The Philadelphia Experiment (Blu-ray Review)

The-Philadelphia-ExperimentThe Philadelphia Experiment is a remake of the 1980s time travel thriller of the same name.  I’ve never seen the original.  My only knowledge or memory of anything regarding the film is what the VHS box looked like for The Philadelphia Experiment 2, a video store staple in the 1990s.  I never picked it up, but it seemed to haunt the SciFi/Horror sections at just about every video store in town back in the day.  The events in The Philadelphia Experiment are based upon a legendary urban legend of a government invincibility project regarding cloaking ships in WWII that allegedly took place in the 1940s.  The film is only based upon just that notion as it goes far deeper than anything regarding the details what supposedly took place in that experiment.

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A government invisibility program has appeared to have been a success.  However, when performing it in front of superiors, something goes wrong and a 1940s battleship appears in the middle of an airstrip.  That ship was apparently involved in the original invincibility testing in the 1940s and disappeared without a trace, until now.  Aboard is one survivor of the time jump, Bill Gardener (Nicholas Lea).  Paired with his granddaughter Molly (Emilie Ullerup), they must race against the clock to stop the project from doing anymore damage and to return Bill to his rightful time.  On top of that, they are being hunted by assassins led by a government agent (Gina Holden) hell bent on exterminating every remnant of the experiment.

First off, the film is a remake done for television.  It’s SyFy Channel programming to be exact.  While the film does sport Malcolm McDowell, as you can guess, his appearance is relatively brief.  The effects aren’t very great, and are revealing, but are top tier when it comes to SyFy quality.  You also get cable television acting and generic costuming.  A police officer’s green button up shirt with blue jeans and a plastic badge looks like he walked off the set of Texas Chainsaw 3D. So, know what you’re getting into beforehand.

Disclaimers aside, this isn’t too bad.  The Philadelphia Experiment moves at such a pace that it’s hard to get bored.  It moves brisk enough that acting and effects aren’t a big problem.  I think a lot of its strengths and ability to be relatively entertaining for 90 minutes is thanks in part to the original film its remaking’s script.  It also features a rather good “fish out of water” sequence events that shows how far we’ve come in society and how it could really freak out someone from 70 years ago.  The film is constantly changing territories and switching from multiple sets of characters throughout.  Watching things add up becomes a little bit rewarding.  It’s nothing great, but its an entertaining piece of cheese to watch if its on television on a lazy afternoon.

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The 1080p MPEG-4 AVC picture is about as perfect as you can come by.  The 1:78:1 frame is full of great levels of color, detail and sharpness.  There wasn’t a strike I could find against it.  There’s shots of actors where you can actually see that the tattoos are fake and painted on. An example of this films astonishing quality is in a little coffee shop there’s a glass case.  And through that glass case you can see water moving within water bottles inside the case.  On top of it dust, scratches, fingerprints and smudges are clear as day and visible.  The film isn’t greatness but its video encode sure is.

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All the effort must have went to the video.  The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 is set to a rather low volume and requires turning your receiver up more than normal.  In the audio mix the score is very low and the effects are a bit higher than normal.  The dialogue is at a solid level.  There’s some good interplay with the right and left channels, but nothing really fun coming from the rear.  It’s a suitable track that’s ok. Volume aside, it could have been much better considering some of the effects work in the film.

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The Philadelphia Experiment comes with no extras.

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Having never seen the original, I cannot compare or say whether this is a solid remake or not.  What I can say is I was surprised at how entertaining and not goofy The Philadelphia Experiment manages to be.  It’s got a great pace for something like this and it doesn’t feel like you’ve wasted your time at the end.  It’s not perfect and it’s of a very low budget, but it manages to work for what it is.  Anchor Bay delivers a disc with no supplements and a lacking audio track, but a magnificent picture.  If it’s on TV and you’ve got nothing to do, I’d check it out.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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