Thursday, May 20, 2010

THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT

I remember renting the VHS of this modestly-budgeted science fiction thriller with some friends back in the mid-80s, and enjoying it, so when I came across this recent DVD re-issue of THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT (1984) last week in my local video store, I picked it up.

The script is inspired by the old conspiracy theory/urban legend that claims that the U.S. Navy tested an anti-radar device on the U.S.S. Eldridge in the Philadelphia harbor back in 1943, a device that allegedly turned the ship invisible and/or teleported it to another location for a brief period of time. In the film, the ship is sucked into a "hyperspace vortex" and two sailors, David Herdeg (Michael Pare, STREETS OF FIRE) and Jim Parker (Bobby Di Cicco, GHOULIES IV), are transported to 1984, where/when the same scientists have attempted to re-create the experiment. Since this is an 80s movie, it isn't long before the two timelost sailors are on the run from the authorities and have pulled a pretty, female bystander (Nancy Allen, ROBOCOP) into their predicament.

Competently directed by Stewart Raffill (HIGH RISK, THE ICE PIRATES) and executive produced by John Carpenter, THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT is a solid, if relatively routine, science fiction adventure with a good cast, great 80s special effects, and a script that mostly makes sense. Pare is convincing enough as the temporally-displaced sailor, and Nancy Allen, as usual, rises above the limitations of her poorly-scripted role to create an appealing and strong character.

Interesting trivia (to me, anyway): when the leads get their first glimpse of 80's television in a roadside diner, the set is showing the 1980 Roger Corman-produced monster flick, HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP. I just think that's cool.

The Anchor Bay DVD appears to be a simple repackaging of their 2000 disc, with a flawless 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 Surround audio options. The only bonus feature is the original theatrical trailer, which gives away way too much of the movie's climax.

If you're a fan of 80s sci-fi in general, or this movie in particular (and it does have its fans), Anchor Bay's DVD is a fine presentation, and worth checking out.

BUY: The Philadelphia Experiment