Back today with a real gem. This movie combines two of American cinema's favorite subjects, time travel and Nazis. The first is obvious, we all would love to be able to bend the ramrod of time to our will, even if it's mostly so we could go back to 1995 and not clumsily spill that drink on Jessica Marshall's sun dress. Nazis have been a staple of genre films since the 1940s and, despite the passage of time and the emergence of the Chinese and Arabs as passable movie-villains, Nazis show no signs of going away any time soon (witness the new megabudget Captain America). With these two essential ingredients, you'd think that The Yesterday Machine would be a tasty stew, and you'd kinda sorta be right. While it comes apart in the last reel, and all the female characters will give you a migraine, overall it's not really that bad. And yes, that's "damning with faint praise"...
Pam, any thoughts on why time travel and Nazis seem to be ever-popular in film?
Well, Nate, as you said, time travel is fascinating in itself. As for Nazis, there has to be some conflict, some reason why the audience is rooting for the hero to stop the evil scientist from going back in time, and the most obvious and dramatic threat, at least for most of the world, is changing the past so the Nazis won the war. (Another, almost as much used scenario, is foiling the evil scientist who wants to change the past so the South won the Civil War, but this probably isn't that scary to audiences outside the United States.) I mean, going back in time to stop the development of antibiotics would certainly result in the deaths of lots of people, and we ought to be terrified of this happening, but it's not very dramatic. And going back in time to, say, make sure the Carthaginians defeated the Romans probably wouldn't change our world enough to scare people. Who cares who won that war? Something to think about: Has there ever been a movie made where a scientist builds a time machine to go back in time to ensure that the Japanese won World War II? Or to make sure the Germans won World War I? Anybody who wants to make a movie with any of these premises, feel free, but for now, let's get on to the movie we've got.
I blame Captain Kirk for all this...
The movie opens with something you don't see much of in science fiction movies -- a display of baton twirling to radio music. The girl doing the twirling seems to be quite the expert. Not that I'm really any judge of baton twirling, but at least she doesn't drop her baton. Then comes something else not common to any sort of movie: the girl stops, lowers her baton, opens her mouth, and speaks with a heavy Mama's-Family-type accent. Only it's for real, and I'm sitting here and wondering how anybody could be a professional actress with so pronounced a regional accent. (A quick check of IMDb shows that she wasn't: she acted in only two movies, this one and another one made thirteen years later.)
Blurry VHS-rip, sorry, but it's not on DVD yet.
Leaving that question unanswered, we turn back to the movie. A little dialogue tells us that the girl with the baton is a majorette named Margie, and her boyfriend Howie is a cheerleader for their college team. They were taking a shortcut to get to a game when their car broke down and left them stranded in the middle of nowhere. Howie has given up on being able to fix it and suggests they head to a farmhouse he remembers seeing to call for help. In an effort to get there faster, Howie decides to take a shortcut, which ends as shortcuts usually do. They started out in broad daylight and are still walking well after the sun has set, completely lost. Howie finally spots a campfire and goes over there, but instead of finding help, he and Margie are greeted by two very unfriendly men with guns. The camera is pointed at Howie and Margie, so we can't see the two men, but judging by Howie's remarks, there's something odd about them. Howie gallantly tells Margie to edge behind him, then take off running. After she's well away, he dashes off too, but he doesn't get far before he's hit by a bullet from one of the guns. There's no clue as to where Margie went. However, Howie manages to stagger back to the car before he collapses, and another unanswered question is why it took him only a minute or two to make it back there wounded, when it took him and Margie hours to get to the fire when they were both in one piece.
Pep squad in danger!
We'll leave that question unanswered, too, as we shift to the bright lights of a big city. By the way, the city is not identified, but there's some evidence it's in Texas. Margie has the heaviest accent, but you hear traces in many of the other actors' voices. We meet Jim Crandall, a reporter who has just been informed that he'll have to postpone his vacation to go to the hospital and talk to Howie. We see something that's a little peculiar: Jim's editor is walking with a cane. I can't think of any reason why he shouldn't be, but this is something you don't normally see in a movie, and there doesn't seem to be anything about the plot that would require it. Jim's editor insists that Jim go to the hospital to interview Howie, and Jim, evidently a crackerjack reporter, agrees without too much complaining. We're also told that Margie is still missing.
At the hospital, Jim chats with Dr. Wilson Blake, a man he seems to know already. Dr. Blake gives him the good news that Howie wasn't badly hurt, but the police have been questioning him and he's so tired, Jim won't be able to talk to him until tomorrow. Jim is good about this despite the crimp it puts in his vacation plans, and Dr. Blake relents enough to tell Jim what happened to Howie. We don't learn anything new, except that in this flashback, we're able to see the two men from Howie and Margie's point of view. They are wearing Confederate uniforms. Jim laughs this off and says they must have been dressed that way for a joke, but Dr. Blake shows Jim the bullet he dug out of Howie, which is a Civil War-era Minie ball.
You'd think the soft lead would show some deformation after being fired, striking Howie, and obviously hitting a bone hard enough to stop its velocity so they could dig it out later.
Jim isn't 100% convinced that something very odd is going on, and really, why should he be? We the viewers know from having seen so many of this kind of movie that the two men will turn out to be real Confederate soldiers and that Margie is probably now in another time (and besides, the title of the movie pretty much gives this away at the start), so we're impatient with Jim for his obtuseness. But in real life, Jim would think that the two men were reenactors who got carried away with acting out their parts, and he'd be right. However, the convention in this kind of movie is that the hero needs a little time to accept the fact that There Are Things Out There That Can't Be Explained by Conventional Wisdom, so let's not be too impatient with Jim's stubbornness. He will see the light soon enough, and I doubt I'm giving away a plot point here.
Besides, he needs more time to flirt with pretty girls.
One thing that Jim mentioned to Dr. Blake is that Margie has a sister, Sandy De Mar. She's a singer at the local nightclub, and Jim plans to talk to her to see if she knows anything about where Margie is, but the police are already heading her way. By the way, it's good to see that the police in this movie are active and competent, not the lazy bunglers we see so often in B movies. We see Sandy singing at the club, and although she has a good voice, the scene lasts a little too long and does nothing to advance the plot. Besides that, it seems the song was written by Russ Marker, the man who made this movie, and I have certainly heard worse, but it's obvious why he didn't go on to be a successful songwriter.
Sandy (that's got to be a wig!).
However, the song eventually ends and Sandy goes to her dressing room, at which point two police officers show up. The senior one, Lt. Partane, is played by Tim Holt, the only actor in the movie who had a real acting career. He had a long career, mostly in Westerns, and he does a good job in this one playing the authoritative cop. Sandy is shocked at the news that her little sister is missing but has no idea what might have happened to her. (I'm going to mention here that her accent in no way matches that of her "sister.") As the two police officers leave, they run into Jim. Lt. Partane tells Jim to come to his office tomorrow and he'll have something to tell him. Jim points out without much hope that he's supposed to be on vacation tomorrow, but the lieutenant just laughs.
At this point, I'm going to hand the review over to Nate. So far it's been a well-made movie, although we're a quarter of the way through it and with the exception of Howie getting shot, nothing particularly horrifying has happened. Let's hope the action picks up.
Chatting with the cops.
Thanks, Pam, and yes, let's hope this one picks up a bit.
So Jim lends his supportive shoulder and his tender ear to Sandy in her moment of worry and despair over her sister, and you can tell right away that they will end up being a couple by the end of this. Jim even cancels his vacation to help her out, which is nice of him.
There's just nothing like kidnapping and attempted murder to bring two lovebirds together...
Like a good reporter, Jim spends the next day with the cops, specifically Lt. Partane, who seems to have a mercurial love-hate relationship with the press in general and Jim in particular. A random detective tells of their hound dogs sniffing out Margie's scent, but the trail ended in the middle of a field, like she just "disappeared into thin air". Dumdumdum. They also found a Confederate Army kepi with a label from a company in Charleston that closed for good in 1869. Somehow they know it's not a fake, even though the reenactment market has always been big, even in 1963. (more)Dumdumdum!
I miss fedoras.
The wise old Lt. Partane then takes out his pipe and sits back to tell Jim a strange tale, a story of his US Army unit liberating a small concentration camp in Germany back in 1945. They were surprised to find a bunch of young kids whose records showed that they should have been elderly men, almost as if the Germans had managed to "reverse the ageing process". They found the documents of a certain Professor Van Hauser who was in charge, but he managed to evade capture and hasn't been seen since. All this was covered up by the US Gubbmint for some reason, though Partane doesn't seem to have been warned not to tell anyone about his unit's mysterious discovery (no "non-disclosure clause", eh?).
Partane with his newscaster pipe.
Jim then goes to talk to Howie, though he doesn't really learn anything worthwhile, and then he and Sandy drive out into the woods together to look for clues. This entire movie was filmed in and around Dallas, and nothing on-camera or in the dialogue suggests that it's not set in North Texas, so I will assume that this is rural North Texas. They find an old farmhouse and then they are attacked by a roughneck who jumps out of the woods! The attacker has a holstered gun but inexplicably doesn't even pull it out, and Jim is able to knock him down pretty easily (for a reporter...).
I punch your face!
Jim and Sandy run through the woods back towards their car (it's obviously fall, with a thick blanket of brown oak and maple leaves on the ground). It's apparently a long ways to where they left their car, which makes it all the more stupid that Sandy is wearing a tight skirt and pointy-toed four-inch heels. Unsurprisingly, Sandy is one of those women who simply cannot run unless a man is holding her hand and dragging her along, if he were to let go she'd surely just skid to a halt and stand there until he came back for her. As they cross an open pasture, suddenly Jim and Sandy disappear into thin air! WTF? And then, just as suddenly, they reappear in the same spot. But while it's the same spot in space it's not the same spot in time, and they can't help but notice that the lay of the land is wrong, the trees are different, and the modern barbed wire fence has now been replaced by a stock footage olde timey split-rail fence.
It's around here that the pressure and stress of Nazi attacks and time traveling get to Sandy and she totally melts down into a puddle of quivering jell-o, and for pretty much the rest of the movie will be good for nothing more than plaintively clutching onto Jim's arm and blubbering about the inequity of it all. Admittedly, most women in b-movies of this era are just
there to squeal and faint, but Sandy has got to be one of the most emotionally
fragile leading woman I've ever seen. And I know I'm making too much of this, but
she's a performer, a night club singer of some repute, you'd assume that would mean
she has some level of self-confidence and emotional fortitude to be in the limelight
And that's some bad hair, too.
They walk along a dirt road while Jim tries to talk her down and they meet a young horseman wearing a constitutional-style hat and riding bareback. I'll cheat and tell you that this isn't 1963 anymore, but 1789 (explanation later). Jim misses his chance to finally use all that Colonial slang he learned from watching The Patriot as his Bic lighter, a sure sign of witchcraft, causes the kid to flee in terror.
Revolutionary War-era horseman with his JC
Penney shirt and his Peter Tork haircut.
This scene seems to exist solely to have an excuse for the camera to pan up and down Sandy, an exploitatively sexist treat that movies of all genres rarely fail to deliver. They also make a big deal about how the dude on the horse was astonished at Sandy's "short" skirt, suggesting that all women in the First Thirteen in 1789 were always chastely attired in floor-length skirts and Puritan aprons. I strongly disagree with this and I think those opinions have more to do with the fact that 99% of portraits and such from that era show women dressed in their "Sunday best" and not everyday attire. You can't tell me that normal women in 1789 South Carolina in July weren't wearing shorts and tank tops.
Eh, she's got cute ankles.
Anyway, as Jim and Sandy discuss it all, they are suddenly zapped forward in time back to 1963. They reappear on a small four-poster platform ringed with rhythmically flashing neon tubes, this is a time machine portal Stargate thingie. They are in a small laboratory, which looks like a windowless garage in some guy's house redressed with a coat of white paint and some cardboard-and-plywood "computers" along one wall. Most ominously, there is a Nazi flag tacked up on the wall behind them (though hung vertically instead of properly horizontally).
On the platform.
They are "welcomed" back to 1963 by an old man with slicked-back hair in a white lab coat. This is Professor Ernest Von Hauser, inventor of the time machine and a brilliant scientist (hence the lab coat). He's also completely batshit insane and Hitler's biggest fan. And, yes, this is the very same Professor Von Hauser that Lt. Partane alluded to in his exposition scene earlier (imagine the odds!).
Was there ever a mad scientist with 20/20 vision?
Protecting the Professor are two hulking guards in Nazi-style brown shirts and peaked caps. Oddly, the Professor takes the time to introduce them by their names, which I found to be cool. Rarely do mute thuggish henchmen get to have actual names and this little, fleeting Sopranos moment might be the best part of the film for me (seriously). Of course, in a movie this cheap, you have to wonder if this has more to do with the director doing these two actors a favor in exchange for a paycut or something, stranger things have happened Off-Hollywood.
Manfred and Wolf, nice to meet you both.
A vaguely Hispanic/Arabic girl comes into the room now, wearing a knock-off Sinai robe and headwrap borrowed from a local church's spring performance of The Three Wise Men. Despite all the Nazis and the time travel and stuff, Jim is still a guy so he gives an approving eye to the sexy foreign girl, which the Professor doesn't fail to notice. He says that she used to be an Egyptian slave girl from
a "few thousand years ago", now she's "serving" him, if you know what I mean (winkwink). She and the guards take Sandy to another room to meet the locked-up Marjorie, who is still in her racy majorette uniform. Jim is now alone with the Professor, though he doesn't really protest too much when Sandy is led off, maybe he's happy to be rid of her.
Didiyama is her name, sexy is her game.
When queried, the Professor says he was conducting time travel experiments, trawling through history, so to speak, and brought back those two Civil War soldiers who ambushed the couple in the first scene. He claims he kept Marjorie the Majorette as a "test subject". He also sent Jim and Sandy back to 1789 a while ago, just for giggles. The bespectacled old man then starts monologuing like Syndrome from The Incredibles, freely giving up crucial operational details and technical specs like the worst Bond villain ever, all in a chokingly thick (but obviously fake) German accent. It seems he's angry that he was expelled from the "International Congress of Physicists" and, like Doctor Mafune in Terror of MechaGodzilla, he's determined to get his revenge on his peers and "show them all". He also rages on and on about his pro-Nazi feelings and his love of Hitler, while Jim verbally spars with him to a stirring marching drum soundtrack. And finally he brags about all the fantastic weapons he was designing for Hitler at the end of the war, like the "ageing weapon", and a "cannon that killed with sound waves", and a "generator gun to electrocute entire armies". If only he had a few more months, then the Nazis could have turned the tide (well, no, but thanks for playing). The oft-repeated and oft-glamorized myth of Nazi superweapons has been pretty well overblown in my opinion, the actual factual details rarely live up to the hype.
Jim knows a lot of this already, as he just that morning "learned it at the library" (what's a "library"? Is that what wikipedia used to be called?). You'd think Jim could just overpower the weakly octogenarian Professor and do something heroic here, but he just stands there and banters with him about politics and history. Perhaps his reporter instincts to get a prime story kicked in, he did mention earlier that he was looking to score a Pulitzer Prize. And as the time travel technobabble starts to fly, back to Pam.
He doesn't really understand the sciency stuff.
Don't be too dismissive of Nazi superweapons, Nate. You know perfectly well they were able to build a Secret Moon Base. And you can see here, plain as day, that they've built a time machine. It seems to me, though, if they could build an aging weapon, they could build a de-aging one. And if they could do that, people would be paying the Nazis to shoot them with the de-aging weapon. The war would be over as each Nazi soldier rushed off to spend his new wealth!
You're not mocking the Nazi Moon Base, are you, Pam? Because that's totally for realsies.
However, I'm not here to make the Nazis rich, I'm here to comment on this movie. But before I do, I must say that sartorial standards for Brownshirts seem to have declined drastically since the end of the war. Where are Manfred and Wolf's ties and Sam Browne belts? And swastika armbands? Something looks odd about their caps, too. I think they must have been modified from something else instead of being copies of the real thing. Then again, if the movie was made in Dallas, it's possible authentic copies of Brownshirt uniforms simply weren't available.
I sense Nate is glaring at me, so I'll get back to the movie. From what I've seen so far, I'm not sure what is going on with the machine. How far is its physical range? The Professor brought Didyama back from Egypt, and the two Confederate soldiers came from Shiloh. Can the Professor zero in on any time and place on Earth and bring people to or from it? That's what it looks like. Time to stop thinking about this, though, as the Professor is condescending to explain to Jim how his time machine works.
The Professor is hot stuff, indeed. He built a nuclear reactor to power his machine, and managed to do it without attracting any attention. Where in heaven's name did he get the money to do this, let alone find people who could build a reactor facility, bring in fuel, and keep their mouths shut...no, no, mustn't get distracted, back to the Professor. His machine can select a particular time down to the very second, and he can control the speed at which selected segments of time pass. I guess this means that he can adjust his machine so going back in time 2000 years won't take 2000 times as long as going back one year. A handy feature, I'll remember it the next time I'm in the market for a time machine.
"No, Mister Bond, I expect you to die!"
Look at the Professor as he rants. He's got tiny fangs! Was he made up this way on purpose, or did the actor just have funny teeth? Oops, I just digressed again, my bad. To get back to the Professor's discourse on how one travels in time, it's basically the old science-fiction theory that if you go faster than the speed of light, you'll travel back in time. Easier said than done, as I'm sure all our readers will agree, but the Professor has figured out how. It gets weird here, because he claims he found a new ray in the spectrum. He calls it the "minus ray," and it has a very, very short wavelength. Minus rays can, it seems, accelerate light until it exceeds the normal "speed of light." To give a concrete example of how this works, he says that when you turn on a light switch, the room is flooded with light, but if you throw in a minus ray, the light will come on before you flip the switch! He doesn't explain why you would flip the switch if the light's already on.
"Once you get the Easter egg open, you can eat all the delicious candy inside."
Anyway, if I understand him correctly, the more "minus rays" you use, the faster you go back in time. He doesn't explain how you come back in time. Maybe you just turn off the minus rays and bounce back. Discussing his invention excites him, and he breaks into another rant against the Americans, which turns into a rant about bringing Hitler back. Finally, his statement finished, he quiets down and orders Manfred and Wolf to haul him off to a cell. And with that, I'll turn this back over to Nate.
"And this is a line, you will stand in one to get me a calzone down at Maury's Deli. Now go."
Well, I'm glad you took that section, Pam, because none of that made a lick of sense to me. Despite his grandiose claims, it seems like the Professor is using his time machine like a 19-year old frat boy would, to bring back sexy girls from foreign lands and play jokes on old people. And while I'm complaining, I think I've been misled by the movie poster. I was kinda expecting Adolf Hitler himself to show up at some point, at least make a appearance, stomp around a little and maybe annex Louisiana or something. But no Hitler, which is really odd as you'd expect that in a movie like this, one where you're pushing boundaries.
And tell him to bring some aliens with him, dude!
The Professor is ready to experiment some more, and since Margie is young and vulnerable, she's the mark. One of the guards, Wolf, comes get her and when she fights back, he roughs her up pretty bad on the way out. Seriously, the actor, who is twice her size, really tosses that little actress around pretty hard, must have left some bruises for sure. Credit to the actress, though, for making it "look real".
"Good thing I signed that waiver!"
They tie poor Margie to a wooden chair on the time travel platform and the Professor sends her off "into the future". It seems odd that he's been using fiercely unwilling subjects for all his time travel trials, as that doesn't exactly seem the best way to gather impartial test results. Sure, he can answer the question, "Did they survive the trip?", but he's not going to get any reliable experimental data out of test subjects who want to see him dead. There has to be a better way, NASA would send a rover, the Empire would send a probe droid. Hell, even the Stargate team sent a robot in first before they tossed Kurt Russell through the wormhole.
Keep your knees together, dear, this is a family movie.
Meanwhile, Sandy is in peril as Manfred the horny guard has taken a shine to her. Manfred opens Sandy's cell and strolls in with a smirk on his face, he's obviously looking to "fraternize with the inmate". Didiyama, finally having enough of this abuse, sneaks up and jabs a small knife into Manfred's back. Now, kudos to this movie, because in 99.999% of b-movies a three-inch stab wound like that would instantly kill a henchman, but here, while the guy is mortally injured, it's still just a knife to the kidney, not a shotgun to the face, so he still has the strength to strangle Didiyama to death before stumbling out into the corridor and collapsing.
He's not going down alone.
If I may rage a second here, it takes Manfred a good 20 seconds to strangle poor Didiyama to death. All that time Sandy is standing not five feet away from them, fully healthy, fully capable of trying to help Didiyama (you know, the woman who just risked her own life to save yours?). Does Sandy take one step forward to try and pull Manfred off her? Does she reach for the pistol in his holster not three feet from her? Does she kick, punch, hair-pull, anything to try and protect the girl? Or does she just stand there with her helpless hands balled up by her cheeks and gasp in horror as she watches the woman die wretchedly in front of her? Her sister put up a fight when they came to take her away, you'd think that Sandy would also have some spunk in her, but I guess not. And when Didiyama is long dead and Manfred finally collapses, what does Sandy do? Instantly run to Jim, her man, and wilt into his arms like a child. Does she not have any compassion for others, does she not have any sense of right and wrong, does she not have one single ounce of courage or bravery in her entire limp-noodle body? God, sometimes I fucking hate women in 1960s b-movies.
Jesus Christ! Fuck! Don't just stand there, bitch! DO SOMETHING!!! Comeon!
Anyway, rage over. Armed with Manfred's pistol, Jim bursts into the lab and shoots Wolf, who, like his partner before, ever so sloooowly lays down and dies. At gunpoint, the Professor brings Margie back from wherever/whenever she briefly was. Oddly, when she reappears, she's still in the seated position and her hands and feet are still shackled, even though the chair itself didn't time travel with her, which just makes no damn sense (unless maybe she was still "in transit" when he brought her back?). Margie seems ok, though, so her three-minute exposure to the far flung future couldn't have been too traumatic for her (though, really, other than the hairstyles and the lack of DeSotos, 2011 looks pretty much like 1963). Jim then shoots up the computer, which presumably damages it (or not), and he and the girls leave. Watch how Sandy now suddenly has the strength to run over and help Margie untie herself, nice to see she cares about someone.
He could probably aim a lot better if she'd scrape herself off him for one damned second.
About this same time, Lieutenant Partane and the rest of the cops show up and are milling around that dilapidated farmhouse. They say that they found "the Nazi soldiers and the radar equipment" in the attic, though they are still looking for "Van Hauser's headquarters". This explains (sorta) how the Professor managed to (maybe) build his machine and stay hidden for so long (not really, but let's roll with it). After Jim and the womenfolk emerge from a hidden hatch, Partane pulls out his service revolver and goes down into the lab with another copper. We see that Jim's gunshots didn't break the machine after all and the Professor is just about ready to...well, to do something with the machine. Hopefully go back in time and bring forward a battalion of Nazi infantry to lock this place down. A gunfight ensues and the Professor falls dead onto the platform and disappears into time and space (to where, who knows?).
Hope they have Emergency Rooms where he's going.
Partane then busts up the machine real good. When Jim rightly questions his decision ("You had no right!", he complains), Partane rambles on about how humanity isn't ready for time travel just yet. "Yesterday should be left alone," he says, "because today the world has enough problems just trying to make sure we have a tomorrow." That's all profound and noble and all, but seriously, should he have done that? Don't you think the American scientific community would love to get their hands on this? Imagine if the brain trust at Harvard could be given access to a working time machine, imagine all the amazing good they could bring to the world, all the positive changes in history that could save countless millions of lives and advance the history of our species into a Golden Age. But, then again, like Professor Van Hauser, they'd probably just use it to get chicks.
"Ok, here's the plan. We're going to use the machine to bring back Cleopatra, Anne
Boleyn, Joan of Arc, and Betsy Ross, lock them in a room, bring in some kegs and have us a big naked lesbian orgy! Stanford will be so jealous! Whoo!"
So that was The Yesterday Machine, not too bad, not too good, but worth the time to track it down. Pam, any final thoughts on this one? If you could use a time machine for just one thing, what would it be?
Picking out just one thing I'd like to do with a time machine is hard, Nate. There are so many things I'd like to go back in time and see. Hmm...Maybe to see the signing of the Declaration of Independence? I'll have to think about it.
I agree, this really wasn't a bad little movie. It wasn't bad for a first attempt, with what must have been limited funding. Russ Marker was light-years ahead of Ed Wood or Phil Tucker when it came to movie-making, and it's a shame he didn't keep up with it. One point I liked was that Manfred and Wolf spoke German, not English. True, it was very simple German, but then, the plot didn't call for them to hold involved conversations with the prisoners.
One thing I've been wondering about is who were these actors, anyway? The only one who had anything resembling a career in movies was Tim Holt. The others had at most only a couple of other acting credits besides this movie, and for most of them, this was the only movie they ever acted in. Yet they do a decent job. It's also odd that the movie spends time on things like Margie's baton twirling and Sandy's singing, things that have nothing to do with the plot. Some of that was probably the need to pad out the running time, but still...baton twirling?
IMDb says that Russ Marker lived in Texas for most of his life. Was Tim Holt the only professional actor he hired for this movie, and were the others recruited locally, maybe from community theater groups? This would explain both the regional accents and the fact that they were decent actors. This might also explain why he was willing to hire an actor who needed a cane to walk. Did the actresses who played Margie and Sandy demand some screen time to display their particular talents?
Anyway, if you have 78 minutes to kill, you might as well watch this movie. There are many worse ones out there.