Time Of The Heathen Image

Time Of The Heathen

By Michael Talbot-Haynes | May 17, 2024

Time Of The Heathen is a movie that was totally before its time. I am astounded that this is the first I have heard of this picture, which should have been legendary long before now. The immediate look of the B&W imagery is similar to Carnival Of Souls and Night Of The Living Dead, two high-regard indies that Kass’s film predates. The monochrome cinematography by Ed Emshwiller is much more nuanced as well, with stunning explorations of gnarled branches and wrecked cottages in checkboards of light and shadow. The 4k restoration is jaw-dropping, as this film punches much higher than its weight visually. It also seems early out the gate to spotlight the ghastly state of race relations in the U.S. at the time. That this simple story accomplishes such without a series of diatribes is noteworthy.

In fact, for a movie that has such a heavy impact as an art film, Time Of The Heathen goes out of its way to be accessible and engaging. Even when it gets very heavy thematically, it keeps that popcorn fish hook of being on the run from bad guys dug deep. Kass envisions making his work as entertaining as possible to get the message across, which is pure genius. This is high art for the people, but years before anyone wanted it.

The 4k restoration is jaw-dropping…”

The psilocybin center of this lollipop is the planet-smashing psychedelic color sequence in the third act. Time Of The Heathen has a hallucinatory section that is beyond superior, putting Kass on the same level of acid majesty as Alejandro Jodorowsky or Ken Russell. And this was before acid was available on a street level. This movie was tripping before anyone knew what tripping was. The surreal somersaults contained are framed as a “dream sequence.” And it is dreaming balls, let me tell you. The effects of hand coloring and manipulation of frames are just as impressive now as they were in the last century.

The sights will slap your cerebral cortex into a state of outer limits wonderment. That the theme of the movie reolves around the atom bomb makes the trippy beauty all the more unusual. The atomic imagery here seriously outdoes anything found in Oppenheimer. That Oscar winner spent a lot of 70 mm footage on file cabinets and didn’t have even a smidgen of the visual splendor contained in Time Of The Heathen. If this had been made only a few years later, we would have seen it taught in every film school for generations. Turn on, tune in, and trip out on Time Of The Heathen, as this movie’s time has come.

Time Of The Heathen (1961)

Directed: Peter Kass

Written: Peter Kass, Calvin Floyd

Starring: John Heffernan, Barry Collins, Ethel Ayler, Orville Howard, Stewart Heller, etc.

Movie score: 10/10

Time Of The Heathen Image

"…on the same level of acid majesty as Alejandro Jodorowsky or Ken Russell."

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