Idaho Transfer (1973)

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This sci-fi film was Peter Fonda’s second outing as a director. It’s a subtle, languid tale of a group of researchers, investigating “material projection” who have stumbled upon the ability to move forward in time. They find a future ruined by some form of eco-disaster and begin to catalogue the wildlife and environment 40 years into the future. Careful to keep their discovery out of the hands of the government, their idealistic plans to migrate to the future and repopulate the planet are accelerated when their project gets shut down and power to their time machine is cut.

There’s a lot to like in this film; it features a wonderful soundtrack by Bruce Langehorne (“Mr Tambourine Man”) which hasn’t been officially released but is available here. The actors are for the most part unknowns who would never work in cinema again; they employ a naive/naturalistic acting style which mostly works and seems bound somehow to the film’s era. The editing and cinematography are admirable; there’s a terrific scene towards the end of the film that cuts together points across different times to nice effect.

The protagonist, Karen, played by Kelly Bonhanon, still reeling from the accidental death of her older sister Ada, embarks on a journey with the others to travel overland to Portland. On route, she and her companions discover trains full of bagged bodies and a clan of “3rd generation survivors” who are deaf and simple-minded. After believing that she’s pregnant and being told by the others that the transfer process makes them sterile, Kelly leaves the group and makes her way back to the transfer unit. Here she’s attacked by an unstable researcher who elected to stay behind. As she shelters inside the transfer compartment after the attack, the power is turned back on and Kelly makes a dash back to the present, where she adjusts the machine to send her far into the future.

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