By Merle Bertrand | March 23, 2000

Craig Baldwin’s “Tribulation 99” is one of my all time favorite “underground” films. So it was with high hopes that I settled into my seat and waited once again to be transported into the psychotropic and surreal alternate reality that his warped mind produces. I’m still waiting. “Spectres of the Spectrum” is structurally very similar to “T99” — tons of archival footage creatively edited to form whole new meanings — with one crucial difference; the addition of a fictional storyline. In the year 2007, a piece of hardware relating to the real life government project HAARP (High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program), supposedly designed to study the Aurora Borealis, has been modified into a devastating weapon of war; one that can be used to “bulk erase” peoples’ minds. Only Boo Boo and her father Yogi have the ability to save the world from this awful fate…if they can uncover a secret Boo Boo’s grandmother hid in an episode of the 1950s TV series “Science in Action.” That this promising set-up gets lost in the muddle is one of the more disappointing aspects of this film. It could simply be a case of too much of a good thing. “Spectres…” is a non-stop visual barrage; a rapid-pulse video assault that’s simply exhausting…yet largely lacking substance. Whereas the dense “T99” moves briskly along, cramming information down your throat almost faster than it can be absorbed and daring you to keep up, “Spectres…” never really goes anywhere. Plot points are passed about as quickly as kidney stones, surrounded by so much gratuitous, self-congratulatory footage, it’s easy to forget what’s going on. For that matter, it’s often difficult to see what’s happening as the excessively dark and grainy original footage occasionally looks worse than some of the archival kinescope stuff. “Spectres of the Spectrum” still had its moments; those bittersweet flashes of inspired genius that demonstrated what Baldwin is capable of when he’s firing on all cylinders. Maybe we’re not ready for the subversive wisdom he’s trying to impart on us. Or maybe, judging by the large number of slunched and snoozing audience members in attendance, we were just bored.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon