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World Without End (1956)

Rod Taylor plays Herbert Ellis, one of a quartet of space travelers who get caught in a time warp on their way back from Mars.

Themes from this film are later echoed in "Planet of the Apes," countless episodes of "Star Trek" -- and "The Time Machine."

An irreverent review from the Teleport City Cinematics Web site notes the irony of Rod's casting in this time-travel flick:

Our intrepid gang of astronauts, in what is perhaps a salute to "The Time Machine," includes actor Rod Taylor, who played the lead role in the famous 1960 film adaptation of the story. I know what you're thinking: How could they know? I mean, "World Without End" was released in '56, and "The Time Machine" didn't come out for another four years. How could they know they were paying tribute to the H.G. Wells classic by casting the very man who would eventually star in the most celebrated cinematic version of that story? Well, obviously, that's time travel for ya.

In "World Without End," Rod plays one of four American researchers -- led by Hugh Marlowe -- on the first space rocket to Mars. On their way back, they are accidentally transported 522 years into the future. But the Earth, devastated by war, has become a bleak, perilous world inhabited by hostile, surface-dwelling mutants and an peaceful underground race facing extinction. (That's turned upside down from "The Time Machine," in which the mutants live underground and the nice folk live on the surface.)

The heroes battle the mutants as well as some cheesy giant spiders. The crew later discovers the withered remnants of humanity. Well, the men are withered; the women are robust babes in high heels, short skirts and plunging necklines.

The women seem to appreciate the newcomers, too, especially noting how much more muscular they are than their own men. This observation comes as Rod bares his chest in a scene that easily qualifies as the best bit of beefcake in this entire genre.

In the end, Rod winds up with a brunette servant girl named Deena (as opposed to a blonde named Weena in "The Time Machine"). Deena helps as the crew does battle with the mutants and gets the withering underground denizens to abandon their sterile existence to rebuild civilization aboveground.

Taylor tells what the movie meant to his career at the time:

"I was so thrilled to have a sizable role in an American movie. It gave me the confidence to know that I could work with established Hollywood professionals and come out maybe equally as well. ... I thought being in a American movie was the pinnacle of acting success. I would have doubled as the monster, just to get into the picture."

Eager to please, Taylor bravely battled a pathetically phony giant spider nesting in a cave. "It was a ridiculous looking thing," he laughs. "But I dove into it, and wrestled with it for all I was worth. I even made a major creative contribution to that scene. I ad libbed that I was vomiting when I came out of the cave, because it was such a horrific experience with that bunch of rubber and felt."

-- Starlog magazine, July 1986





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