The Time Machine (1960)

(On DVD, December 2017) The bad news is that The Time Machine isn’t particularly faithful to the H.G. Wells novel, but the good news are that the film is at its most fascinating when it does diverge significantly from the source material. While the film suffers a partial lobotomy in not really taking an interest in Wells’ social-class parable about the Eloi and Morlocks (instead presenting the Morlocks as straight-cut monsters) and isn’t geared toward the melancholic far-future envoi of Wells’ narrative, it does make up for these deficiencies by strong period content. Diverging from the novel in order to update our Victorian-era protagonist on the evolution of the twenty-first century up to the film’s release, The Time Machine touches upon both World Wars and a nuclear holocaust, inserting them where the original novel could only imagine. The film being from 1960, this means that we get twice-filtered atmospheric content, as we look at the late 1950s look at Victorian England look at the far future. Whew. It may be scientifically indefensible (I rather liked the way our protagonist ends up in 1966 right on time for a nuclear war … and then outruns a lava flow) but it is interesting in its own way. Director George Pal concocts an entertaining blend of SF concepts, then-ground-breaking special effects and intriguing set design. Rod Taylor makes for a likable square-jawed hero, while Yvette Mimieux is fetching enough as promoted-to-love-interest Weena. Special-effect evolution aside, this 1960 version is significantly better than the dull 2002 remake.

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