Time Travel Shenanigans: Time After Time (1979) & The Time Machine (1960)

I’m a sucker for a good time travel movie, as readers of the first Time Travel Shenanigans will remember. So, when I saw Time After Time and The Time Machine on the NetBox, they were no-brainers for a double feature.

It seems like I’ve been hearing about Time After Time for a while now. It seems to pop up anytime people talk about time travel movies. “Have you seen the one where H.G. Wells goes back in time to capture Jack the Ripper?” So, when I saw that it was available for instant watch, I had to check it out. And you know what? It’s not as weird as it might seem. You’ve got Malcom McDowell playing Wells and Mary Steenburgen as his modern day (in 1979, mind you) love interest, so you’ve got some recognizable face, plus, the story is played very straightforward and completely avoids camp. The elaborate on the plot a bit, Jack The Ripper turns out to be in Wells’ circle of friends. They discover he’s the Ripper, but it’s too late, he’s already traveled to the future (1979). Wells heads after him and lands in San Francisco where he meets Steenburgen at a bank. There’s the usual round of “what manor of beast is this?” when our hero encounters a car or whatever, but Time After Time mostly just goes for the straighforward love story between the two stars and then the chase trying to grab Jack. It feels more like a TV show than a movie actually. I was kind of hoping there would be more sci-fi elements, but overall it’s a pretty good movie. I’m not sure if I would watch it again, but it was fun for a one-time viewing.

Now The Time Machine doesn’t disappoint when it comes to sci-fi goodness. I have never read The Time Machine, but the movie does use elements from the book like the futuristic Morlocks and Eloi. What I like most about this movie and the time travel that goes on in it is that the machine stays in the same place while traveling through time. So, he sits in it in his study and then turns it on and can see the neighborhood and specifically a mannequin in a shop window across the street. This means that as he travels forward through time, stopping in 1917, 1940, 1966 and finally in 802,701, he’s seeing the immediate effects time has on his surroundings. Usually these things don’t span such a great period of time or follow those same kind of rules. I guess, technically, Back To The Future does, but his time machine moves. This whole thing takes place over the equivalent of a city block. Again, I’m not sure if that’s how it was done in the book, but I liked the usage here. With each stop, Wells (again, our main character) gets more of a story that, at first mirrors reality, with mentions of WWI and WWII, but by the time he stops off in 1966 history has taken an interesting turn with ongoing fear of the atomic bomb. In the far future, the human race has split between the underground Morlocks who keep the beautiful, but stupid Eloi around for food. Wells can’t handle that kind of nonsense, so he does all he can to put a stop to it. I was also impressed with the special effects. There’s a volcano at one point that encases the time machine in rock that’s pretty impressive and even though everything looks like a set, the future looked lush and full of interesting characters. I do highly recommend checking this one out if you’re jonesing for a time travel movie featuring H.G. Wells as the main character. This is also a good one for fans of The Big Bang Theory who remember the episode “The Nerdvana Annihilation”  in which they accidentally purchase a full-size prop of the time machine from the movie. That’s really why I added this one to my queue and I’m glad I did.