Friday, 11 April 2014

The Atomic Man aka "Timeslip" (1955)

An average Cold War mystery, espionage sci-fi thriller

Director: Ken Hughes
Producer: Alec C. Snowden
Written by Charles Eric Maine (novel The Isotope Man), Charles Eric Maine (screenplay)
Cinematography: A.T. Dinsdale
Editing: Geoffrey Muller
Running time 93 minutes (UK): 76 minutes (USA)


Gene Nelson: Mike Delaney
Faith Domergue: Jill Rabowski
Peter Arne: Dr. Stephen Rayner / Jarvis
Joseph Tomelty: Detective Inspector Cleary
Donald Gray: Robert Maitland
Vic Perry: Emmanuel Vasquo
Paul Hardtmuth: Dr. Bressler
Martin Wyldeck Dr. Preston
Gordon Bell: Assistant Surgeon
Ian Cooper: Anaethetist
Philip Dale: Dr. Peters
Patricia Driscoll: X-Ray Assistant
Vanda Godsell: Stenographer
Charles Hawtrey: Office Boy
Philippa Hiatt: X-Ray Assistant
Carl Jaffe: Dr. Marks
Mary Jones: Sister Brown
Barry MacKay: Inspector Hammond
Launce Maraschal: Alcott, the Editor
Brian O'Higgins: Pat the Barman
Dervis Ward: Allegan
Leonard Williams: Detective Sergeant Haines
Anthony Woodruff: Nuclear Physicist

The Story

(Contains Spoilers)

An atomic scientist, Stephen Raymer, is fished out of the Thames with a bullet in his back. His status is considered to be that of “just another body.”

After briefly flatlining in hospital during an operation to remove the bullet, Raymer suddenly revives when his heart restarts but he apparently has no memory of what has happened.....

It transpires that radioactivity has put Raymer seven-and-a-half seconds ahead of the rest of the world in time. His mind has slipped into the future as determined by the fact that he is answering questions 7.5 seconds before they are asked.

Despite being told to lay off the case, reporter Mike Delaney and his photographer/girlfriend investigate a plot involving scientist Raymer’s evil double from destroying his “alchemist”-like experiments involving the creation of elements (artificial tungsten) which could have “a profound effect on the economy of the world.”

The film’s impetus is provided by reporter Mike Delaney who like a dog with a bone is motivated to solve this mystery. For him it is simple: “If you gotta a hunch, follow it up. Baby, I’ve gotta hunch.” Like any good reporter, he sets out to find the answers to fundamental questions that need to be asked: 

What’s Raymer doing here? 

How did he get shot? 
Who shot him? 

The answers to these questions are gradually pieced together through a series of clues which although not really very surprising to the audience are nevertheless presented as if they are completely revelatory.

The Clues

  1. A photo of Raymer with a radioactive halo around his body suggesting exposure to radioactive materials.

2. The imposter Raymer explains that the injuries sustained to his face were the result of a car accident in which he was hit from behind. Delaney, however, suggests that if “Raymer” were hit from behind, he would have moved backwards and not forwards through the windshield as was claimed.

3. During the x-ray of Raymer’s head, the presence of radioactivity or isotopes was detected. The x-ray itself was later found to be blank which suggested it was affected by “outside contamination” such as radioactivity.

4. It is determined that Raymer has symptoms of radioactive poisoning.

5. As mentioned above, Raymer’s answers to the questions posed to him don’t seem to make sense or suggest that he does not understand what he is being asked.

6. After questioning imposter Raymer, Delaney spots a hat with “EV Harreros-Buenos Aires” printed on its inside. This points to none other than Vasquo, the instigator of the plot to destroy the real Raymer’s experiments.

7. Delaney’s crafty questioning of “Raymer” reveals that he could not have been at Columbia University in 1949 as he claimed since at the time the real Raymer was in the “South Pacific blowing up A-bombs.”

8. A picture of the imposter Raymer taken by photographer, Jill Rabowski reveals no presence of the effects of radiation.

9. Playback of a tape recording and transcription of the questions and answers reveals that Raymer was answering questions put to him before actually being asked them. His answers came about 7 seconds after the questions; the same amount of time he was clinically dead.

It is concluded that the imposter Raymer is a “broken down scientist” who has undergone plastic surgery to look like the real Dr. Stephen Rayner. He is an essential part of a plot to blow up Raymer’s laboratory when the reactor is switched on.

BUT WHY????? 

The discovery that the UTC (United Tungsten Corporation) which produces 2/3 of the world’s tungsten would be “put out of business overnight” if Raymer’s experiments for producing synthetic tungsten succeed. 

Knowing what they now know, can intrepid reporter Mike Delaney and his beautiful photographer/girlfriend Jill Rabowski do anything to thwart Emmanuel Vasquo and UTC’s evil global corporate plans? 

Can the real Dr Raymer regain his memory? 

Will all of his work and experiments have been for naught? 

Will the imposter be revealed?

Points Of Interest

You’ll notice that Faith Domergue will feature quite a bit in this blog since she also appears in This Island Earth, and It Came From Beneath The Sea, both released in 1955. She will also feature in the next instalment of “Sci-fi Ladies on Film” a bit later.

You will also notice the familiar face of Charles Hawtrey. You might expect Sid James and the rest of the “Carry On” gang to follow him on screen and add a bit of bawdy British humour to proceedings. Sorry, not this time!

Speaking of humour, there is one unintentional moment in the film when a scientist is presenting his theory of what has happened to Raymer. With straight face, stereotypical German-sounding accent and Marcel Marceau hand gestures, he goes on to explain how Raymer’s physical reactions appear to be ahead of time; how time moved but he had stopped when he died for 7 ½ seconds; how his brain had not lost time; how he had moved forward 7 ½ seconds ahead; the effects of intense atomic radiation and so on. During all this time it is a wonder how the others manage to sit still listening to him ramble on nonsensically without falling all over the place in fits of laughter! What the hell was that guy talking about? Watch him in action in the film and try to keep a straight face.


At the time of the mid-fifties when The Atomic Man was shown, ideas such as nuclear radiation, atomic terrorism and medical / technological advances such as plastic surgery were quite novel and the fears surrounding them reflected the paranoia of the time.

It is amazing, however that even today as we seem to be taking our eye off the ball and casting our collective gaze firmly, comfortably and complacently on our mobile devices, we nevertheless occasionally walk into an oncoming event that serves to remind us that threats to our survival in the real world don’t just magically disappear with a mere swipe of the screen. Nor do they just vanish with the passage of time.

In the modern era we have had our own versions of potentially threatening events and scenarios as Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster; the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Ukraine; The Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown; reports of missing nuclear material from the former Soviet Union; serious consideration of the possibility of terrorist groups assembling so-called dirty atomic bombs, not to mention the innumerable instances of global industrial and corporate sabotage and espionage.

Do you ever get the feeling that in life that we are simply playing roles in yet another version or remake of the same film? 

Roll credits…..

©Chris Christopoulos 2014

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