The Movie:Idaho TransferYear: 1973
Director: Peter Fonda
Run Time: 86 minutes
Cast: Kelley Bohanon, Kevin Hearst, Dale Hopkins, Keith Carradine, Fred Seagraves, Ted D'Arms, Joe Newman, Susan Kelly, Meredith Hull, Roy Ayers, Judy Motolsky, Kim Casper, Debbie Scott, Devin Burke.
Premise: A group working on a secret government project in Idaho discover a way to travel into the future. They discover the future to be bleak and barren of humanity thus decide to clandestinely recruit youths into the program to send them forward in time to repopulate the Earth.
The Reality: Idaho Transfer is a dull, plodding, time travel non-epic marred by an unclear plot which is not helped by the inclusion of a central character who is an outpatient from a mental clinic. As it is around this character whom most of the action occurs this becomes problematical as her character back story serves only to confuse the audience. It's unclear whether the movie is supposed to be viewed as part of a hallucinatory psychotic episode or stark reality. The latter may have been intentional on the part of the scriptwriter as the character is not introduced right away alas the audience is left scratching their heads in bewildered consternation as this character's ever increasing erratic and borderline irrational behavior slowly, agonizingly, unfolds on screen.
The Story: Without revealing plot "secrets" this movie could be summed up simply as one woman's descent into madness. Alas Idaho Transfer is an unfocused confusion of plodding narrative flummery. The science fiction trappings of a time travel experiment against which the story unfolds makes watching Idaho Transfer a perplexing experience that defies all sense of logic or reason. The basic idea underlying the plot is old hack in time travel short stories. Yet this reliance on cliché could have been forgiven, if not for the ending. .
Assessment/ Verdict: Aside from the fact the entire premise of the plot turns out to be a red herring, or so the audience is left to ponder/wonder at the unexpected Twilight Zone ending, the story is a pretty straightforward examination of the pitfalls a group of twenty something youths encounter in a world devoid of humanity. Thematically Idaho Transfer's philosophy is typical of 70s era hippy culture. (Or would be had the movie actually focused on developing the numerous threads of plot narrative it introduced.) Sadly the movie is very stream of consciousness.
Idaho Transfer, despite being filmed in the 70s with a cast of long haired youths, is far from the hippy anthem one might expect such a movie to be. It's bleak, thought provoking, yet also convoluted and confused. Frustratingly it's impossible to discuss the problems inherent with the plot as this movie is intended to be viewed without foreknowledge of these "facts" and to reveal them lessens the impact Idaho Transfer has on the audience. Alas, what message the director was trying to impart to the audience is as unclear as the movie is unfocused. Is Idaho Transfer about the futility of human endeavors or merely an exercise in futility?
The basic story would make a great 30 minute Twilight Zone episode alas, as a full length feature, the premise is lost and buried under muddled barely coherent nonsense. Thus the less forgiving will likely find this a disappointing and unsatisfying experience. However, due to the perplexity of this feature, I'm going to suggest two other reviews for those curious about this cinematic oddity. Be warned much of the plot and story is discussed, which may potentially lessen the impact (and confusion) of the movie.
Million Monkey Theater - This link takes you to a very in depth, and opinionated, review of the movie. Lots of screen caps.
Unknown Movies - An interesting review that provides some insights into the director and the movies perceived faults.
Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan