Man oh man, Paul Ziller sure cranks out these made for TV SyFy Channel productions quickly, doesn't he? Maybe he needs to slow down. Maybe if he did, he'd made better movies and go on to bigger and better productions. Instead we follow up recent stinkers to receive his touch like Seeds of Destruction and Collision Earth with a remake of the 1984 film of the same name, The Philadelphia Experiment.
The movie introduces us to a scientist named Dr. Falkner (Ryan Robbins) who has taken the cloaking technology that the United States Navy was using in the forties (do a Google search for Philadelphia Experiment if you need some background information on this interesting conspiracy theory) and seemingly perfected it. He and his department manager, Kathryn Moore (Gina Holden), show off the technology to some investor types who are completely stoked that all of this has been figured out. With everything set in place, it's time for all involved to hand over the keys and get rich quick. And then it gets complicatedâ€¦
Things are fine at first, it does seem to work the way that it should. However, in the middle of a test, the USS Eldridge, the ship that â€˜disappeared' all those decades back, reappears in the middle of an airfield. While almost the entire crew died when the ship reappeared, fused to different pieces of metal onboard, there's one survivor: Lieutenant Bill Gardner (Nicolas Lea). Around the same time that Gardner decides to get off of the ship while he can, a local police officer named Carl Reed (John Reardon) gets pulled inside the ship. It just so happens that Bill is involved with a pretty lady friend by the name of Molly Gardner (Emilie Ullerup). Think there's a connection? You bet there is. At any rate, Molly is a computer hacker and she winds up being recruited by Dr. Falkner to work alongside a mad scientist type named Morton Salinger (Malcolm McDowell in full on â€˜doing this for a paycheck' mode) and a guy named Hagan (Michael Pare, who actually had a role in the original movie) to try and stop the Eldridge from disappearing and reappearing and killing lots of people in the process. Their goal is to send the ship back to 1943 and set things right in the time-space continuum, but if they fail, that pesky ol' ship will just keep on doing its thing, killing more and more people in the process.
Well isn't this a goofy movie. Not that the original version didn't have its own problems but here, hampered by the typically modest made for TV budget and some seriously dire computerized effects work, The Philadelphia Experiment sinks and it sinks fast (that's a boat joke). Aside from the blad visual (how you make giant ships appearing out of nowhere and destroying stuff boring is a good question, but they did it) there are logic gaps aplenty and lots of lackluster acting too. McDowell's character is a scientist of some sort but in his ten minutes or so of screen time we never really figure out what it is that he's studying or trying to solve or really what his involvement is in any of this, outside of the fact that it's just kind of cool to have Malcolm McDowell hanging around. The connection between Nicolas Lea's character and Emilie Ullerup's character is literally spelled out for us, they share the same last name so we know as soon as they're introduced what's up there. At least Ullerup is fun to look at, so that's a plus, but her character is a clichÃ© The same goes for Gina Holden, who isn't bad in her part at all but isn't given much in the way of decent characterization to work with.
There are some interesting moments here and there, and if you go in with really, really low expectations then maybe this one works as a time killer but really, odds are pretty good you've got something better than this to watch in your collection already, which makes it kind of pointless. It doesn't improve on the original in any way and while the storyline tries to work in some interesting conspiracy theory elements, they don't wind up making a whole lot of sense and their inclusions comes off as sloppy and unnecessary. Nicolas Lea's performance is decent and the movie goes at a good clip, but that's not enough to save it in the end.
The Philadelphia Experiment looks good in this AVC encoded 1080p 1.78.1 widescreen transfer from Anchor Bay. Some of the digital effects are pretty hokey relaying the movie's made for TV origins but that's the way the movie was made and not an issue with the disc itself. Colors are nice and bright and bold and well defined and black levels tend to be pretty strong as well. Flesh tones look lifelike and realistic and detail and texture are about average, meaning they're better than what DVD can provide but below where a more extravagant production might be. There aren't any problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement issues but some scenes do look a bit on the flat side. For a made for TV movie, however, the picture quality is pretty good.
The only audio option on the disc is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix in English. No alternate language dubs are supplied though subtitles are provided in English and Spanish. The lossless surround mix here is a fun one, with plenty of directional effects used throughout to highlight the ridiculousness of it all. Levels are usually well balanced but there are a few spots where you might notice some spikes in the levels (it's almost always a sound effect). Dialogue is clean and clear and problem free and the score sounds decent as well, demonstrating good depth and offering reasonably strong bass response.
Aside from a menu offering scene selection, there are no extras on this disc at all.
The Philadelphia Experiment is remarkably only for how unremarkable it all is. This made for TV remake of the original in no way improves on what came before it, and we wind up with a movie ripe with bad effects work, goofy performances and logic gaps big enough to transport a battleship through. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray looks and sounds okay but is devoid of any decent extras. This one has a few moments here and there that are moderately interesting but they can't hold up the rest of an otherwise fairly shoddy production. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.