The great thing about time-travel movies is you can always go back and do it all over again.
This weekend, the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre does just that with a series of time-jumping double-features — “Planet of the Apes” with “Escape From the Planet of the Apes” on Thursday; “Star Trek: First Contact” with “T2: Judgment Day” on Friday; and “The Time Machine” (1960) and the cult-film “Beyond the Barrier” on Sunday.
And on Saturday it’s an all-McFly marathon with “Back to the Future,” “Back to the Future II” and “Back to the Future III.” This is the 25th anniversary of the first film in the Robert Zemeckis-directed franchise that starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover. Marty McFly (Fox) travels back and forth through time thanks to his pal Doc Brown (Lloyd) and a very special DeLorean.
The first film became a signature moment in 1980s film; President Reagan even namechecked the lighthearted sci-fi adventure in his 1986 State of the Union Address: “Never has there been a more exciting time to be alive, a time of rousing wonder and heroic achievement. As they said in the film ‘Back to the Future,’ ‘Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.’ “
The festival’s check-your-calendar fun starts on Thursday with the 1968 classic “Planet of the Apes,” directed by Franklin Schaffner, starring Charlton Heston as a he-man astronaut who finds himself marooned on a distant planet — or at least that’s what he assumes after meeting the sentient simians who herd primitive humans to use as slaves and science test-subjects.
The popular film inspired a whole series of lower-budget sequels including 1971”s “Escape From the Planet of the Apes, “ in which everyone’s favorite apes Cornelius and Zira (Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter) arrive on Earth via a space ship. That movie is the second half of the “Apes” double-feature on Thursday and art director Bill Creber will be on hand for a Q&A between the two films.
On Friday, Starfleet makes an appearance with the 1996 film “Star Trek: First Contact,” considered by many fans to be a superior effort among the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” films. This installment was directed by “Next Generation” star Jonathan Frakes and in it the crew, led by Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), get its own movie after sharing its first big-screen moment with William Shatner in “Star Trek: Generations” in 1994. Writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore wanted a movie centered on the Borg but producer Rick Berman was eager for a time-travel adventure; in the end they mind-melded the concepts.
The “Trek” film is bundled with one of the signature sci-fi films of recent decades: James Cameron’s intense “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” The sequel to the 1984 sci-fi classic “The Terminator” was a landmark moment in visual effects and brought back stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, a well as new faces in Edward Furlong and Robert Patrick. The big twist in this film is the return of the original movie’s title character as a heroic force, a killer cyborg who has been reprogrammed to work for the salvation of humanity.
The series ends Sunday with “The Time Machine,” George Pal’s thrilling 1960 adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel, starring Rod Taylor, Alan Young and Yvette Mimieux, and another 1960 flick, “Beyond the Barrier,” directed by Edgar G. Ulmer of “Detour” fame.
– Susan King
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IMAGES: Top, promotional poster for “Back to the Future.” A scene from the Twentieth Century Fox film “Planet of the Apes” (Los Angeles Times archives); A scene from “T2: Judgment Day” (Artisan Home Entertainment). Leonard Nimoy portrait by Anne Cusack Los Angeles Times.
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