Time After Time (1979 )
In the eighty years, that comprised his span of life Herbert George Wells became an author of extraordinary influence. Having the rare opportunity of being alive during one of the most significant periods of change human society has experienced. He was born in the midst of the reserved Victorian era surviving to witness the start of the world that has endured a second world war, placing him in a unique position to be directly involved with the cinematic production of several of his most iconic stories. Of course, many of his books and short stories would produce after his death, but another surprising aspect of this man is his persona gained a life of its own with the person of H.G. Wells has been included in stories as a principle character. Usually, he is portrayed as a brilliant man of exceptional foresight and imagination frequently in possession of a time machine. An example of this found in the movie under consideration here, the 1979 film, ‘Time after Time.' It has been available on DVD for a substantial number of years on Blu-ray as an addition to the Warner Archive Collection. This is an incentive to bring cult classics into high definition. Several studios and distributors have adopted this ploy with Warner Brothers in possession of a catalog that includes some of the finest films ever made.
The movie opens with a scene directly from one of Mr. Well’s best-known novels, ‘The Time Machine.' Wells (Malcolm McDowell) is hosting a dinner party for some his close friends. The purpose of the gathering was ostensible to unveil his latest invention, the machine capable of taking its passenger across the voids of time. Suddenly a constable arrives announcing he is pursuing the heinous serial killer, Jack the Ripper. A search reveals a bag containing blood-drenched gloves that belonged to one of H.G.’s friends, Dr. John Leslie Stevenson (David Warner), a surgeon. Concluding that Stevenson is the Ripper they rush back to the dining room to confront him. Unfortunately but the surgeon and the time machine are gone. Since the fiend did not have the particular failsafe measure, the automatic return key, the device reappears. Determining the Las destination, Wells quickly boards the device setting off to November 5, 1979, where the machine has ended up on display at a museum in San Francisco. At some point during the intervening 96 years, the machine relocated to a collection of a museum.
Besides his position as a founding ‘Master of Science Fiction’, Mr. Wells, did a famous social activist who believed in a future utopian world government. When this incarnation of Wells embodies many of these traits so when he travels to the future Wells is grossly disappointed that this was not the socio-political environment that prevails. He is overwhelmed by a history of violence and a glut of machinery including automobiles and airplanes. His plan to locate Stevenson was exceptionally logical and realized that the first thing Stevenson would need to do was exchange his British currency for the current coin of the realm. Checking with several banks where he eventually locates a lead. Wells encounters a bank employee, Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen), a woman far more independent and self-sufficient that any woman during the reign of Victoria Regina. The future was nothing like the socialist paradise he envisioned. When Wells catches up with his former friend Stevenson admits that he finds this future delightfully violent. He notes that a century ago his predilection for sadistic murder made him a freak, now, he is a rank armature. They argue over Well’s demand that Stevenson returns to the past to face justice. After refusing the offer to surrender a fight ensues over the return key. Stevenson dies while fleeing and Wells; now with his mission negated he winds up entering into a romantic relationship with Amy.
The film does have a broader appeal than many science fiction movies, especially from the late seventies. The variation of theme encompasses such a variety of elements as the true crime manhunt mixed with a romance developing between people of vastly different social vantage points. That aspect is a portion of a greater central plot point of a man stuck out of the familiarity of his own time. The advantage of making the protagonist Wells himself is that his hopes for the future explicitly made known through his works and direct quotes. There are many literary examples of authors predicting the socio-political future of the world but rarely are fans afforded the opportunity to watch the visionary forced to face the failure of those hopeful predictions coming to fruition. This movie represents a chance to witness a real literary giant propelled forward in time to live in a world that from his historical vantage point was worse than he left.
Most movies concerned with traversing time have to contend with the bane of science fiction writers, temporal paradoxes. The narrative of this story takes a delightful, clever approach to the subject that manages to shift the onus of the side effects of a time machine mostly through strong character development a pacing that draws the audience in retaining your attention throughout the course of the movie. My supposition as to why this tricky theme was navigated so expertly handle may significantly to do with his what would become his main claim to fame as a highly respected Sci-Fi director, Nicholas Meyer. His name is undoubtedly his well known to aficionados of the genre. He wrote and directed Star Trek franchise; ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’ and ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’. These were two of the most popular installments in the classic ' Meyer also served as screenwriter for the time travel installment of the franchise, ‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.' He might not be the most prolific filmmaker but his selectivity in projects as allowed him to build a resume of notable films.
Taking the time to listen to the director’s commentary is crucial for this movie considering some of the unique circumstances surrounding story’s journey to film. The story derived from the then-unfinished novel by Karl Alexander. Mr. Alexander is currently working on reformatting the tale to a television series tentatively set for 2017. I am looking forward to this with great anticipation especially since it is such an inherently interesting mixture of history and fantasy. Originally broadcast as a made for television movie on CBS, the quality of the source material for the upgrade to blue-ray was 35mm film stock which provided sufficient intrinsic detail for the reprocessing and remastering required to a high definition presentation. This disc, exceptionally well crafted is a visual treat to behold. A similar observation can made for the audio track rendered in a sound DTS High Definition 2.0 soundtrack. This brings out many of the nuances of the beautiful score by Miklós Rózsa. His previous compositions encompassed such cinematic masterpieces as ‘Double Indemnity’ and ‘Ben-Hur.' Even if you happen to own a DVD copy of this movie, it deserves to be repurchased in this Blu-rat format. The upgrade is stunning coming across almost as a different film.