
That's because when Colin is plonked down into his other incarnation's life, he is married to Joan Collins, which surely any man in 1971 would be envying, but there's a snag as the other Colin, an alcoholic, has been treating her badly all the years they've been married, having affairs left, right and centre with whatever starlet takes his fancy or wishes to further her career. Understandably there's no love in his marriage, that is until our Colin takes one look at Ottilie, his wife, and decides he quite likes the idea of this union, wishing to preserve it - but how can he make her realise that he is acting strangely because he is not "her" Colin? Step forward Laurence Naismith, who was a scientist in our world and the parallel one too.
He believes Colin when he shows him his equations (well, something like that can turn heads) and manages to persuade Ottilie that he is who he says he is, with the scar on her husband not being on Colin's shoulder the clincher that has her convinced. A life of bliss awaits - oh, wait, no it doesn't, because it's not that simple, and a twist arrives which sees him having to return to our world and desperately tracking down Ottilie's double. It's this emphasis on the love affair which has caused many to be sniffy about Quest for Love, especially if you like your sci-fi untainted by that soppy stuff, but actually it fitted neatly into that subgenre of films like Somewhere in Time or The Time Traveler's Wife which used the conventions of fantastical fiction to emotional ends. And if you were willing to forgive its rather overwrought, misty-eyed nature, this was perfectly adequate, ambitious within its means but quaint enough to be diverting. It might look a strange project for Carry On producer Peter Rogers, though. Lush strings by Eric Rogers.