After the titles, we follow Power to the bargain basement U.N.C.L.E. where he works, a Los Angeles outfit cleverly called Espionage, Incorporated. Although its exterior is a shiny skyscraper, the wood-paneled rooms inside look suspiciously like someone’s basement. At least it’s populated by a bevy of gorgeous secretaries, taking another page from the U.N.C.L.E. playbook. Here, Power gets briefed by his boss, Mr. Kane. The briefing goes on forever, which sets a trend in this film: most scenes last about twice as long as they need to (especially the ones in the cheapest locations) in an attempt to pad the movie and stretch the budget. Kane says the bad guys are a group called the Dragon Agency, and mentions "gravitons" and "anti-gravitons" and how dangerous it might be if some Dragons got their hands on one or the other. All that turns out to be entirely beside the point though, as the Dragons’ real plan is to destroy Los Angeles "unless all allied forces are withdrawn from Southeast Asia." This plot is surprisingly topical for a Eurospy movie, as most escapist Sixties spy fare studiously avoided any hint of the war in Vietnam. The Dragons’ means of achieving their goal is also impressively forward-thinking (and much more practical than anything actually involving anti-gravitons); they’ll smuggle a hydrogen bomb into the city in pieces. Unlike, say, launching spaceship-eating spaceships from a phony volcano, this plot is essentially the very thing that Western intelligence agencies really do strive to protect against today. Perhaps Arthur C. Pierce had one of those time belts himself!
But before we even meet Kitty, though, the film takes a detour to Manilla, where two American Espionage, Incorporated agents are guarding a Dragon prisoner while transporting him back to Los Angeles for interrogation. The Dragon agent complains how his fellow Dragons will kill him rather than risk his talking, and the Americans laugh that he’s better protected than the U.S. president. Then one of them gets up to go to the bathroom, leaving only his friend protecting the prisoner. Better protected than the U.S. president, really? Naturally, that’s when the dragons move in. Perhaps this was intended as a commentary on U.S. foreign policy in Southeast Asia at the time? (Probably not.)
Power teaches Kitty how to time travel with the belt, and lays out some interesting rules: only use tranquilizer guns in the past, because killing anyone then could cause chain reactions affecting the present; make sure you do your time traveling in areas that will still be there in the future, like beaches. Since shorelines change fairly drastically over time, I’m not sure the latter rule is really the best piece of advice, but the reasoning behind it is sound, and the first rule certainly makes sense! After all that buildup, the time travel device (both in a physical and narrative sense) isn’t really used all that well in the climax. It enables the heroes (and, mercifully–surprisingly–us) to skip three weeks of waiting for a ship to come in, and gets them out of a few tight situations. But it does beg the question: if the good guys have a time travel device, then what’s the point of any of Power’s investigation? Couldn’t he just jump forward, see how Big Buddha’s plan pans out (like he did with the assassination), and then go back and use that knowledge to keep it from happening? Oh well, best not to worry about that sort of thing.
Besides that (and the casual misogyny, of course–par for the genre), the overall tone of Dimension 5 is one of fun. Luckily, unlike some Eurospy leading men, Hunter actually has enough charisma to help us overlook the character's less endearing traits. The rest of the acting is pretty decent too, and everyone’s game for the B spy movie shenanigans. Furthermore, the time travel aspect, while oddly handled, is an interesting enough twist on the genre to elevate this film above some of its low-budget brethren. I really like that such an outlandish device is treated as just another spy gadget, and it doesn’t stretch credulity much further than James Bond’s invisible car. But the movie’s pacing is rather unforgivable. There isn’t much action at all (I made that note several times while watching), and every single scene lasts longer than it ought to, desperately stretching the budget... and the audience’s patience. Your enjoyment of Dimension 5 will ultimately depend on your tolerance for this. There’s enough there, though, to make it a worthwhile watch for Eurospy or Grindhouse aficionados.
ADDENDUM: Nine years after I wrote this review, Kino-Lorber defied all expectations by actually releasing Dimension 5 on DVD and even Blu-ray!
Order Dimension 5 on DVD from Amazon.