FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *cosmological*
This time-travel telefilm stands the “test of time” a little better than most of its ilk, in that it keeps the idea of changing past events simple and uncomplicated. In addition, it boasts a better than average male lead in William Devane.
Devane plays scientist George McKenzie, whose hobby concerns collecting relics of the American West. However, tragedy deals him aces and eights when his wife and small son are slain in a traffic accident. For years afterward, the bereaved McKenzie channels his regrets into target-shooting, implicitly blasting away at blind fate. Then he purchases a collection of Old West relics at an auction and begins to investigate a strange photograph therein. (Note: the film was based on a book titled “The Tintype.”)
Providentially, a strange woman named Georgia (Lauren Hutton) appears and renders McKenzie aid in solving the mystery of the photograph, in which McKenzie sees a man in the Old West wielding a modern-day Magnum pistol. The mystery is resolved when Georgia reveals that both she and the man in the photo, Joseph Cole, are time-travelers from the 26th century. Cole, who bears a grudge against Georgia’s father, is out to change history in the Old West in order to wipe out Georgia’s whole family by assassinating one of her ancestors. Once McKenzie has been persuaded that time-travel is for real, he quickly warms to the idea of championing justice by going back with Georgia to stop Cole. The film ends with a nicely executed gun-duel between McKenzie and Cole, and a temporal rewriting of the hero’s tragic fate.
Devane invests the simple role with unwavering authority, and to some extent his performance ennobles that of Hutton, whose film-work has generally been tepid. Kinski does another one of his eccentric eye-rolling perfs, but better an over the top villain than a dull one.