Made-for-tv film (1976). 20th Century Fox/Irwin Allen Productions for ABC-TV. Produced by Irwin Allen. Directed by Alexander Singer. Written by Jackson Gillis from a story by Rod Serling and Allen. Cast includes Richard Basehart, Booth Colman, Sam Groom and Tom Hallick. 78 minutes. Colour.
In 1976 a deadly epidemic erupts, caused by an unknown virus whose treatment baffles Dr Clinton Earnshaw (Groom). A US government agent, Jeff Adams (Hallick) arrives and helps point out that the illness is similar to a disease recorded in the Chicago, Illinois, area in 1871. It was seemingly cured then by a Dr Joshua Henderson (Basehart), but both the cure and Dr Henderson perished in that year's great Chicago Fire. Adams has contacts in NASA, including Time-Travel experimenter Dr Amos Cummings (Colman): soon enough, Adams and Earnshaw travel to 1871 to recover the cure. Unfortunately, a Computer miscalculation results in their arrival only one day before the great Disaster, making their search for the remedy a race against the clock. The magic bullet proves to be a substance in a kind of homemade wine enjoyed by Dr Henderson; the visitors barely escape back to the twentieth century before the fire, bringing the cure to stop the plague.
This was the final effort of producer/director Allen at an sf Television series, an attempted remake of his The Time Tunnel (1966-1967). Allen made extensive use of stock footage from the film In Old Chicago (1937). It is difficult to imagine the lowest-common-denominator producer Allen teaming with Serling on any project, yet Serling's story makes this film somewhat better than might be expected. It was Serling's final contribution to sf television: he died in 1975. The film was shown as an ABC Movie of the Week. [GFi]
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