Classic Sci-Fi: THE TIME MACHINE

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Matt Donabie has all the time in the world.


"The Time Machine is the best science fiction movie I ever saw"

A statement my dad made one day when I was a child and watching, for the first time, George Pal's 1960 version of the H.G. Wells story. Whenever I watch The Time Machine, I always remember his words.


Rod Taylor plays H. George Wells, a Victorian inventor who is late for his own dinner party. When he finally arrives he tries to convince his four friends that he has created a time machine, recounting his adventures. He shows them a miniature version of the machine, stating that a larger version can carry a man "into the past or the future". When activated, the device blurs and disappears. Three of his friends write it off as trickery, all except David Filby (Alan Young), who will prove to be George's true friend.

After they leave, George starts up his full scale model and travels into the future. He stops at 1917 and finds the world at war, and meets David's son James (played by Young as well). George discovers that David has died in the war but he had kept George's old house untouched as he believed he would return.


After a brief stop in 1940, in the midst of "a new war", George's next stop is 1966 - the future for audiences from 1960, and it is a futuristic metropolis that is depicted. George is puzzled to see people hurrying into a fallout shelter amid the blare of air raid sirens. Once again he meets a much older James Filby who spots an atomic satellite zeroing in and flees into the shelter. A nuclear explosion causes a volcano to erupt and civilisation is seemingly destroyed in a holocaust. George restarts the machine just in time to avoid being incinerated, but lava covers the machine. It cools and hardens, forcing him to travel far, far into the future until it erodes away.

The year is 802701, the date on the machine is October 12, the same date Columbus discovered the new world. George embarks into his new world, finding the human race has evolved into a split species - the above-ground Eloi, and the below-ground Morlocks. The Eloi are carefree, for the most part - that is, until the Morlochs threaten, and then they become the hunted. The Morlocks are presented as base creatures, following only their appetites and afraid to remain above ground for too long.


George has a tough decision to make - his time machine is stolen by the Morlocks; does he risk his life to get it back? And does he opt to stay in the future or go back to his own time if he recovers it?

Rod Taylor sadly passed away on January 7th this year. Whilst reading some of the tributes to this great actor I was spurred to purchase The Time Machine on DVD for the first time. The movie, as I knew it would, still holds up incredibly well. The effects of the time machine itself and the transition scenes are really good (so much so they would be recreated in the 2002 version). Outside of my father's words it's the one memory I always had of The Time Machine. Of being mesmerised by the passage of time, the scenery changing through George's window as the time streamed by, and the contrast between the Victorian household set and the future world.

The highlight of the DVD is a very interesting documentary which dates from the early 1990s, called The Journey Back. It's narrated by Rod Taylor himself, and it's clear that he had very fond memories of making the film. He says that at the end of production everyone connected with the film had the feeling that they had just made a classic movie. How right they were. He also has great personal praise for director George Pal, at one point doing a remarkable imitation of Pal's Hungarian accent!


There is a touching, and wonderfully crafted, reunion between Alan Young (as Philby) and Taylor set 25 years after the events of the movie. The script for this scene was written by the original scriptwriter, David Duncan. It's so lovingly produced that in the wake of Taylor's death I had something of a lump in my throat watching it.

The Time Machine truly is the epitome of a classic sci-fi movie. It isn't 100% faithful to H.G. Well's source material, but in its adaptation the scriptwriter, production team, and everyone involved, have crafted something of a masterpiece. Proof, if I ever needed it, that my dad had great taste!
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