THE TIME MACHINE, 1960
Starring: Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux and Sabastian Cabot.
At the end of 1899 a genius inventor creates a time machine and travels to the far distant future in the hopes of finding a peaceful utopian society. But what will mankind be like in the year 802,701.
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‘The Time Machine’ was the first book I ever read, front to back. This classic film is probably the best updating of any story ever. This is a big call but ‘The Time Machine’ is truly one of the best film adoptions around. And here is why.
‘The Time Machine’ like all truly great films has a social message behind it. In 1960 the cold war was beginning to boil, many people across the world feared war was just around the corner, specifically nuclear war. This film takes a strict anti-war position, which is different from Wells’ original story. The time traveller wishes to travel away from his time period in order to get away from all the wars in the world at the very end of the 19th century. So he travels forward in time believing that the 20th century will bring an age of peace. Unfortunately his first stop off is in 1916, the middle of World War I. He travels forward again to 1940, the beginning of World War II and leaves without getting out of the time machine realising that war has been taken to the skies. He travels forward to the year 1966 just prior, unfortunately for him, to London being nuked off the face of the earth. In one way the film has two messages. One; that humans seem to always be at war with one another and two that it will lead to the end of civilisation.
The stop motion sequence in the film was innovative and ground-breaking at the time and is still the best way to represent something/someone travelling through time. Second only, perhaps, to the person travelling in time going through a void surrounded by clocks from different time periods. This is a motif used at the very beginning of the film. For me it is this that has cemented the idea that when one travels in time one will for inexplicable reasons travel past clocks. This opening sequence I’m sure is what inspired the opening scene of Back to the Future.
Rod Taylor gives a remarkable performance as the Time Traveller, in the film the character is referred to as George. This is definitely one of his two greatest screen performances, the other of course being in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. He portrays the wide gamut of emotions that the character goes through on his adventure. Confusion, annoyance at society, anger, fear, sometimes all at once.
The Morlock make-up and costumes are pretty advanced for 1960, not quite up to the ‘Planet of the Apes’ make-up but still pretty scary. The Morlocks, who are the underground, industrial, masters of the future, look so exactly like the creature descriptions in the original novella, reflective eyes are all.
It is that kind of attention to the original stories descriptions of places, machines and creatures that makes the film so very awesome. Even though the plot has been slightly tweaked the visuals that are created in your mind whilst reading the book come to life on the screen.
I’m always slightly annoyed whenever I see a list of the top 20 Classic films of all time that does not include ‘The Time Machine’. I cannot understand why, ‘The Time Machine’ has all the elements of a classic film as well as being a classic story. For me at least ‘The Time Machine’ is one of the top 10 best classic films of all time.
A quick side note the novel is out of copyright in the U.K. and Australia and possibly Canada and New Zealand, although I’m not 100% on that. In the U.K. and Australia definitely the copyright expire in 1996, so it can be freely downloaded or read online. And I positively recommend reading the novel and watching the film.