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  Idaho Transfer Never The Optimist
Year: 1973
Director: Peter Fonda
Stars: Kelly Bohanon, Kevin Hearst, Caroline Hildebrand, Keith Carradine, Dale Hopkins, Fred Seagraves, Ted D'Arms, Joe Newman, Susan Kelly, Meredith Hull, Roy B. Ayers, Judy Motulsky, Kim Casper, Debbie Scott, Devin Burke, Earl Krabb
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: A device for transferring people forward in time has been devised by American scientists and situated in Idaho, which is where Isa (Caroline Hildebrand) is, part of the research team which uses the machine to travel into the future. However, that future is a bleak one as far as they can tell, because the landscape around the site they appear at is desolate, and now the fight is on to prevent the disaster which occurs a few years ahead. When Isa's sister Karen (Kelly Bohanon) arrives to join the research party, she doesn't realise what she's getting herself into...

When actor Peter Fonda briefly turned to directing in the seventies, he offered up one bona fide cult classic: but this wasn't it. No, Idaho Transfer did not receive the acclaim that The Hired Hand did, mainly because it was so difficult to see for a long time. As it stands, it looks to be very much a product of its time, as most science fiction from the first half of this decade at least was much concerned with the state of the planet, and it seems to have been mankind which has caused the ecological armageddon that features in much of this film.

Based on a script by Thomas Matthiesen, the film does not have much in the way of star wattage, with only Keith Carradine the truly recognisable face, and even he does not have a major role. Initially we think the main relationship will be between Isa and her sister, but when she takes a tumble while out in the future, Karen has to drag her back to the pod where they can transfer. However, something in the process hastens Isa's demise and when they get back to the present she is soon lying dead in a pool of her own sick. So it's Karen who becomes our heroine instead.

Although the low budget is obvious, the film does have a matter of fact chill about it and if you like lonely planet predictions then there's much to admire here. The research team of young people end up stranded in the future and set out on a journey to Portland to see if they can find help, this taking up most of the middle part of the film. It could be that you can grow restless watching the characters wander the impressive scenery, but this has a road movie quality all its own, even if they aren't driving cars. Karen and her companion Ronald (Kevin Hearst) do find an abandoned vehicle, but there's no way of getting it started.

Along the way, a ray of hope appears for the human race when Karen starts to believe she is pregnant, but she has a nasty surprise coming. In fact, the whole film is about nasty surprises once it reaches its final third as the plot twists itself into something approximating a thriller, then a horror movie as Karen is attacked and then transports herself into the far future to escape, where the biggest revelation of all awaits. This ending is so ruthless as to be somewhat ridiculous, and heaven knows how a car fuelled that way would actually operate, but if you look on it as a kind of fable it comes together in its own kind of sense. Chiefly this is an awful warning about how we can mess up the planet, a worry that has never gone away, and if Idaho Transfer doesn't quite convince, then it's an interesting try. Music by Bruce Langhorne.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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