The Philadelphia Experiment
is a 1984 science fiction film
Science fiction film is a film genre that uses science fiction: speculative, science-based depictions of phenomena that are not necessarily accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial life forms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception, and time travel, often along with futuristic...
. It is directed by Stewart Raffill
Stewart Raffill is an American director and writer of many films.Raffill's The Philadelphia Experiment, won the "Best Film" award of the 1985 Fantafestival. While You Were Waiting, won the Silver Award in the Short Dramatic category of the 2002 Atlantic City Film Festival. In 2009, he directed...
and stars Michael Paré
- Early life :Paré was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Joan, a homemaker, and Francis Paré, who owned print shops. He had six sisters and three brothers. Paré's father was of French-Canadian ancestry and his mother of Irish ancestry....
, Bobby Di Cicco
Bobby Di Cicco is an American actor. He has starred in several films since the 1970s, but has mostly been involved in television work such as The A-Team. His early work includes the film 1941 by Steven Spielberg, in which he plays one of the main characters, 'Wally Stephens'...
, and Nancy Allen
Nancy Anne Allen is a Golden Globe nominated American actress and cancer activist.Allen began an acting and modelling career as a child, and from the mid-1970s appeared in small film roles, most notably the anchor of Robert Zemeckis's ensemble comedy I Wanna Hold Your Hand...
The plot is based on the urban legend
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true...
of the Philadelphia Experiment
The Philadelphia Experiment is the name of an alleged naval military experiment said to have been carried out at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA sometime around October 28, 1943. It is alleged that the U.S. Navy destroyer escort USS Eldridge was to be rendered...
. In 1943, two sailors, David Herdeg (Paré) and Jim Parker (Di Cicco), are stationed on a ship in an experiment to make it invisible
Invisibility is the state of an object that cannot be seen. An object in this state is said to be invisible . The term is usually used as a fantasy/science fiction term, where objects are literally made unseeable by magical or technological means; however, its effects can also be seen in the real...
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...
. However, the experiment goes horribly wrong and Herdeg and Parker are the only two survivors. They both undergo time travel
Time travel is the concept of moving between different points in time in a manner analogous to moving between different points in space. Time travel could hypothetically involve moving backward in time to a moment earlier than the starting point, or forward to the future of that point without the...
(because of the experiment) and find themselves in the Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...
desert in the year 1984.
- Michael Paré as David Herdeg
- Nancy Allen
Nancy Allen may refer to:* Nancy Allen * Nancy Allen -See also:* Nancy Allan , Manitoban politician...
as Allison Hayes
- Eric Christmas
Eric Cuthbert Christmas was a British stage and screen actor, with over 40 films and several more television roles to his credit. He was well-known for his role as Mr. Carter, the principal of Angel Beach High School, in the 1982 hit comedy Porky's, the 1983 sequel Porky's II: The Next Day, and...
as Dr. James Longstreet
- Bobby Di Cicco as Jim Parker
- Louise Latham
Louise Latham is an American actress, perhaps best known for her portrayal of Bernice Edgar in Alfred Hitchcock's film Marnie...
- Stephen Tobolowsky
Stephen Harold Tobolowsky is an American actor. He is well known for his role as Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day, as well as portraying Commissioner Hugo Jarry in Deadwood for nine episodes and Bob Bishop in Heroes for eleven episodes over the second and third seasons...
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...
sailors David Herdeg and Jim Parker are assigned to the destroyer escort USS Eldridge
USS Eldridge , a , was a ship of the United States Navy named for Lieutenant Commander John Eldridge, Jr., a hero of the invasion of the Solomon Islands. Its keel was laid down by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newark, New Jersey. Eldridge was launched on 25 July 1943, sponsored...
during a project to make it invisible to radar. The ship is in Philadelphia harbor, filled with equipment from a team led by Dr. James Longstreet. During the experiment the equipment begins malfunctioning and crewmen are suffering throughout the ship. Jim tries to turn off the equipment at the main switch but receives an electric shock. Unable to do anything, the two men jump overboard. They fly through a time vortex instead of landing in the harbor. Observers simply see the ship disappear.
David and Jim land in the middle of a small town (which immediately disappears) and are caught in a helicopter spotlight. They run and climb over a tall fence. After making their way through the desert at night, they find a highway. David picks up a empty bottle of German beer and Jim finds an aluminum Coca Cola can, marveling at its lightness. David identifies the rusted remains of a 1930s Chevrolet
Chevrolet , also known as Chevy , is a brand of vehicle produced by General Motors Company . Founded by Louis Chevrolet and ousted GM founder William C. Durant on November 3, 1911, General Motors acquired Chevrolet in 1918...
, and they follow the highway to a diner.
Learning that they are in Nevada, David makes a phone call while Jim is intrigued by the television. He is feeling the side effects from his electric shock. There is also a mysterious electric storm affecting the area as well as Jim. David is waiting to use the phone while a young woman, Allison Hayes, is talking to someone about a job interview. She is upset that the job she was driving to interview for had already been filled by another applicant.
Jim inadvertently electrocutes an arcade game
An arcade game is a coin-operated entertainment machine, usually installed in public businesses such as restaurants, bars, and amusement arcades. Most arcade games are video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, redemption games, and merchandisers...
and the upset diner owner grabs a revolver, demanding Jim pay for the damages. David grabs the gun and the men run, taking Allison's 1976 Ford Torino
The Ford Torino is an intermediate automobile produced by the Ford Motor Company for the North American market between 1968 and 1976. The car was named after the city of Turin , which is considered the Detroit of Italy...
. Since he is unfamiliar with the car's automatic transmission, he takes Allison as a hostage and driver. They escape the diner and start quizzing Allison, finding out it is 1984. Most importantly, they ask who won the war
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
. They reach a city, where Jim and David are shocked by modern society.
The police catch them and Jim is hospitalized. David and Allison speak with the doctor. David explains their time travel, assuming it is a common modern occurrence, but realizes the doctor doesn't believe him. Jim eventually dissolves in a sizzle of plasma-like energy. David and Allison then evade Naval Security, who have arrived to take David into custody.
At a motel they call Jim's family, who live in California on a ranch. David hears a familiar voice and hangs up, becoming despondent and angry; Allison is ready to leave him when he convinces her he needs her help. He sees President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....
in a news conference and wonders if it is a movie. The next day they drive to California.
They reach the Parker ranch and knock. Jim's 1943 girlfriend Pamela recognizes David. She says Jim came back and was hospitalized for telling the truth about what happened. David asks about himself and finds out he never came back. A lot of the men on the Eldridge
were burned and many died. David sees Jim in the distance riding a horse, but Jim refuses to look at David. David and Allison see military police approaching, but after hiding David sneaks into their car and extracts documentation to find out what the military wants.
Dr. Longstreet has been investigating a mystery at the Nevada military base. A town has disappeared, but a piece of the Elridge
is found in the desert. They fire a camera probe into the vortex in the sky. Before the signal is cut off, the camera shows the "town" and the
David is able to get back onto the base the two men landed in the day before. Dr. Longstreet is there and tells the guards to let David in and shows him the situation.
David realizes that Longstreet is still experimenting with the same concept, this time to protect a "town" from ICBM attack. The same problem happens, but although they shut down their generators, the "town" did not reappear. Longstreet theorizes there is still a generator running somewhere in hyperspace
Hyperspace is a plot device sometimes used in science fiction. It is typically described as an alternative region of space co-existing with our own universe which may be entered using an energy field or other device...
on the Eldridge
. According to history, the Eldridge
reappeared when David shut down the generator. Longstreet says that unless the vortex is closed it will destroy the Earth. David must go through the vortex and return to the Eldridge
Allison urges David not to do it, but he volunteers and is outfitted in an astronaut-type suit to protect him. He is driven out and catapulted into the vortex. David lands on the deck of the Eldridge
where he finds the crew in agony, some fused into the ship's hull. He hurries to the generator room and begins smashing equipment. The generator shuts down and David looks for Jim. Assured that he is fine, David jumps over the side of the ship and disappears. The Eldridge
reappears in Philadelphia harbor.
Forty-one years later, the "town" reappears. Allison steals a jeep to drive to it. She calls out and David reappears, proclaiming, "the way I see it, the Navy owes me 40 years back pay
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA
- 1985, Nancy Allen was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Actress
- 1985, Stewart Raffill won the Best Film Award
A sequel called Philadelphia Experiment II
Philadelphia Experiment II is a 1993 science fiction film. It is the sequel to the 1984 film The Philadelphia Experiment, but has none of the same cast or crew and only two of the same characters...
, featuring a different cast and crew, and a parallel storyline, was released in 1993 to little acclaim.