The Time Guardian is a 1987 Australian sci-fi actioner from the writer of The Road Warrior. Starring Carrie Fisher and Dean Stockwell in supporting roles the dazzling film follows a time traveling city under attack from cyborgs hellbent on destroying the last survivors of humankind. It borrows heavily from well known sci-fi franchises but remains an underseen Ozploitation gem. The Scorpion Releasing Blu-ray arrives with a solid A/V package complete with a new 2k scan of the interpositive that gives the film its best presentation to date. Recommended.
“Let’s get these tin cans!”
In the year 4039 evil cyborgs called Jen-Diki to reemerge after the Great Neutron War to kill all of humankind. Earth’s survivors are a rough group of warriors with plenty of firepower and a time-traveling city. The Boss (Dean Stockwell) leads the troops and navigates the city out of the clutches of the mechanical barbarians in hopes of finding a peaceful home.
When the city becomes damaged during an intense battle two warriors are sent back in time to prepare for the city’s arrival. Ballard (Tom Burlinson) and 20th century expert Petra (Carrie Fisher) is transported to the Australian outback in 1988 just before the Jen-Diki’s arrival. When Petra is injured in a firefight Ballard seeks help from free-spirited Aussie geologist Annie (Nikki Coghill). As the two prepare for the city’s arrival a small band of Jen-Diki appears causing chaos alongside the sadistic local cops who are out of their element.
The Time Guardian relies heavily on borrowed elements from The Terminator and Star Wars to achieve the ambitions of the derivative concepts we’re teased with in the opening battle scenes. Writer/Director Brian Hannant handles the proceedings confidently with co-writer John Baxter offering a script that is rarely lean but full of fun nonsense. Though the giant laser cannons and time-traveling city are impressive sights it isn’t until Ballard and Petra are sent to Earth that the film really shines. Ozploitation fans will no doubt feel at home when we’re introduced to the scummy cops, the dried-up town, and the romantic interludes complete with skinny dipping.
In-camera, practical effects, miniatures, and visual effects combine to create something special in this straight-to-video banger. With only the large set pieces appearing dated there are some inspired choices here that stand the test of time keeping The Time Guardian feeling a bit fresh and interesting rather than retired. Psycho Goreman owes a great deal to this film with the Jen-Diki and their battle suits, the intense set design, and the hilarious collision of future and present.
Shots of the outback are just brilliant and paint the grounded scenes with incredible atmosphere and color. The futuristic city and the battles with the Jen-Diki are frenetic and ripe with plenty of sci-fi textures, colors coupled with a fast-paced momentum. This juxtaposition allows The Time Guardian to feel like a big-budget post-apocalyptic actioner without totally revealing the seams holding it together.
Dean Stockwell and Carrie Fisher add a nice touch to the film without allowing themselves to carry too much weight. While cast solely for that sweet Star Wars exposure, Carrie is patient with the nonsense dialogue and drawn-out scenes with the cast. Stockwell as The Boss is putting his best face forward leaving his scenes well executed though looking a bit tired. Tom Burlinson and Nikki Coghill are excellent leads allowing their romantic tension to build while maintaining the fish-out-of-water element. I give the edge to Coghill as her character is infinitely more interesting than Burlinson’s Ballard.
The Time Guardian happened at an interesting time in Australian genre filmmaking. This straight-to-video extravaganza was originally meant to put Aussie sci-fi on the map post-Star Wars. Originally conceived as a low-budget sci-fi romance things got out of hand when risks were made to compete on a larger scale. With the writer of Mad Max 2 and Princess Leia herself on board what could go wrong? Combining the legacy of post-apocalyptic exploitation films with the emergence of computer effects, The Time Guardian was a gamble that never paid off until cult audiences discovered it on VHS. It’s an intensely fun b-movie that deserves rediscovery among sci-fi fans and those seeking out more Australian genre fare.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Region A BD-25 disc is housed in a standard keepcase. Loading the disc offers a few studio logos before landing on the Main Menu screen with scenes from the film playing above typical navigation options.
The Time Guardian arrives on Blu-ray in 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The new 2k scan of the original interpositive looks impressive, rendering previous home video versions completely obsolete. The AVC encoded HD image isn’t without its flaws with artifacts appearing over effects shots, dirt, hair, and specks becoming prevalent at times. Colors pop with laser blasts, costuming, and fluorescent computer screen images rendered bright and vivid. Fine detail is evident outside of the intense battle and effects scenes with close-ups looking damn near pristine.
The 2k scan really shines when we’re taken to Earth Time 1988 and the color palette of the outback shines through with plenty of depth and warmth in the image. These modern-day scenes look fantastic. Skin tones are even and detailed from the weathered faces of the locals to Ballard and Annie skinny dipping in the outback. Black levels are strong with plenty of detail in shadow allowing sequences like Ballard’s arrival at the Aboriginal encampment to look impressive.
The Time Guardian arrives on Earth with a single DTS-HD 2.0 stereo mix. It’s a well-balanced track that allows plenty of breathing room for dialogue and effects. Dialogue is clear and clean without hiss or pop detected. Aussie accents are fairly light though some may want to turn on the English subtitles just in case.
Sadly there aren’t any features on this disc save for a handful of trailers.
The Time Guardian is an explosive sci-fi action film that tries to carry too many sci-fi tropes without letting a thing like story get in the way. Utilizing every trick in the book with miniatures, practical effects, computer effects, and in-camera effects the film never lets up with its tenacious visual approach. The outback sequences are genuinely good and well photographed giving the film more interesting settings.
As a late-era Ozploitation classic, the film is an ambitious effort that remains a cult favorite. The Scorpion Releasing Blu-ray arrives with a solid A/V package complete with a new 2k scan of the interpositive that gives the film its best presentation to date. A lack of bonus features is a disappointment though for cult fans this one comes Recommended.