Some films are a bit like comfort food, a well-worn T-shirt or a favourite pair of slippers. They just feel warm, they just feel right. Sometimes they’re just what you need when your world’s gone a bit topsy-turvy. George Pal’s The Time Machine – it’s never looked more gorgeous than it does now on Blu Ray – is one such movie. The film, like the famous HG Wells novel it’s based on, is a cornerstone of the science-fiction genre and whilst giant-sized steps in movie technology make some of its visual effects looks a bit quaint and faintly home-spun, it still possesses more charm, humanity and technicolour spectacle than, for example, the dry and arid 2002 remake directed by Simon Wells for all its modern bang and flash. A lesson for us all, perhaps, and especially for today’s imaginatively-bankrupt Hollywood studios.
Perhaps what’s remarkable about this 1960 version of HG Wells’ timeless classic is that it never gets old; it remains fresh and zesty no matter how many times you allow yourself to be enfolded in its warm embrace. It’s the story of Victorian inventor George (Taylor) who, in the early days of the 20th century, arrives at a pre-arranged dinner engagement with a group of close friends, in a state of exhaustion and disarray. Having explained to his incredulous colleagues at an earlier dinner about his extraordinary invention - a machine which can transcend the barriers of time – he now tells them of his dazzling, disorientating and occasionally terrifying adventure, where he ultimately found himself in a Utopia-like world thousands of years in the future where, he eventually discovered, Mankind is turned into the Eloi, docile, placid human cattle enslaved by and devoured by a grotesque race of subterranean sub-humans known as Morlocks. Most of George’s friends remain unconvinced by his fantastic tale but when they take their leave he decides that his own destiny lies in the far future with the young Eloi woman named Weena (Mimieux), his closest friend Filby (Young) left to ponder if he’ll ever return to his own time and people.
The Time Machine is a thrilling, inventive movie and time has dulled little of its power and its ability to enthral and amaze. Intelligently and thoughtfully-written, the film deals smartly and sympathetically with many of the themes of Wells’ text as George, in his wonderfully-designed iconic time machine (a cross between a sedan chair and a snow-sledge), observes the changes in his environment and, in time, the collapse of civilisation, in a series of gripping vignettes where he stops off to pay a visit to his evolving world. The scenes in the Eloi paradise are particularly striking, possessed of a genuine sense of eerie, unsettling other-worldliness and the grim, glowing-eyed Morlocks just manage to fall into the right side of the ‘men in silly rubber costumes’ category.
The Time Machine is a powerful, enduring classic of 20th century science-fiction cinema. Exciting, colourful, packed with effects which generally stand the test of time and with a commanding lead in square-jawed Rod Taylor as George, both baffled and fascinated by his discoveries as he presses on further into the future, it’s a film which remains a joy to revisit and is itself a time capsule of a more innocent but in many ways far more ground-breaking era of film-making. If you’ve never seen it or you don’t own it, there’s no excuse not to pick up this nicely-packaged edition which gives you a Blu Ray, a DVD and a digital copy so you need never be without it again.
Special features: Trailer / vintage documentary / art cards
THE TIME MACHINE - PREMIUM EDITION (1960) / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: GEORGE PAL / SCREENPLAY: DAVID DUNCAN / STARRING: ROD TAYLOR, ALAN YOUNG, YVETTE MIMIEUX, SEBAASTIAN CBAOT, WHIT BISSELL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (HMV EXCLUSIVE)