Movie Review: Time Machine (1960)

8 Jul
2010

When an English gentleman and inventor, George (Rod Taylor), invites four high society friends over for dinner, his friends ponder his tardiness. Ms. Watchett (Doris Lloyd), George’s housemaid, announces that a handwritten note from George informs that they should head to the dining room and start dinner without him. After they sit down and start their feast, George appears torn and tattered through the doorway and begins to tell his friends his journey in the time machine.

The Time Machine released in 1960, directored by George Pális is based on the novella by H. G. Wells of the same name which was first published in 1895. The prospect of seeing this older film excited me for I never had the pleasure and I tried to put my 21st century film expectations aside for I did not want it to cloud my judgment.

Seeing George sit in his ‘Time Machine’ at the starting date of 1902, the special effects depicted the changes in the outside world that he could easily view from his garage. Night and day sped forward, as did the weather and a view of a clothing store mannequin depicted the change in style of women’s dress through the years. A major overlooked gaff; if his city was pummeled from WW II why is that good ol’ trusty storefront mannequin remaining? It makes no logical sense.

The Time Machine time stop-motion and time-lapse trickery did win an Oscar for Best Special effects so that renders me mum on any further digs. Maybe.

After seeing his city destroyed during an atomic air raid in the 1960’s and escaping a volcanic eruption of hot oozing lava just in time, he travels forward full throttle thousands of years into the future. Changes to the earth terrain encapsulate him under rock. Finally in the year 802,701 he is finally able to venture out of his machine into it’s surroundings and stops. Here George meets the Eloi, an unassuming, uncaring, Clairol blonde, childlike community that lives in fruitful abundance and unabashed naivety, which is reminiscent from something out of Twilight Zone.

His first encounter with the Eloi, George saves a woman named Weena (Yvette Mimieux) from drowning and promptly follows her to have lunch with the rest of the Village of the Damned look alikes. I know, sounds a bit strange, but I didn’t write the script. Here he questions the Eloi and realizes they are being controlled by the Morlocks who live underground. Society as he knew it has been divided between those who don’t work and don’t care, to those who rule them and use them as cattle.

His image of the Garden of Eden quickly falls away. After visiting a library and all the books turn to dust as he touches them, he is distraught at the idea that the Eloi has let civilization and knowledge fall by the waste side and allowed themselves to become lambs for the slaughter. Here Rod Taylor’s acting is laid on a bit too thick. George yells, rants and raves with aplomb but to no avail, the Eloi are content in their cluelessness. Wanting to leave such an unstructured and jejune existence, he tries to flee but his time machine is taken by the Morlocks. Cue the battle of George and the Morlocks, who look like animated store bought Halloween costumes. I must admit I laughed when I saw them.

I know I am suppose to take this movie at face value and look upon it in awe of the special effects ability of it’s time but it was difficult. In moments like these is where I say the book is probably better than the movie. You are able to fabricate your own scenes when reading and there is nothing wilder and more real than ones own imagination.

The ending was paramount in my enjoying the film for I appreciated the moral it conveyed. George returns back to the future with the ideology that he can make a difference and change the Eloi and make a better life for himself and the clan. There are additional morals to be learned and more psychological aspects to consider, but I’ll let you figure those out, for regardless of the fact that it might not be the best acting you’ve ever seen nor the most believable special effects, the story it tells is timeless.

Rating: 6.5/10

Rated: PG
Running Time: 103 minutes

Here is the trailer for the film. It’s a good indication on what to expect.

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Review originally written for Open Book Society.

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