The Time Machine, 1960. 9/10

Probably the best adaptation of a science fiction novel to film. H.G. Well’s late-Victorian era time traveler is Rod Taylor. His buddy David Filby is played by Alan Young (who conveniently also plays Filby’s son James). Yvette Mimieux is one of the dystopian Eloi, while, back in 1900 England, there’s Sebastian Cabot as Dr. Phillip Hillyer, Tom Helmore as Anthony Bridewell, Walter Kemp is played by Whit Bissell, and Well’s housekeeper is Mrs. Watchett (Doris Lloyd).

The book has a well-thought-out plot. In an initial get-together of Wells (just ‘George’ here) and his colleagues, he stumbles in, and launches into a flashback to relate the main story. Without too much set-up, George bursts forward through time in his machine; somewhat unluckily making pit stops in the middle of the world wars (including a hypothetical WWIII in the 1960s). The bulk of the plot, though, considers a far-future society of the monstrous Morlocks and naive Eloi.

After a successful intervention for the Eloi, Wells returns to 1900, and resumes his report from the future to his still skeptical dinner guests. They’re a good stand-in for the viewer, as the plausibility of George’s adventures is enhanced for the simple reason that the other guys can’t be expected to understand how his time machine works, but only whether or not what George’s narrative (the movie itself) seems convincing. He doesn’t have to wait around to ‘prove’ anything, as he can simply escape to the future.

Strangely, George’s invention is only considered from an investment angle by his friends. Believing in his machine is seemingly less important than its commercial possibilities. It’s also odd that, before George ‘takes off’, Filby doesn’t even want to see the full-sized machine. By the end, though, Filby is definitely a believer. In any case, the machine itself manages to look suitably ornate and functional at the same time: a spinning Ouija board propelling a cushy chair, with a slot machine for instrumentation.

Once among the Eloi, there’s plenty moire interesting visuals: futuristic (though post-apocalyptic) buildings, and the Edenic look of the countryside is great–even the bowls of fruit and veggies. It seems that the Eloi are sort of out of it; like they don’t deserve their good fortune. Of course, they’re delusional, and don’t have a good deal after all. George thinks he can “reawaken” the Eloi’s humanity. Along those lines, the “talking rings” are a fascinating concept–retainers of civilized knowledge. The interior of the building containing that stuff is another great quasi-futuristic set.

It’s a weird inversion of fortune that the Morlocks control all of the machinery–more great sets in the subterranean world. The Morlocks’ creepiest feature is their glowing eyes; like most monsters they have a fatal flaw–fear of fire. It proves relatively easy to burn them out. George is pretty much successful in restoring the Eloi’s sense of humanity. The denouement is well-done. He wants to take Weena back to 1900 with him, but a last-gasp Morlock attack prevents that.

This production benefits from excellent and wide-ranging special effects and an overall sumptuous look. There’s not only the 1900 period detail to wrap around the story but the other points visited as well; though more than a bit inaccurate, the 1966 scenes show the fantastic destructive effects of a nuclear attack . Despite a relatively long run time, the pacing never lets the story lag. Which is all the more amazing, considering the amount of fourth-dimensional territory covered. Of course, Wells set the parameters for the story; nonetheless, the filmmaker updated it, and did so with a deft touch.

This production benefits from excellent and wide-ranging special effects and an overall sumptuous look. There’s not only the 1900 period detail to wrap around the story but the other points visited as well; though more than a bit inaccurate, the 1966 scenes show the cataclysmic destructive effects of a nuclear attack .

In a sort of sentimental way, seeing the movie now has its own time travel element. In fact, as of 2019, it’s been longer since the movie was made than the time depicted (in the 1900 frame story) was from the 1960 release date. One light-hearted bit that works very well is George’s view of the shop window, with the ever-changing clothes on the mannequin.

Farmermouse thought the flowers were nice and all, and the fruit bowls were tasty, so he gives The Time Machine nine talking rings. 9/10

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