The Time Travelers (1964) is a science fiction film directed by B-movie director Ib Melchior that inspired the 1966 TV series The Time Tunnel as well as the 1967 remake Journey to the Center of Time. The plot involves a group of scientists who find their time-viewing screen allows them to travel through time.
It starred Preston Foster, Philip Carey, Merry Anders, Steve Franken and John Hoyt. The cast also includes superfan Forrest J. Ackerman in one of his many bit roles in science fiction films.
Scientists Dr. Erik von Steiner (Preston Foster), Dr. Steve Connors (Philip Carey) and Carol White (Merry Anders) are testing their time viewing device, drawing enormous amounts of power. Danny McKee (Franken), a technician from the power plant, has been sent to tell them to shut down their experiment. During the test, odd shadows quickly cross the room before the screen shows a stark, barren landscape. Danny discovers the screen has become a portal and steps through.
As the setting is becoming unstable, the others enter the portal to retrieve him. Just as they return to the portal, an image of their lab in mid-air, it disappears, stranding them. Then they are pursued by hostile primitives, ending up in a cave. There they find an underground city of advanced peaceful people – all that is left of civilization in a future devastated by nuclear war.
The year is 2071 A.D. Dr. Varno (John Hoyt) the leader explains that earth is left unable to support life. To survive, they are frantically working on a spacecraft that will take them to a planet orbiting a distant star. The four time travelers pitch in to help complete the spaceship, but before they can lift off, the degenerate mutant humans break in and destroy the ship.
The three scientists, with help from the power technician, work feverishly with the future technology to recreate their time portal. They, along with a few people from the future, escape through the portal back to the present just ahead of the mutants. One person throws an object through the gateway that damages the equipment on the other side and closes the portal.
The survivors return to the lab, where they make a horrible discovery. Through some error, time around them is barely moving – they are greatly accelerated and rapidly aging. Their only option is to go through the time portal which is set to 100,000 years in the future. But the screen is dark and what lies ahead is unknown.
When the last one goes through, time goes back to normal. The screen flashes on briefly and shows the characters walking in a clearing with trees and grass. The earth has apparently regenerated. We are now back to the start of the film where the scientists have witnessed what just happened as an unexplained blur. The entire sequence of events is rapidly reshown, and then repeats in a faster and even more abridged manner, continuing faster and shorter until the movie abruptly ends without further explanation.
There are some attempts at humor throughout the film. After Danny flirts with a shapely young woman of the future, she hands him a box containing several rows of prosthetic eyeballs. Looking directly into the camera at the audience watching this movie, Danny remarks: “And I thought I was giving her the eye.”
About midway through the movie, Forrest J Ackerman appears briefly in a scene depicting several technicians in the post-apocalyptic future. Ackerman’s only line in the movie is “I’m keeping all my Spacemen happy”, a line utterly irrelevant to the surrounding dialogue. In fact, at this time Ackerman was editing a science-fiction magazine titled Spacemen; the movie was heavily promoted in his magazine on the basis of Ackerman’s cameo appearance in the movie.