The Time Machine (1960 film)

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The Time Machine
Poster for the 1960 film The Time Machine.jpg
Directed byGeorge Pal
Screenplay byDavid Duncan
Based onThe Time Machine
by H. G. Wells
Produced byGeorge Pal
Narrated byRod Taylor
CinematographyPaul Vogel
Edited byGeorge Tomasini
Music byRussell Garcia
Distributed byLoew's[1]
Release date
  • August 17, 1960 (1960-08-17)[2]
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$829,000[3] or $827,000[4]
Box office$2.61 million[3]

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.

Gene Warren and Tim Baar received the Academy Award for Best Special Effects[5] for its time-lapse photographic effects, which show the world changing rapidly as the time traveler journeys into the future.


On January 5, 1900, four friends arrive for a dinner at the London home of their inventor friend George, but he is absent. He arrives suddenly, bedraggled and exhausted, and tells what has happened to him.

At their earlier dinner on New Year's Eve, George says that time is "the fourth dimension". He shows David Filby, Dr. Philip Hillyer, Anthony Bridewell, and Walter Kemp a small model time machine and has one of them press a tiny lever on the model. The device disappears, but his friends are skeptical.

George has a full-size time machine which he uses to travel forward to September 13, 1917. He meets Filby's son, James, who tells him of Filby's death in a war. He then stops on June 19, 1940, during the Blitz, finding himself in the midst of "a new war". George resumes his journey and stops on August 18, 1966. People hurry into a fallout shelter amid the blare of air raid sirens. An elderly James Filby urges George to take cover. Moments later, a nuclear satellite detonates, causing a volcanic eruption. George narrowly makes it back to his machine ahead of the approaching lava, which rises, cools, and hardens, trapping him inside, as he travels far into the future. Eventually the lava wears away, revealing a lush, unspoiled landscape.

George stops at October 12, 802,701, near the base of a sphinx. He finds a group of delicate young men and women wearing simple clothing gathered at a stream. One woman, carried off by the current, screams for help, but her companions show no concern. George rescues her. She says her name is Weena and her people are the Eloi; they do not operate machines, work, or read, and know little of history. One of them takes George to a library, but when he tries to read a book, it crumbles to dust. Outraged, he decides to leave, but discovers that his machine has been dragged into the closed sphinx. Weena follows, telling him Morlocks, who only come out at night, are responsible. A hideous Morlock jumps out and tries to drag her away, but is blinded by George's torch fire.

The next day, Weena shows George domed structures that dot the landscape: air shafts that lead down to the Morlocks' caverns. She takes him to an ancient museum where "talking rings" tell of a war in the distant past between east and west that lasted 326 years. The atmosphere became so contaminated that it could no longer be safely breathed. Another ring describes humanity's struggle for survival; many decided to move underground, while some returned to the surface. George realizes this was the beginning of the speciation that resulted in the Morlocks and Eloi. He starts to climb down a shaft, but stops when sirens emerge and blare from the sphinx. The Eloi, now in a trance-like state, head for the opened doors at the sphinx's base. The sirens stop and the doors close, trapping Weena and others inside.

George enters the caverns and discovers that the Eloi are food for the Morlocks. He finds Weena and fights off the creatures, finally inspiring the Eloi to defend themselves. George sets fires and urges the Eloi to climb back to the surface. He directs them to gather tree branches and drop them down the shafts. The resulting fires cause the caverns to collapse.

The next morning, George finds the sphinx's doors open. His time machine is inside. He enters, the doors close, and he is attacked in the dark by Morlocks. He escapes in his machine; while seeing a Morlock's body rapidly decompose, he realizes he's moving forward in time, so he reverses direction and returns to 1900.

After George recounts his story, his friends remain skeptical. He produces a flower Weena gave him, and Filby, an amateur botanist, says it is of no known species. George bids his guests a good evening. Filby leaves, but returns only to find George and his time machine gone. His housekeeper notes that nothing is missing except three books that she cannot identify. When the housekeeper wonders if George will ever return, Filby knowingly remarks that "he has all the time in the world".



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.[citation needed]

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.[6]

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.[7]

The time machine prop was designed by MGM art director Bill Ferrari and built by Wah Chang.[8] Recognized today as an iconic 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.[citation needed] In a meta-concept touch, a brass plate on the time machine's instrument display panel identifies its inventor as "H. George Wells", though the Time Traveler is identified only as "George" in dialogue.[6] In Wells' original story, the protagonist is referred to only as the "Time Traveler".

The charm of a fantastic technology (time travel), wrapped in the archaic guise of brass mechanisms, studded rivets, Art nouveau arabesques, and crystalline components, influenced the later emergence of steampunk.[citation needed]

The look of the Morlocks was designed by Wah Chang.

With a budget of under $1 million, the film could not be shot on location in London. 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.[citation needed] Some of the costumes and set were re-used from Forbidden Planet (1956) such as the Civil Defence 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[edit]

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 film score CD was released in 1987 produced by Arnold Leibovit, the original soundtrack recording was composed and conducted by Russell Garcia himself. Released by GNP Crescendo. The track listing is as follows:

1."Main Title / Credits"1:55
2."London 1900 (Filby's Theme)"2:40
3."Time Machine Model"0:47
4."The Time Machine"1:57
5."Quick Trip Into The Future"2:43
6."All The Time In The World"0:33
7."Beautiful Forest / The Great Hall"2:10
9."Weena (Love Theme)"1:46
13."End Title (Reprise)"1:16
14."Fight With The Morlocks"3:33
15."Time Traveler"2:26
17."Prayer / Off Again"1:41
18."Trapped In The Future"2:18
19."Love And Time Return"2:33
20."End Title"2:13
21."Atlantis, the Lost Continent (Overture): Main Title/Credits/Love Theme/Night Scene/Submarine/End Title"6:59

Critical reception[edit]

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 naturally is".[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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".[12] 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 Time Traveler by Taylor. The youngsters will like this, and their elders will be kept wide awake".[13] 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".[14]

The film has a score of 76%, with an average score of 7, at the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with 29 out of 38 critics giving the film a positive review.[15]

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.[3]

The film had admissions of 363,915 in France.[16]

Awards and honors[edit]

Gene Warren and Tim Baar won the 1961 Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects.

The film was nominated for the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Comic book adaptation[edit]

1993 documentary[edit]

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.

See also[edit]

  • 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 Time Machine, a 2002 remake directed by Simon Wells and an uncredited Gore Verbinski, and starring Guy Pearce in the Taylor role.
  • Quantum Leap episode "Future Boy" October 6, 1957 has a character who builds a time machine very similar to that used in Pal's film.
  • "The Nerdvana Annihilation", the 14th episode from the 1st season of The Big Bang Theory, in which the characters purchase for $800 a scale model of 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.
  • "Journey to the Bottom of the Crash Pit", the 21st episode from the 5th season of Regular Show, in which Mordecai, Rigby, Muscle Man, and Hi-Five Ghost have to venture into the bottom of the crash pit to find their video camera before their boss Benson notices it's gone; the Carlocks they meet are based on the Morlocks from the H. G. Wells novel and their appearance is based on the Morlocks seen in Pal's film.


  1. ^ a b c "The Time Machine (1960)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Archived from the original on February 21, 2019. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  2. ^ "The Time Machine - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Archived from the original on May 23, 2018. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  4. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (8 June 1970). "Patience Key to Pal Success". Los Angeles Times. p. e19.
  5. ^ "The 33rd Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 2018-09-14. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  6. ^ a b Hughes, Howard (2014). Outer Limits: The Filmgoers' Guide to the Great Science-Fiction Films. I.B. Tauris. p. 69.
  7. ^ Vagg, Stephen (2010). Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood. Bear Manor Media. p. 64. Archived from the original on 2016-05-17. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2021-01-25. Retrieved 2021-01-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Crowther, Bosley (August 18, 1960). "Screen: Glimpse of Life in 800,000 A.D." The New York Times: 19. Archived from the original on September 4, 2020. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
  10. ^ "The Time Machine". Variety: 6. July 20, 1960.
  11. ^ "'The Time Machine' with Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux and Sebastian Cabot". Harrison's Reports: 118. July 23, 1960.
  12. ^ Balliett, Whitney (August 27, 1960). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 54, 56.
  13. ^ Coe, Richard L. (September 14, 1960). "'Time Machine' With Tail Fins". The Washington Post: C10.
  14. ^ "The Time Machine". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 27 (320): 127. September 1960.
  15. ^ "The Time Machine". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on November 12, 2020. Retrieved August 27, 2021.
  16. ^ French box office for 1961 Archived 2021-04-25 at the Wayback Machine at Box Office Story
  17. ^ "Dell Four Color #1085". Grand Comics Database.
  18. ^ Dell Four Color #1085 at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original)


  • 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.

External links[edit]