Time Machine (1960)
When you’ve been a film aficionado for more decade than you care to remember who tends to build up a list of your favorite movies. Considering I have a rather sizable collection gathered over many years, of frequently asked what my favorite movie is. This is all but impossible to say because each film is unique in its own right. In my collection spans a gamut of every conceivable genre. When I think back to those movies that had significant impact on me as a burgeoning cinephile the category that comes immediately to mind is most frequently science-fiction. Even with such a restriction the numbers on that list are still quite sizable but there are few films that will forever remain special on a personal level. The movie of the consideration here, ‘The Time Machine’ is one of these movies. I remember seeing in the theater and then again on television, albeit cut to pieces, and finally I managed to get a copy on DVD. Now, after all these long years a Blu-ray version has been released and I couldn’t be happier. Needless to say I am referring to the 1960 version of the film, the one directed by the grandfather of science-fiction special effects in feature films; George Pal. He was one of the first directors that we recognize my name, and would go out of our way to watch the movies he created. ‘The Time Machine’, represented one of the most imaginative movies I had seen at that time combining special effects that were above what we used to them with the right touch of social commentary that science-fiction has always been known for. Having been a science-fiction fan, I had already read the H.G. Wells book by the same name and was anxious to see how imaginative director, such as George Pal would bring it to the screen. Mr. Pal had already proven himself with a seminal work of Mr. Wells with his 1953 version of ‘War of the Worlds’, another movie that rent a long way to solidify the love of this genre with many of us.
In a fashion similar to the novel the story opens in Victorian England, specifically New Year's Eve, 1899.with a well-liked gentleman named George (Rod Taylor) has invited his closest friends for dinner party. Among those in attendance is his best friend David Filby (Alan Young) and Dr. Philip Hillyer (Sebastian Cabot). During the course of the evening George takes out in miniature machine finely crafted of the usual design. He claims that this is a scale model of a full-size device that is capable of traveling back and forth through time. To prove it George activates it and it disappears in this shimmering blur. His friends all abused, but maintain that it is just a well done. Paula trick and remain dubious that it took a journey in time. As the evening came to a close, George invites them to reconvene next Friday. Before they leave Filby takes his friend to the side wanting him to destroy that machine and not pursue this line of investigation. His face repeals a look of dire concern.
In George’s study is a full-size version of the machine. One of the things that were most attractive about this movie is how remain true to the Victorian-style. The machine has one seat for a passenger in a large spinning reel behind it. The control handles beautifully carved ivory with the glistening metal presenting a look of being crafted by gifted artisans. This was a period of time when something not only had to be functional, but had to be aesthetically appealing as well. Form stood as a crucial component of the overall device augmenting the function making using it a type of interactive art. George sets the dial to September 13, 1917, a significant number of years in the future to be a realistic test. Unknown to George the peaceful Victorian era would have by then been ravaged by World War I. Explosions occur all around him, leaving the usual tranquil view outside his window into one of sheer mayhem. He sees a man who looks very familiar run-up to him. It is James Filby (Alan Young), the son of George’s dear friend. James warns George that this is an air raid and he must find shelter immediately. George rushes back to his machine pushing the handled forward, bringing them to June 19, 1940. This made that war is still raging finding little comfort in his discovery that this is a yet another global war. That mankind would surely have found a way to able to resolve their differences and find in an age of peace and prosperity he returns again to the machine. His next stop is August 19, 1966 where once again, the silent scream proclaiming another air raid. Once again, he runs into a now much older Filby, who informed him that this is an attack by atomic satellites. An atomic weapon causes a volcanic eruption, leaving George barely enough time to find safety in his machine. He pushes believers again to go forward finding himself encased in solid rock. He has no recourse but to move the levers all the way to the future in hopes that geological erosion would someday free him from his tomb.
All of this is basically a prequel to the main part of the story. As we see the rock slowly erode from around him. Finally he is free of the rock and is out in the open next to a building with a sphinx on top of it. As after noting his gauge reads, October 12, 802,701 George goes off to explore he happens upon a group of humans or slightly built, with blonde hair and a childlike demeanor. They are playing in the open field gleefully laughing and on the rare that one of their number has fallen into a stream and is drowning. There is absolutely no attempt by any of her fellows to rescue her; they seem oblivious to any possible course of action. George dives into the water and rescues the girl. George manages to communicate with the girl learning her name is Weena (Yvette Mimieux) and she is from a race called the Eloi. Their society seems to be idyllic. There is no sign of work, or any toil whatsoever. At mealtime they gather together in a large hall eating from a plentiful variety of fruits and vegetables. George’s naturally curious about society asking Weena about books or records. She brings into a great Hall filled with dust. The books he happens to find crumble as he touches them having not been used in countless centuries.
Motivational plot device for this story is that the human race had bifurcated after the last new beer Holocaust. The Eloi roamed in the sunlight blithely living on the surface of the planet. Much like the scriptural lilies of the field, neither did they toil nor did they reap. Around the landscape were strange round protuberances leading down to a murky darkness. Mechanical sounds faintly be heard emanating from somewhere in the depths. George’s determined to investigate despite the panic reaction. This elicits from Weena. The other branch of humanity, lurk in the darkness, the Morlock. George descends to encounter them; a horribly mutated humanoid with deformed teeth massive matte hair and eight like physique. They are the ones that accomplish all the work that must be done to keep both their worlds functioning. Since they only rule be on the world. They have no natural food stores, except for the Eloi. In some ways, George must’ve been an ancestor of the illustrious Captain Kirk. He comes across a society that has been functional for thousands of years in deciding that it is morally wrong, from his perspective, that he is obliged to take matters into his own hands and corrected. Albeit using the innocent Eloi as a source of protein is despicable, but I feel the point does have some validity to it.
This is a prime example of a film that can be watched innumerable times with each viewing. You will get something different out of it. As a result of your own maturation and broaden experiences. I must’ve been seven years old when I first saw this movie and all I can about at that point was it worked as an exciting science-fiction. The Morlock were gruesome enough creatures in the Eloi look enough like us to foster some degree of identification with the plight described. This was not a driven film. Unlike most of George Pal’s work, the most memorable affect with the functioning of the Time Machine in the visual method to directly used to show the passage of time. In attempts at time travel George could see a female mannequin in the shop window across the road. As time passed, he would watch as various outfits would be removed and replaced according to the vagaries of ever-changing female fashion sense. George Pal was quite adept at the proper placement of comic relief to help highlight the intensity of the drama that drives the story.
At the time of the first viewing I was still unaware of some of the literary themes that H.G. Wells imbued in his stories. Like many science-fiction authors Wells utilized his stories as a platform for his social and philosophical views. Many of his works, although made before World War I, depicted a series of global conflicts that would bring mankind to the brink of destruction. Four fascinating example of this, read the novel, and watch the film, ‘The Shape of Things to Come’. In a similar fashion to the story the audience is taken on a trip to the future after witnessing centuries of war. With this story notes was examining the dual nature of mankind; the part of us that yearns for peace and security juxtaposed against the segment about personality that drives us to industry, domination and control. The world had just been through an era of global imperialism where new races was discovered and exploited. Wells demonstrate the iniquity of this system, with the ultimate dichotomy physically splitting mankind into two diametrically opposed factions. This movie had been reimagined in 2002, and as is often the case that incarnation was but a pale shadow of this film. Having it now in high definition is incredible. The use of colors in the Eloi world takes on a new brilliance and greater contrast with the murky blacks and grays of the Morlock lairs. The level of detail is extraordinary; you can virtually see every grain of dust as the ancient book crumbles and George’s hands. Each blade of grass in the verdant field stands out. Once again, the experience of this film, as beloved as it always has been, has taken on a freshness that makes it worthy to repurchase even if you have the previous DVD.