The Time Machine (1960 film)
|The Time Machine|
|Directed by||George Pal|
|Produced by||George Pal|
|Screenplay by||David Duncan|
|Based on||The Time Machine|
by H. G. Wells
|Narrated by||Rod Taylor|
|Music by||Russell Garcia|
|Edited by||George Tomasini|
|Budget||$829,000 or $872,000|
|Box office||$2.61 million|
The Time Machine (also known promotionally as H. G. Wells' The Time Machine) is a 1960 American science fiction film in Metrocolor from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, produced and directed by George Pal, that stars Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, and Alan Young. The film was based on the 1895 novella of the same name by H. G. Wells that was influential on the development of science fiction.
An inventor in Victorian England constructs a machine that enables him to travel into the distant future; once there, he discovers that mankind's descendants have divided into two species, the passive, childlike, and vegetarian Eloi and the underground-dwelling Morlocks, who feed on the Eloi.
George Pal, who had made the first film version of Wells' The War of the Worlds (1953), 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 documentary The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal.
On January 5, 1900, four friends arrive for a dinner at the London home of their inventor friend George, but he is not there. Suddenly, he arrives, bedraggled and exhausted, and begins to describe the strange experiences he has had since the group last met.
At their earlier dinner on New Year's Eve, George described time as "the fourth dimension" to David Filby, Dr. Philip Hillyer, Anthony Bridewell, and Walter Kemp. He shows them a small model time machine and asks a guest to press a tiny lever. The device disappears, validating his claim, but his friends remain unconvinced; their reactions vary from curiosity to frank dismissal.
George bids his guests a good evening, then heads downstairs where his full-size time machine awaits. He presses a lever and moves forward through time 17 years into the future to September 15, 1917. He meets Filby's son, James, who tells him of Filby's death in a war. Saddened, he resumes his journey, stopping on June 19, 1940 during The Blitz, finding himself in the midst of "a new war"; George resumes his journey and his house is hit by a bomb and is destroyed. George stops in August 20, 1966 finding his neighborhood now part of a futuristic metropolis. People are hurrying into a nearby fallout shelter amid the blare of air raid sirens. An elderly James Filby urges George to immediately take cover. Moments later, a nuclear explosion destroys London, causing a volcanic eruption around him. George narrowly makes it back to his machine and continues his journey forward as the lava rapidly cools and hardens, trapping him inside. He travels much farther into the future until the rock eventually erodes away, revealing a lush, green, unspoiled landscape.
When George stops once again it is October 12, 802,701 and he is near the base of a towering sphinx. He goes exploring and finds a group of delicate young men and women with simple clothing gathered at a stream. One woman, carried off by the current, screams for help but none of her companions show any concern. George rescues her and is surprised when, revived, she walks away without a word; George eats with them and tries to get information from them, but with no luck. One of the Eloi take George to a bookshelf and when George tries to read one of the books, it crumbles into dust. Later, the same girl George rescued seeks him out and gives him a flower. She says her name is Weena and tells George her people are called the Eloi. The Eloi do not operate machines, work, or read, and know little of mankind's history.
That night, George discovers that his machine has been taken into the sphinx. Weena follows, telling him "Morlocks", who only come out at night, have moved it. A Morlock jumps out from behind bushes and tries to drag her away, but its light-sensitive eyes are blinded by George's fire torch. Weena has never seen fire before and nearly burns herself trying to touch the flame.
The next day, Weena shows George domed, well-like structures that dot the landscape: air shafts that double as access to the Morlock underworld. She takes him to an ancient museum where "talking rings" tell of a war in the distant past which lasted 326 years. A reduced population fought for survival on a poisoned Earth; many decided to live underground in permanent settlements, while some returned to the surface. George realizes this was the beginning of speciation for the Morlocks and the Eloi. He starts to climb down a shaft, but stops when sirens blare from atop the sphinx. He finds Weena gone and crowds of Eloi in a trance-like state, entering open doors at its base. The sirens stop and the doors close.
George enters the Morlocks' subterranean caverns and is horrified to see that the Eloi are the free range livestock for the Morlocks; the Morlocks are cannibals. Finding Weena, he begins fighting the Morlocks. His efforts inspire others to defend themselves. George sets fires and urges the Eloi to climb to the surface with him. He directs them to gather dry tree branches and drop them down the shafts. The fire's intensity increases and the subterranean cavern collapses.
The next morning, George finds the sphinx in charred ruins and its doors open. His time machine is inside. He enters, the doors close, and George is attacked in the dark by Morlocks. George activates his time machine, travels into the future, and sees the dead Morlocks decay into bones. He then travels back to 1900, coming to rest on the lawn outside his home, where his journeys began.
As the bedraggled George recounts his story, his friends are again skeptical. He produces Weena's flower and Filby, an amateur botanist, says that he cannot match it with any species known in the 19th century. George bids his guests a good evening. Filby steps out but returns to find George and his time machine now gone. There are drag marks which indicate that George wanted the time machine to be positioned outside the sphinx when he returned to the future. The housekeeper notes that nothing is missing except three books that she could not identify. When the housekeeper wonders if George will ever return, Filby observes that he could not say but that "he (George) has all the time in the world".
- Rod Taylor as H. George Wells
- Alan Young as David Filby/James Filby
- Yvette Mimieux as Weena
- Sebastian Cabot as Dr. Philip Hillyer
- Tom Helmore as Anthony Bridewell
- Whit Bissell as Walter Kemp
- Doris Lloyd as Mrs. Watchett
- Paul Frees as voice of the Rings (uncredited)
George Pal was already known for his pioneering work with stop-motion animation, having been nominated almost yearly for an Oscar during the 1940s. Unable to sell Hollywood on the concept of the film, he found MGM's British studio (where he had filmed Tom Thumb) open to his proposal.
The name of the film's main character (alluded to in dialogue only as "George") connects him both with George Pal and with the story's original science fiction writer H. G. (George) Wells. The name "H. George Wells" can be seen on a brass plaque on the time machine.
Pal originally considered casting a middle-aged British actor like 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.
MGM art director Bill Ferrari designed the time machine. Recognized today as a classic film property, Ferrari's machine suggested a sled made up of a large clockwork 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 touch, a brass plate on the time machine's instrument display panel identified its inventor as "H. George Wells", though the Time Traveler is only, otherwise, referred to as "George" in the film.
The charm of a fantastic technology (time travel), wrapped in the archaic guise of brass, rivets, Art nouveau arabesques, and crystal mechanisms, was one of influences on the later emergence of the steampunk genre.
With a budget of under $1 million, the film could not be shot in London, where the plot sets the story. Thus, the live-action scenes were filmed from May 25 to June 30, 1959, in Culver City, California, with the backgrounds often filled in by virtue of matte paintings & models. Some of the costumes and set were re-used from Forbidden Planet (1956) such as the nuclear war air raid officer uniform which was the C-57-D crew uniform and the large acrylic sphere in the talking rings room, a prop from the C-57-D's control bridge.
Home media releases
Released multiple times on Beta and VHS video cassette, Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED), and both letterboxed and open matte LaserDisc, the film was released on DVD in October 2000 and on Blu-ray Disc in July 2014 from Warner Home Video.
An original score CD was released in 1987. The track listing is as follows:
- Main Title / Credits
- London 1900 (Filby's Theme)
- Time Machine Model
- The Time Machine
- Quick Trip Into The Future
- All The Time In The World
- Beautiful Forest / The Great Hall
- Weena (Love Theme)
- End Title (Reprise)
- Fight With The Morlocks
- Time Traveler
- Prayer / Off Again
- Trapped In The Future
- Love And Time Return
- End Title
- Atlantis, The Lost Continent (Overture): Main Title/Credits/Love Theme/Night Scene/Submarine/End Title
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote a mixed review, praising the "familiar polish and burnish" of the production values but finding that "the drama, for all its invention, is creaky and a bit passé. (Apparently there has still been no contact with other planets in 800,000 A.D.) And the mood, while delicately wistful, is not so flippant or droll as it might be in a fiction as fanciful and flighty as this one natually is". A generally positive review in Variety praised the special effects as "fascinating" and wrote that "Rod Taylor definitely establishes himself as one of the premium young talents on today's screen", but faulted the pacing of the film, finding that "things slow down to a walk" once the protagonist arrives in the far distant future. Harrison's Reports called the film "an excellent science-fiction melodrama ... jammed full of suspense, action and out-of-this-world special effects", although the review lamented a lack of comic relief. Whitney Balliett of The New Yorker wrote in a negative review that the film "converts this good simple-minded material into bad simple-minded material", by including such Hollywood touches as a love interest. He was also unimpressed by the production values, writing that the model sets "don't touch the lowest-price Lionel train". Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post wrote that with the exception of the "gooey" love interest, "the tale is an engrossing one, boasting adroit camera tricks by Paul C. Vogel and an exceptionally easy, likable performance of the Times Traveler by Taylor. The youngsters will like this, and their elders will be kept wide awake". The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that the film was "at its best in the scenes where George explores his new surroundings at each time stop", but found the acting "inadequate: Rod Taylor lacks both intellect and period sense, belonging more to an American science fiction world, and Weena is just a doll. Nevertheless, Pal's visual flair and genuine feeling for his fantasy world help to maintain an entertaining surface for most of the time".
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.
The film had admissions of 363,915 in France.
Awards and honors
- Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects winner (1961) - Gene Warren and Tim Baar
- Hugo Award nomination (1961)
Comic book adaption
In 1993, a combination sequel-documentary short, Time Machine: The Journey Back, directed by Clyde Lucas, was produced. In its third section, Michael J. Fox talks about his experience with the DeLorean sports car time machine from Back to the Future. In the short's final section, written by screenwriter David Duncan, Rod Taylor, Alan Young, and Whit Bissell reprise their roles from the original 1960 film.
- The Time Machine, a 2002 remake directed by Simon Wells and an uncredited Gore Verbinski, and starring Guy Pearce in the Taylor role.
- Time After Time, a 1979 science-fiction film in which H. G. Wells (played by Malcolm McDowell) travels to modern-day San Francisco in his time machine in pursuit of Jack the Ripper.
- "The Nerdvana Annihilation", the 14th episode of The Big Bang Theory, in which the characters purchase for $800 the film's time machine at an online auction site only to discover when it arrives that it is not a scale model but a full-size, operating prop reproduction; Morlocks later haunt Sheldon's dreams of time-traveling to the far future.
- Quantum Leap episode "Future Boy" has a character who builds a time machine very similar to that used in Pal's film.
- "The Time Machine (1960)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
- "The Time Machine - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- Scheuer, Philip K. (8 June 1970). "Patience Key to Pal Success". Los Angeles Times. p. e19.
- Hughes, Howard (2014). Outer Limits: The Filmgoers’ Guide to the Great Science-Fiction Films. I.B. Tauris. p. 69.
- Vagg, Stephen (2010). Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood. Bear Manor Media. p. 64.
- Crowther, Bosley (August 18, 1960). "Screen: Glimpse of Life in 800,000 A.D.". The New York Times: 19.
- "The Time Machine". Variety: 6. July 20, 1960.
- "'The Time Machine' with Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux and Sebastian Cabot". Harrison's Reports: 118. July 23, 1960.
- Balliett, Whitney (August 27, 1960). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 54, 56.
- Coe, Richard L. (September 14, 1960). "'Time Machine' With Tail Fins". The Washington Post: C10.
- "The Time Machine". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 27 (320): 127. September 1960.
- "The Time Machine". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
- French box office for 1961 at Box Office Story
- "Dell Four Color #1085". Grand Comics Database.
- Dell Four Color #1085 at the Comic Book DB
- Hickman, Gail Morgan. The Films of George Pal. South Brunswick, New Jersey: A. S. Barnes and Company, Inc., 1977. ISBN 978-0-49801-960-9.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties, 21st Century Edition. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009 (First Edition 1982). ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
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