The Time Machine (1960)

Posted by on Dec 30, 2011 in Let's Get Ready to Rumble | 0 comments


Disclaimer: Some violence and cannibalism between Aryans and Morlocks.

H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine resembles a literary mixture of Jules Verne (with every element of the epic science fiction film) and George Orwell, adding up to a dystopian future. George Pal’s filmic adaptation, ultimately, will be remembered as a classic sci-fi movie (much better than the horrid 2002 remake) for its excellent effects and lavish sets, but, like the novel, it presents a wider, socio-political scope about the slow demise of mankind at their own hand.

The film opens in a large Victorian Time2home as a group of upper class gentlemen gather for dinner. The host, George (Rod Taylor), finally arrives and plops down in his chair, dirty and ragged. As he accounts for his truancy and appearance, the story of his adventures in the future begins, told via flashback. Five days before the dinner meeting, New Year’s Eve in 1899, the same guests came to George’s home. George, an eccentric scientist, conducts an experiment that proves time travel exists and he intends to try it himself. “I say George, if you’re going to start floating about in the future,” one of them says, “aren’t you going to rather mess things up for the rest of us?” According to theory, the future has already been determined, along with the past, so it can’t be changed. But if you’ve seen time travel movies, you know they’ll soon find out different.

When George’s closest friend Filby (Alan Young) asks him why he’s endangering his life, he says, “I don’t much care for the time I was born into.” He has grown weary of ongoing wars and wants to reside in a time where intelligence has taken over and technological development continues to advance, he says. So, later that evening, he climbs into his machine, intent on visiting the future. George travels progressively – at first a few hours – then days, months, and years. “Able to see the changing world in a series of glimpses,” he says. The film updates the content a bit, using its foresight to gain an advantage on Wells, as George sees the advancement of automotives and planes. Of course, he also sees glimpses of the world wars and the atomic bomb. “The labor of centuries gone in an instant,” he says.

Soon he’s thrown ahead to the Time3year 812701, where natural beauty abounds and he thinks he’s arrived in paradise. “No winter. No wars. Had man finally learned to control the elements and himself?” he says. His initial instinct couldn’t be further from the truth, however, as we learn about a universal civil war that divided humans into factions. He hopes to find intellectual beings and advanced technology, only to find that humans have devolved into a herd of servants and colony of cannibals. One group, the Eloi, is merely docile Aryan teenagers, who spend their days bathing in the sunshine and their own ignorance. The rulers, the Morlocks, are creepy cannibals that reside below the surface. After the Morlocks steal his machine, George must find a way home and, hopefully, affect the fate of mankind for the better.

Other than one soapbox moment, in which George conversationally masturbates with Weena (Yvette Mimeux), the film moves extremely fast and is undoubtedly exciting. The action sequences include explosions and a volcano eruption, as well as an all-out hand-to-hand combat brawl at the climax. The only disturbing and flawed moment of the film comes near the end, as Weena chooses to ask George one question about the past. Her inquiry does not concern government, jobs, or what society was like, but how women wear their hair.

Though the machine is the title character, the real star of the film (and the one that won an Oscar) is the visual spectacle of gaudy sets, matte paintings, rear projection, and, most of all, time-lapse photography. The way in which the film initially establishes the time travel is simple yet ingenious, as George gazes at a storefront window’s mannequin and sees the changing fashions. They also show simple things like a candle melting, the sun rising and setting, and a clock furiously spinning. Perhaps the best use of all comes when George flees the future, leaving a dead Morlock to decay right in front of our eyes. The machine itself is likewise simple and effective. It doesn’t look foreign or complex at all, but instead looks pieced together by odds and ends such as a barber chair and patio umbrella. Some may find it ludicrous looking, as with the dated effects, but what will future generations think of the DeLorean?

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