THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT —daffy time-travel effort from 1984, directed by Stewart Raffill (The Adventures Of The Wilderness Family, High Risk), puts three then-popular actors into a time vortex jam that begins with a Navy scheme in 1943 and ends in the Reagan Era, making staying behind in WW2 sound like the better option. Some of the acting is so poor it feels like a how-to-say-words experiment.
When a scientific/military gamble—radar-cloaking a warship by making it invisible (don’t ask) goes t-up, the ship vanishes completely, with crewmen roasted and the two sailors who flipped the go-switch hurtled into the future. One is in bad shape, but the other (more handsome) one manages to charm a Lady of the 80’s, after they kidnap her, wreck her car, hair-escape inept pursuit a half-dozen times, get a bunch of guys killed in the process as they race–literally against time—to prevent the end of the world.
Heroic swabbie Michael Paré (briefly hot after posing to effect in Eddie And The Cruisers and Streets Of Fire) and charmed chick Nancy Allen are straight outta high school with their earnest line delivery. Third wheel Bobby Di Cicco is a little better.
Along with the laziness of hairstyles all wrong for the 40s, the amusing insistence on giving bland supporting actors huge, sustained closeups in a vain attempt make this seem to carry actual drama and import rather than chuckles, the unbelievable romance jive and the tossed-off scientific explanations, the action scenes feature the clumsiest Marines in history—the Corps should have sued.
John Carpenter wrote the original draft, then several others worked it over: screen credit went to Wallace C. Bennett. The germ began with hoax claims that begat the 1979 book from paranormal pontificators Charles Berlitz and William L.Moore, “The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility“, fueling urban legend. Carpenter, in a later interview: “Great shaggy dog story. Absolute bullshit, but what a great story. While I was writing it, I couldn’t figure out the third act. A friend suggested the revenge of the crew against the people who put them there, but I thought it was too much like The Fog. Absolute bullshit.”
Best thing about it, other than camp value, are some of the visual and sound effects.
Grosses came to $8,103,000, not a successful experiment against the cost (like most military projects) which one source gives as $9,000,000, another as a whopping $21,000,000. Someone was undeterred, because it was followed nine years later—but…why?—with Philadelphia Experiment II, Brad Johnson replacing Michael Paré. It flopped.
Running the industry standard 102 minutes, with Eric Christmas, Louise Latham, Stephen Tobolowsky, Kene Holiday and Ralph Manza.