Trimark’s “The Philadelphia Experiment 2” is a middling sci-fi sequel to the middling 1984 New World original. Although the current opus has some marketable and even clever elements, they are too few to make a dent at the B.O. prior to its quick flight to videoland.
Original pic dealt with a World War II experiment that went awry and sent a U.S. warship adrift into the space-time continuum. As a result, one sailor was permanently sent into the future.
In “Experiment 2,” Gerrit Graham is a U.S. scientist intent on producing a super stealth bomber — though this risks tampering with the continuum.
The surviving sailor of the original (Brad Johnson, taking over from Michael Pare) is transported to a 1993 world of internment camps and Orwellian brainwashing. In a neat plot twist, it’s revealed that Graham’s experiment sent the fighter plane into the past, where Nazis used it to nuke D.C. and win the war. Johnson is thus trapped not in the future, but in an alternate present created by the Nazi victory.
The metaphysical time-playing, however, plays second fiddle to a humdrum action plot in which Johnson is able to right things with a fair amount of shooting, explosions and a little time-hopping.
Johnson is OK; Graham strikes the right notes as the megalomaniac villain without going over the top. Marjean Holden briefly enlivens things as a guerrilla heroine before returning in a self-consciously sappy coda.
Ronn Schmidt’s lensing and Armin Ganz’s production design provide some visual menace to the Nazi netherworld, but Stephen Cornwell’s direction could have used more dramatic consistency.
Pic abounds in a number of mild in-jokes, references to the Nazi empire as the New World Order, and such gags as naming the Nazi scientist Mahler. A more intriguing prank is that, per the credits, the Nazi propaganda film of pastoral paternalism was taken from WPA documentaries.