The Time Machine (1960) Review

The visionary qualities of H.G.Wells' novels have always possessed tremendous cinematic potential, and director George Pal had already turned Wells' War Of The Worlds into a cinema blockbuster amongst others. Filming one of Wells' other great novels, The Time Machine, was more difficult with regards to the adaptation process. Here was a novel aimed at being a social satire; criticising the class system of Victorian England that was driving apart the working classes from the fat aristocracy. However, this notion had to a great extent become moribund by 1960, the year Pal adapted The Time Machine. Pal therefore opted to turn The Time Machine into a straightforward science-fiction story, omitting the social satire and replacing it with thrilling entertainment.

It's five days into the new century (Twentieth Century to be precise) and eccentric inventor George Wells (Rod Taylor) has invited his closest friends for dinner at his house. His friends are impatient, as George is late for his own dinner. George soon manages to show up, but his clothes are torn, and his body bruised. His friends sit him down, and George tells the story of what has happened to him. George reminds his friends of the meeting they had five days earlier, in which George demonstrated to them a prototype contraption he had built, which could travel in time. His friends disbelieved George and his prototype, and when they left, George tested out the full version, sending himself years into the future. Throughout his time travel, George unfortunately became entangled with World War I, II and III (a nuclear war in 1966) and ultimately stopped his machine upon reaching the year 802,701! He found an apocalyptic world of two species, the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi are a childish, albino race whose pursuits are totally devoted to pleasure. They question nothing, and take the food they are provided with for granted. The Morlocks on the other hand, are brutal mutant monsters forced underground, who operate clanking machinery, and serve to fatten the Eloi like cattle in order to feed on them. This set-up horrified George, who had fallen for an Eloi named Weena (Yvette Mimieux). He embarked upon a mission to spark revolution. Unfortunately, George's time machine had been stolen by the Morlocks and locked within a huge sphinx-like structure. George continues his story to his friends, and it's unsure if his mission has been successful.

Forgetting the social satire of Wells' original novel, The Time Machine is early-sixties science fiction at it's best. Visuals are sparse yet splendid and the production design authentically recreates a ruined Earth in 802,701. Although the Eloi have a somewhat dated sixties fashion sense, they are still starkly contrasted by the brutish Morlocks, who degenerated into pure savagery. Plotting wise, The Time Machine beats Pal's War Of The Worlds for structure and pacing, and doesn't pander as much to visual effects. As George's friends, Alan Young, Sebastian Cabot, Tom Helmore and Whit Bissell provide some nice, likeable cameos, and it's a pity they aren't sharing more of the screen time. Yvette Mimieux's character Weena literally requires her to be stupid and unintelligent, and Mimieux barely delivers on the count. Fortunately for the film, Rod Taylor is an excellent and likeable lead, and you sympathise with George, due to his desire to make the Earth a better place.

The Time Machine is a concise and thrilling piece of science-fiction adventure, coupled with an interesting dose of sixties paranoia, and the latter is reflected in the film's prophetic version of World War III which occurs in 1966. Don't forget, this film was made two years before the Cuba Missile Crisis of '62 and the world's future was an uncertain status at the time.

Academy Awards 1960
Best Special Effects - Gene Warren, Tim Baar

Academy Award Nominations 1960

When movie-lover and billionaire Ted Turner purchased the entire back-catalogue of MGM films, he spared no expense in paying for their complete restoration. What resulted, was fantastic prints of films such as Doctor Zhivago, North By Northwest and 2001 - A Space Odyssey. The Time Machine is no different, and the print is magnificent. There are some dirt marks and scratches, but this is the fault of the original stock footage used for the film. Some of the scenes are given such clarity that they actually look brand new, and the colours have been given a new lease of life. Presented in matted anamorphic 1.78:1.

It would be boring by now to moan about the fact that the original audio track has not been included on yet another re-issue, and The Time Machine unfortunately needs moaning about. The 5.1 remix is reasonably good, with some added spatial effects and a greater spreading of music score, despite the film quite comfortably needing only to exist in 2.0 stereo or mono. Surely it isn't too difficult to include a film's original audio track and a DVD that lacks commentaries and has only one other language option?


Menu: A static menu comprising illustrations from the film, complete with portions of Russell Garcia's original music score.

Packaging: As Warner Brothers own the rights to Turner's catalogue, the DVD is in Warner and not MGM packaging. Therefore, a snapper case is provided, with original poster artwork on the front cover and chapter listings on the inner part of the case.

Time Machine: The Journey Back: A strange retrospective documentary on the film, lasting forty-seven minutes and hosted by Rod Taylor. Instead of concentrating on the production, the documentary spends a great chunk on how the time machine chair was restored, and what its uses were after the film, complete with some strange scenes featuring the now old Alan Young and Rod Taylor reprising the characters of Filby and George! These are bizarre and pointless, and the documentary, filmed in 1992, looks to have been transferred off a video master, with excessive shakes and poor definition.

Cast & Crew: Short biographies displayed as on screen text with photos of Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, Sebastian Cabot and George Pal.

Awards: A pointless text page displaying the fact that The Time Machine won the 1960 Oscar for Best Special Effects.

Original Trailer: An exciting fifties style trailer with bold lettering advertising the film, and cashing on the fact that George Pal previously made War Of The Worlds.

Isolated Music Score Track: Well, there should be an isolated music score track, as promised on the back of the packaging, but this was dropped at the last minute so as to not make the Box Set (Essentially the DVD with some postcards and the soundtrack) less appealing. This is very bad practice indeed, and the DVD should at least carry a sticker with a disclaimer informing the customer.

Due for release in the states this month, The Time Machine has just been remade with Guy Pearce and Jeremy Irons, and if other science-fiction remakes are anything to go by (such as Planet Of The Apes and Rollerball) then it might do the original a service in showing just how good it really is in comparison. The DVD lacks quality extras, and even lies about some of them, but it's still hard to fault the overall package as The Time Machine is a gripping adventure/science-fiction tale that still is very enjoyable forty two years later.

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