During the early 1980s horror boom every old monster seemed ripe for getting out of storage and presenting to an audience still hungry for gore and thrills. Perhaps most successfully the werewolf picture was reinvented with the box office double bonanza of THE HOWLING and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (both 1981). The vampire – although mostly played for comedy at the time – also had a modern makeover in THE HUNGER (1983). Not to be left behind, another Universal Pictures standard – the mummy – was dusted off, albeit with decidedly mixed results …
|Crystal Lake via Valley of the Kings in TIME WALKER|
The Charlton Heston, big budget snoozefest THE AWAKENING (1980) was hardly the most auspicious start, but a welcome improvement was DAWN OF THE MUMMY (1981), which mixed Romero'esque zombie mayhem and fashion models with ancient Egyptian lore – with deliciously silly results. So, considering just how big the slasher movie was at the start of that decade - albeit largely played out even by 1982 - it was no great surprise when someone took a crack at combining it with the mummy movie subgenres. So, TIME WALKER was born …
Whilst THE AWAKENING's budget allowed for extensive location shooting, the makers of TIME WALKER settled for suggestion as the film opens with a voiceover declaring a major archaeological find at the site of perhaps the most famous dig in history – that of Tutankhamen. However, the film very quickly signals the direction it is going to take when the discovered sarcophagus is shipped back to the Californian Institute of the Sciences and into the hands of students who'd look more at home on Crystal Lake than an archeological dig.
The investigation of the mysterious mummy is led by hunky Prof. Douglas McCadden (Ben Murphy) (an actor who followed this up with regular appearances on TV's 80's cheeseball THE LOVE BOAT). He and his students are puzzled to discover a fluorescent green mould on the mummy and inside the sarcophagus, but proceed to x-ray it – only with a lot more radiation than was intended. The x-ray turns up five spherical diamonds in a hidden compartment that is noticed by one of the students (HELL NIGHT's Kevin Brophy). True to his character in that earlier film he is up to no good, and instead of telling the professor what he found he tries to sell the diamonds to the nearest pawnbrokers; but with no success. However, he does manage to palm several off onto other students as payment for a debt – and suggests they'd make fantastic pendants for their girlfriends.
|HELL NIGHT's Kevin Brophy does bad boy duties again in TIME WALKER|
However, during a grand reveal to invited local press and dignities, everyone but the viewer is shocked that the mummy has gone missing. The dean of the college (played with a knowing wink by James Karen, and who is probably most famous to genre fans for his later appearances in the first two RETURN ON THE LIVING DEAD films) is convinced that this is a fraternity prank and demands the mummy is returned. This urgency is ramped up by the discovery that the green mould is highly toxic after one student becomes infected by a case of bad acting and is immediately confined to a hospital bed as people splurge out all manner of medical jumbo jumbo around him.
TIME WALKER then shifts seamlessly into slasher movie mode, as the now reanimated mummy stalks the college campus in search of the diamonds. Stalks, perhaps, isn't quite the right term – as the heavy breathing toilet roll floats above ground and the audience sees the classic POV shots from the perspective of the mummy – albeit in green mouldo-vision.
Naturally during this time of turmoil, the student body decides to throw mummy themed frat parties and generally have a good time as potential victims-to-be. Also, as you might expect, those in possession of the illicit diamonds (which glow like disco balls whenever the mummy is near) do the worst possible things you could do in a slasher movie – namely babysitting and taking lengthy showers to show off their soapy Nefertitis. It isn't long before the mummy comes a knocking wanting his crown jewels back ...
|That head band should have been banned!|
The film benefits from a great chase sequence through the library and darkened corridors of the college as the mummy pursues the professor's assistant and lover, Suzy (MOTEL HELL's (1980) Nina Axelrod). "He didn't want to hurt me he just wanted my bracelet!", she ponders thoughtfully to the authorities. He may have also been trying to get a better look at her bizarre medieval hairdo.
Now, if slasher and mummy movie wasn't enough of a mix the makers of TIME WALKER also throw in a healthy dose of sci-fi, too (especially in its closing moments). This isn't any garden variety reanimated bundle of bandages, oh no. This one is possessed by a being from outer space who is majorly inconvenienced by loosing his diamonds, which is the only way that he can phone home (sound familiar?). Well, he's either trying to summon the mothership or play marble solitaire, as – in this movies' version of the crossed out face in the yearbook – every time he offs a co-ed another diamond is added to the board.
TIME WALKER is hardly gore-filled. Indeed, the mummy kills by his gangrenous touch rather than any sharp implement. This might explain why the film was awarded a PG-certificate by the MPAA for its theatrical release. It didn't receive a UK film release, but came out on video there with a 15 certificate in 1986.
Ultimately, whilst TIME WALKER is a lot more fun than, say, THE AWAKENING it's tendency to bite off more than it can chew to try and bolster the slasher movie's flagging fortunes means that it never really succeeds as either a horror movie or a sci-if one. It perhaps doesn't help that the mummy turns out to be a cute-faced extraterrestrial than didn't mean to hurt anyone (a concept quite in vogue in 1982!). Still, fans of genre movies from the early 1980s will find a lot here to entertain them.
|TIME WALKER mixes a classic horror character with enough elements of the slasher movie to include it here|
TIME WALKER has an effective score by Richard Band, who went onto produce an even better one for THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW the next year. It scores points for starring Harry Belafonte's daughter sporting a headband that clearly breaches the international treaty against fashion crimes. She plays the college photographer and dulcet toned DJ (just one of the film's lifts from John Carpenter's THE FOG (1980)).
The film also featured some slasher movie veterans (or soon to be veterans) apart from Brophy. Sam Chew Jr. went on to make the Charles Bronson vs. naked killer slasher 10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983). Melissa Prophet was in FATAL GAMES (1983). Antoinette Bower, playing a plummy doctor here, was Jamie Lee Curtis' mother in PROM NIGHT (1980) and also appeared with Frankie Avalon in the oddball BLOOD SONG (1982). Warrington Gillette, who played Jason Voorhees for some of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) also appeared in this. Sadly, for the wonderfully named Victoria Von Voorhees this was her only known role – but will live on in the hearts of subgenre fans forever with her touching performance as party girl #2.
|MOTEL HELL's Nina Axlerod appears as a research student who finds herself being stalked by the mummy through the college halls one night|
TIME WALKER was filmed under the title PHAROAH for an estimated budget of $750,000 in early 1982 in locations around and including California State University in Northridge. Bar the cost-saving opening scene, it is nicely shot and looks more expensive than many other similar independent genre movies from the time. The production – which was non union – was plagued by picketing and demonstrations by the Brotherhood of Teamsters. Regardless, the film was finished and released to theatres in late 1982 and remained on regional rollout through 1983. Dimitri Villard produced TIME WALKER (he also had a bit role as a reporter in the film) and went onto produce the slasher-in-a-furniture-store HIDE AND GO SHRIEK (1988). That film's director – Skip Schoolnik – cut his teeth as second unit director on this production.
Wescom co-produced the film. The company had made THE HOWLING the previous year – and TIME WALKER shared much of the same crew. It seems that they hoped to recreate that film's box office success of that film, but although it hardly lived up to expectations (I couldn't find a box office total) it probably turned a welcome profit – it made almost $500,000 in Texas alone on 120 screens. TIME WALKER was distributed by New World Pictures, which put out TAG: THE ASSASSINATION GAME and SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE the same year and THE PREY and THE INITIATION (both in 1984), amongst a whole cavalcade of genre titles.
The film ends with a cliffhanger and a 'To be continued' fade out - which was rather presumptuous as it wasn't nearly successful enough to warrant a sequel and so, to this day, TIME WALKER 2 remains entombed.
female:1 / male:3
1) Male killed (method unseen)
2) Female killed by mummy's touch
3) Male thrown against wall
4) Male killed mummy's touch