Spencer’s Sanctorum Presents:
THE TIME TUNNEL – “ATTACK OF THE BARBARIANS” – Season 1, Episode 26 (1967)
Review by Spencer Seams
Welcome to Spencer’s Sanctorum. This column is about old TV shows in the vein of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, ONE STEP BEYOND, and KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER. I seek out the weird, goofy, and underrated episodes, the ones that nobody talks about.
“We’re goin’ back in…” I think that’s copyrighted. I meant, this edition of the Sanctorum is going to be in the act of time travelling, and might be going back in the process (wipes sweat bases covered). Why not start off the new year with a little vacation bending reality and potentially ruining the future, or present, while having fun in the Cali-Mongolian sun.
In a previous review, I covered another episode of THE TIME TUNNEL. It was goofy, silly fun. This time around things are even goofier and sillier and funner than before. Well, that episode was set in the far-flung freaky future, and this one is the Kublai Khan-era of China. Wait…nevermind.
First, before I start off. I won’t be criticizing this for historical inaccuracy. I’m a history nerd, but an ass about it. This is entertainment, not a college paper.
We start with the fellas, Tony (James Darren, VENUS IN FURS 1969) and Doug (Robert Colbert, THE KILLER WHO WOULDN’T DIE 1976), who are as always unstuck in time, much like a certain pilgrim. At this point, they start taking turns getting knocked out from a sneak attack. Lt. Gen. Heywood (Whit Bissell, in two separate THE TIME MACHINE films as different characters, in 1960 and 1976) tries his damnedest to get his boys back to the present, but nothing works. Tony and Doug are trapped in 13th Century Mongolia, caught in between a clash of two different Genghis Khan grandsons. On one side is the Chinese emperor, Kublai Khan, but he is never seen. On the other side is the one relevant to Tony and Doug’s fate, Batu (Arthur Batanides, Kirkland in the POLICE ACADEMY series). He leads a sect of the formerly unified army moving into the China, but there is a man in the way of that goal.
That man is John Goddamn Saxon (GENGHIS KHAN: THE STORY OF A LIFETIME, 2010) as Marco Goddamn Polo. The fellas side with the other white man, after a rescue from a vaguely erotic torture session. A beautiful Mongol woman named Sarit (Vitina Marcus, BEDTIME STORIES 1964 as “Pretty Girl Uncredited”) heals Tony. This injured Tony strikes up a romance with Sarit. They presumably trade more than smooches, when we see Doug and Marco maxin’ and relaxin’, actin’ all cool and NOT shooting B-Ball outside the school. Basketball hasn’t been invented yet, after all. Instead, they are planning for a siege assault at the fort from Batu.
Back at Base, Heywood is trying is send the fellas weapons to save them, while his team is zeroing in on a narrow time fix. The crew is not happy about the romance. Tony and Sarit are from two different eras, so it can never workout. He’s a scientist from 1967 USA and she’s a Mongol princess from the 1280s. The crew does manage to send some future tech to help the fellas survive a death sentence.
However, there is a mishap at the Base as they lock onto the fellas. Fear not, something strange happens that saves them. From a seemingly bottomless chasm, a bearded man in a velvet black cloak flips into the control room. It’s Merlin! He retrieves them from Mongol times. He has plans for the fellas, but we have to wait for the next episode to find out what, specifically.
This needs to be brought up right now. There’s “brown face” in this episode. The Mongols are white people with brown paint to appear more ethnic. John Goddamn Saxon doesn’t need to brown up because he’s John Goddamn Saxon. The process to make white people look more ethnic is an uncomfortable element to classic Hollywood and classic TV. Stars like Joan Crawford and Shirley Temple even blackened up for roles, pre-civil rights. This doesn’t ruin it, so much as it really dates to a specific time in American entertainment that we’ve moved past.
Overall, the whole thing is a blast, with a few problems. The premise of the fellas fighting Mongol warriors and succeeding is insane. These white dorks from a bad 1963 fashion catalog are a little too badass. Every weapon they see happens to be something that they are an expert with. I just don’t buy it. The whole love-at-first-sight romance is silly, to put it lightly. Tony and Sarit act like horny teens with strict parents. They wanna’ fool around and touch each other, but there’s a lame and very reasonable dad trying to talk sense into the dumb kids. There’s also poorly-placed stock footage galore. It’s very distracting and clearly doesn’t fit. All the stock footage issues aside, there is one moment that it works wonderfully. An army of Mongols are pushed into the sea and some crew on another project threw hundreds of stiff dummies into a pool. Some of this must be attributed to the writer, Robert Hamner (DALLAS COWBOYS CHEERLEADERS, 1979). There is just too much going on in this. It’s clogged with some gems in there.
Now for the crown jewel…John Saxon. If you aren’t familiar with the magnificent man of many movies, I feel sorry for you. He chewed and swallowed so much scenery that they had to halt production thrice to rebuild everything. Saxon is a campy cheeseball of pure joy. He’s doing an affectation to his voice, instead of an accent, that is ridiculous. I didn’t know I needed Saxon as Marco Polo in my life until now. I sincerely wish that mega-producer Irwin Allen spun off a Marco Polo series with John Saxon. Polo could travel the world causing trouble and finding romance. He’d run into magic and science fiction along the way. Merlin could be his sidekick. As was stated in the plot wrap-up, Merlin has magical powers in this show about a time machine. I loved every microsecond of John Saxon. His hairpiece was as delightful as he was.
Subscribe to Hulu and watch THE TIME TUNNEL, but specifically this one. It’s incredibly stupid joy.
© Copyright 2018 by Spencer Seams