The Time Crystal (1981)

aka Through the Magic Pyramid
Article 4731 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-7-2015
Directed by Ron Howard
Featuring Chris Barnes, Hans Conried, Vic Tayback
Country: USA
What it is: Children’s time-travel sword and sandal movie

A boy with a fascination for all things Egyptian is given a pyramid-shaped crystal that propels him back in time to ancient Egypt. There he becomes embroiled in a plot to kill the Pharaoh Akhenaten and to prevent the rightful heir, Prince Tutankhamen from ascending to the throne.

After sitting through about twenty minutes of this movie, I popped into IMDB out of curiosity to see what its rating would be, and I was initially astonished to see a rating of 7.2. Then I had to remind myself that this was, after all, a children’s movie that had fallen into obscurity, and sure enough, when I read the user comments on the movie, it told a familiar story; most of them come from people who remember seeing it as a child, it had a big impact on them, but they hadn’t seen it in many years. Actually, I can see why it might have a big impact; the main character is an awkward boy who feels bad over having made an embarrassing mistake at a football game, and who redeems himself by going into the past and rescuing the Prince from kidnappers, proving himself heroic and competent and defeating many evil adults along the way. This is the sort of story that hits home for kids of a certain age. Well, I won’t begrudge them their memories, but I think they’d be better off if they didn’t try to dredge up a copy to watch again. To these eyes, it looks like a silly juvenile low-budget sword and sandal movie with time travel thrown into the mix, and I didn’t find it remotely convincing. I hope I’m not the only one who finds it hard to swallow Vic Tayback as an ancient Egyptian, but at least I managed to get my mind around that after a bit; seeing Jo Anne Worley as one was really beyond the pale. Well, at least it has Hans Conried, who I always enjoy. And, to the movie’s credit, it gets better as it goes along. It even has one really good scene when we reach the death of Akhenaten. Beyond that, I can’t really recommend this one.


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