Peter Fonda followed up his fine revisionist western THE HIRED HAND with IDAHO TRANSFER. It’s as unusual a time-travel movie as HIRED HAND is an offbeat western. In both cases he’s much more interested in personal interaction than the traditions of their respective genres.
A government project for matter transference ends up being a means of time travel. Right off, IT has a good idea most time travel movies don’t deal with, the health risks of sending a human being through freakin’ TIME. Old people don’t do well, and die not long after transfer, so young people are used to go fifty-plus years into the future. There they find a rocky post-apocalyptic land. And then people start getting nutty.
IT is about the human costs of this incredible technology, which is something few SF movies dealt with until then. The way MOON touched on the human costs of a moon base, IT is about the physical stress of time travel. One character doesn’t follow the rules precisely and pays a price.
Much of the movie is like an Outward Bound event, with young people wandering around this nowhere place, man. Young people said they were the future, but these kids don’t really have a lot of interest in setting up the new world they talked about. Fonda isn’t bashing young people, but he’s not taking a romantic view, either.
Rebuilding civilization’s a bummer, man.
The movie’s view of human nature is a bleak one. One character, a former mental patient, gets nutty–is this because of human nature, or due to the man-made machinery? You decide! (Because the movie doesn’t tell.)
This was one of the first movies Keith Carradine acted in. He doesn’t make much of an impression, but it’s the nature of the movie. The characters are not sharply defined and the actors are mostly amateurs, and it shows.
The final moments are clumsy and a letdown. The message its sending seems to be out of a different movie like SOYLENT GREEN. It’s okay, it’s just a bad fit for the rest of the movie.
It’s available on a couple of cheap DVDs, but IDAHO TRANSFER deserves the full Criterion treatment.