The Time Machine (1960 film)

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The Time Machine
Brown,r time macine60.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Reynold Brown
Directed by George Pal
Produced by George Pal
Screenplay by David Duncan
Based on The Time Machine 
by H. G. Wells
Starring Rod Taylor
Alan Young
Yvette Mimieux
Sebastian Cabot
Whit Bissell
Narrated by Rod Taylor
Music by Russell Garcia
Cinematography Paul Vogel
Edited by George Tomasini
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • August 17, 1960 (1960-08-17)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $829,000[1]
Box office $2,610,000[1]

The Time Machine – also known promotionally as H.G. Wells' The Time Machine – is a 1960 Metrocolor time travel science fiction film based on the 1895 novella of the same name by H. G. Wells. The story, hugely influential in the development of science fiction, relates the experiences of an inventor in Victorian England who constructs a machine that enables him to travel into the distant future; once there, he discovers our human descendants have divided into two species. The film stars Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, and Alan Young.

The film was produced and directed by George Pal, who had earlier made a film version of Wells' The War of the Worlds (1953). Pal always intended to make a sequel to The Time Machine, but he died before it could be produced; the end of Time Machine: The Journey Back functions as a sequel of sorts. In 1985, elements of this film were incorporated into The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal, produced by Arnold Leibovit.

The film received an Oscar for time-lapse photographic effects showing the world changing rapidly.


On January 5, 1900, four friends arrive for a dinner at the house of H. George Wells (Rod Taylor), an inventor. Their host is late and his housekeeper, Mrs. Watchet, has served dinner in his absence. Bedraggled and exhausted, George staggers in. He takes brief refreshment and begins to describe the strange experiences he has had since the last time the group met.

At the earlier dinner, on December 31, 1899, George describes time as "the fourth dimension" to David Filby (Alan Young), Dr. Philip Hillyer (Sebastian Cabot), Anthony Bridewell (Tom Helmore) and Walter Kemp (Whit Bissell). He shows them an intricate little machine which he describes as a 'model' of a larger one he is constructing to enable a person to travel in time. He places a guest's cigar in the miniature seat on the model and asks the guest to press a crystalline lever. The device disappears, apparently validating George's claim. His friends remain unconvinced, their reactions varying from curiosity to skepticism to frank dismissal.

George bids his guests and Mrs. Watchett a good evening, then heads downstairs to his laboratory where the full-size time machine awaits. George makes a few last-minute adjustments, then takes the seat and presses the lever. He moves forward through time, stopping 17 years into the future. There, on September 13, 1917, he meets Filby's son James, who tells him of Filby's death in the Great War. George, saddened, resumes his journey, stopping again at June 19, 1940. He finds himself in the midst of "a new war" and again resumes his journey. He stops again on August 18, 1966, to find his old neighbourhood in the midst of a futuristic metropolis. He is puzzled by the sight of people hurrying into a fallout shelter amid the blare of air raid sirens. An elderly James Filby urges him to seek shelter but George does not understand the technological terms he uses to explain the danger. Filby then recognises George, expresses surprise at his still youthful appearance, and runs off to the shelter. Nuclear explosions cause volcanic reactions. George restarts the machine in time to escape, but the lava cools and hardens. Now trapped inside a mountain, he is forced to travel far into the future until the topography changes.

Eventually the mountain erodes. George stops the machine on October 12, AD 802,701 near the base of a towering sphinx. The climate is idyllic. He goes exploring and finds a group of delicate but frolicsome young men and women in pastel clothing gathered at a stream. One woman, carried off by the current, screams for help but none of her companions show any concern. George dives in and rescues her. He is then surprised when, revived, she walks away without a word. Later, though, the woman seeks him out and gives him a flower. She identifies herself as Weena (Yvette Mimieux) and tells him her people are called the Eloi.

The Eloi, George soon learns, are vegetarians. The operate no machines, do no work, read no books, and know virtually nothing of history. They do not even understand fire.

George decides to go back only to discover that his time machine is gone. It appears to have been dragged into the hollow base of the sphinx. Convinced the Eloi could not have moved it, he asks Weena about it. Uncomfortable, she tells him of "Morlocks" who come out at night. A Morlock jumps out of the bushes and tries to drag Weena off, but the creature is unaccustomed to resistance and its night-sensitive eyes are blinded by fire. George quickly rescues her.

The next day Weena shows George one of the domed, well-like structures that dot the landscape. Inspection shows it to be an air shaft that doubles as a means of ingress and egress from chambers underground. She then takes him to an ancient museum where "talking rings" tell of a centuries-long nuclear war in the distant past. As a reduced human population fought for survival in the poisoned landscape, many decided to remain underground and expand the emergency shelters into permanent settlements; some decided to return to the surface and manage as best as they could there. This George realises, marked the beginning of speciation for the Morlocks and the Eloi. He starts to climb down a shaft but turns back when sirens blare from atop the sphinx and Weena disappears overhead. He emerges to find crowds of Eloi in a trance-like state entering the open doors of the base. The sirens stop and the doors close, trapping Weena and others inside.

George climbs down the air shaft again. He enters subterranean caverns filled with machines. He is horrified to discover that the Eloi serve as free range livestock to the cannibalistic Morlocks. He finds Weena in the crowd and begins fighting the Morlocks. His efforts inspire the Eloi, who begin to defend themselves. George sets a fire and urges the Eloi to clamber out of the cavern. Once at the surface, he directs the Eloi to gather dry tree branches and drop them down the shafts. Smoke billows out of the shafts and the subterranean cavern collapses.

The next morning George finds the sphinx in charred ruins. The doors are once again open. Now his time machine sits just inside the entrance. He realises the Morlocks intend this as a trap, but don't understand the machine or the means of escape it provides. He enters, the doors close behind him, and he is attacked in the dark by the remaining Morlocks. He sends the time machine into the past. Exhausted from the fight, he returns to January 5, 1900, where his time machine comes to rest on the lawn outside the laboratory. He meets his friends for dinner and relates the story.

George's friends are again skeptical. He produces a flower given to him by Weena. Filby, an amateur botanist, recognizes the species as completely unknown in the 19th century. George again bids his guests a good evening, and bids Filby an affectionate but solemn farewell. Filby steps out, but returns to find George and the machine missing. Filby notices tracks where Wells dragged the machine back to its original location before leaving so that he would be outside the sphinx building when he returned to the future. Filby and Wells' housekeeper then notice three books are missing from Wells' library, but are unsure of which ones. Filby asks her, "Which three would you have taken"? When Mrs. Watchett asks Filby if Wells will ever return, he simply notes that George has "all the time in the world" and they may meet each other again someday. Filby then locks up George's house and leaves to await his own fate.


Cast notes
  • Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux also co-starred in 1968's Dark of the Sun.[2]
  • Young and Mimieux are the only surviving primary cast members.

Home media releases[edit]

Released multiple times on videocassette, Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED), and both letterbox and pan & scan LaserDisc. The film was released on DVD in October 2000 and on Blu-ray Disc in July 2014.


An original score CD was released in 1987. The tracklisting is as follows:

CD cover
  1. Main Title / Credits
  2. London 1900 (Filby's Theme)
  3. Time Machine Model
  4. The Time Machine
  5. Quick Trip Into The Future
  6. All The Time In The World
  7. Beautiful Forest / The Great Hall
  8. Fear
  9. Weena (Love Theme)
  10. Rescue
  11. Reminiscing
  12. Morlocks
  13. End Title (Reprise)
  14. Fight With The Morlocks
  15. Time Traveler
  16. Escape
  17. Prayer / Off Again
  18. Trapped In The Future
  19. Love And Time Return
  20. End Title
  21. Atlantis, The Lost Continent (Overture) - Main Title / Credits / Love Theme / Night Scene / Submarine / End Title


George Pal was already known for pioneering work with animation. He was nominated for an Oscar almost yearly during the 1940s. Unable to sell Hollywood the screenplay, he found the British MGM studio (where he had filmed Tom Thumb) friendlier. The name of the main character—alluded to in dialogue only as George—connects him both with Pal and the original science fiction writer H. G. Wells.

Pal originally considered casting a middle-aged British actor such as David Niven or James Mason as George. He later changed his mind and selected the younger Australian actor Rod Taylor to give the character a more athletic, idealistic dimension. It was Taylor's first lead role in a feature film.[3]

MGM art director Bill Ferrari designed the machine. Recognized today as a classic film property, Ferrari's machine suggested a sled made up of clockwork backed by a big rotating disk. The disk rotated at various speeds to indicate movement through time, evoking both a spinning clock and a solar disk. In a meta-concept Easter egg touch, a plate on the time machine's instrument display panel identified its inventor as 'H. George Wells.'

The charm of the concept—fantastic technology (time travel) wrapped in archaic guise (brass rivets, Art nouveau arabesques, brass and crystal mechanisms)--was seminal in the later emergence of steampunk. The depiction of Eloi in the film immediately inspired the emergence of the 1960s flower children.

The live action scenes were filmed from May 25 to June 30, 1959, in Culver City, California.

Box office[edit]

According to MGM records the film earned $1,610,000 in the United States and Canada and $1 million elsewhere, turning a profit of $245,000.[1]

It had admissions of 363,915 in France.[4]

Awards and honors[edit]

1993 sequel/documentary[edit]

In 1993, a combination sequel-documentary short, Time Machine: The Journey Back, directed by Clyde Lucas, was produced. In the third part, Michael J. Fox talks about his experience with Time Machines from Back to the Future. In the last part, written by original screenwriter David Duncan, Rod Taylor, Alan Young and Whit Bissell reprised their roles.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ Vagg, Stephen, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media, 2010
  3. ^ Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media, 2010 p64
  4. ^ French box office for 1961 at Box Office Story

External links[edit]

Streaming audio