A man runs through the shadows pursued by unseen assailants firing a gun at him; he is just about to get away by ducking into a side street next to the river when he is shot and topples into the water, then left for dead. The police and an ambulance are called, so it's not long before a reporter or two have arrived and a photograph of the unidentified victim - still alive, if barely - is taken back to the offices of You magazine. There, one of the journalists, Delaney (Gene Nelson) notices the snap and is intrigued by the glow around the body of the injured man, what could it mean? He enlists the assistance of the photographer, Jill Rabowski (Faith Domergue), who also happens to be his girlfriend, and soon they are both at the hospital trying to find out more...
If ever there was a trend in genre movies of the nineteen-fifties out of Britain, in the science fiction or thriller side of things at least, then it was their desire to be American. The product out of Hollywood was packing audiences into cinemas across the world, and as the United States was beginning to invest in British films it was only natural they would want an international flavour to the results. Thus you had films like Timeslip, which starred not one but two Americans sparring verbally in what was assumed to be a His Girl Friday fashion, in this case former dancer in screen musicals Gene Nelson, who was making a transition to television at this stage in his career, both before and behind the camera, and his romantic interest Faith Domergue.
She will always be associated with one science fiction film, and it wasn't this one, it was the fifties favourite This Island Earth where she was spirited away to another planet to be menaced by a mutant. Nothing quite as exotic happened to her here, as she was relegated to waiting in the car while Nelson got on with the business of saving the day, and she wasn't even part of the movie's big gimmick. The glow on the photographs around the victim's form is down to radioactivity, which in true sci-fi style has had a remarkable effect. The script keeps this quiet until the halfway mark or so, but it's the most famous aspect to Timeslip and is all there in the title: after being clinically dead on the operating table for seven and a half seconds, that's the length of time the unfortunate is living into the future!
So who is he? It gets stranger: though he looks identical to the scientist Dr Stephen Rayner (Peter Arne), Rayner is apparently alive and well and in his lab, so how could he have a double who has no recollection of what happened to him? And why does the boffin have those scars on his face that his doppelganger does not? He says it's thanks to a recent car accident, but could there be another reason? What do you think? Don't be too surprised when your suspicions about the scientist are justified, as it was really less interested in the fantastical elements of its set up than it was in a rather ordinary, if robustly convoluted, espionage tale where the bad guys were actually a group of shifty foreigners.
But not foreigners like the Americans were, heavens no, they were the nice type of foreigners with their wonderful accents and brash demeanour and more importantly their lovely investment, no, the baddies were from South America and not, given this hailed from the height of the Cold War, Soviet spies seeking to upend the best laid plans of the British establishment. That made a change, though in effect simply meant more of the "non-Brit or American accent = suspicious" state of thinking that many a spy yarn to come would exploit. We weren't in James Bond territory yet, so the whole adventure strand of thrillers was not revitalised and influential, therefore it was the Hollywood model adhered to which made the dropping of decidedly non-novel place names such as Stevenage or Rotherhithe sound a little off when we were meant to believe there were all sorts of tremendously exciting, world-changing escapades occurring there. Climaxing with a race against time as the game is up for the villains, this was stodgy and fuzzily developed, but eventful and diverting enough.
[Network's DVD makes Timeslip look better than it ever has (certainly than its public domain print The Atomic Man), and features a trailer and gallery as extras.]