The Time Machine (1960)

The Time Machine PosterIt’s the last day of 1899 and George Wells is demonstrating his miniature time machine. George squanders the opportunity to send one of his obnoxious friends back into the Stone Age and instead transports a cigar into some other era. Still, that sounds like an awesome movie, too – The Stogie From Beyond Time!

After he makes it disappear, his friends are amazed but not convinced that there has been any time travel. They all leave and his good friend Filby makes George promise that he won’t go and get any himself involved in any time-space distortions. He swears that he won’t go out of the room, but then he goes to where he’s been storing the full sized time machine!

It’s pretty pimped out as far as temporal vehicles go. For instance on the time machine’s control panel consisting of a lever and an odometer that listed dates instead of speeds was a nifty little brass plate affixed to the center of it. Engraved in fancy cursive was the phrase “Manufactured by H. George Wells”! How many times have you ever seen a mad scientist go to the trouble of putting a designer label on his gizmo before?

He gets in and fires it up, but he doesn’t do it like a real man would. Any other guy would get in and immediately pull the lever all the way forward or all the back, instantly transporting themselves to the very beginning or end of time. No guy is going to get in there and just sit there watching the flowers in their lab bloom and un-bloom while the sun and moon fly by over head. We’d get in there and see what this baby can do!

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George on the other hand is content to sort of putter along watching weeks and finally years go by all the while marveling at the mannequin across the street and how the fashions it displays change over the years. I was amazed that a department store would be so dull it would have the same mannequin and window display for sixty years.

Grandma George finally kicks it out of first gear and the next thing we know, he’s wrecking his time machine in the year 800,000 give or take several centuries!

Everything he recognizes is gone, replaced by wilderness. He wanders around and locates some people by a river. They, like most futuristic types are all young, blonde and dressed in pastel colored togas. Yes, this is one of those sci-fi movies that thinks being evolved means dressing up like you were Aristotle and hanging around in the woods.

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George notices that one of these future saps is trying to drown in the river. No one around helps her out so George takes off his jacket and dives in and saves her. He tries to lay a guilt trip on everyone for not trying to save her, but even the girl he rescued isn’t too put out about it. I would have just thrown her ungrateful ass back in, put the time machine into fifth gear and gone on to an era more appreciative of my super heroics, but George is determined to learn about these people.

He tries to get information out of them, but no one has anything to say. Soon it becomes clear to George that these people are all dull-witted (they’ve let all their books turn to dust for heaven’s sake!), but since the girl he rescued is a good looking blonde he decides that these people just need to have someone like him to rekindle that spark in them to make them upstanding citizens.

These people are called the Eloi and they don’t do anything but lay around and periodically get harassed by an underground race of slugs called the Morlocks. There is some connection to these people that is so heinous it’s virtually unspeakable except to say that the Morlocks herd these dumb blondes around and use them as food.

George learns that during the last great war, the survivors split into two groups, the dumb blondes and the man-eating subhuman freaks. You can practically see George licking his chops when he hears this – he’s been looking for something concrete to do to show these blondes how to be men again.

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Plus he needs to kill some time since the Morlocks car jacked his time machine and hid it in some temple he can’t get into. Do I even need to go into how something like the Club should probably be standard issue on a rig as sweet as a time machine?

Once George’s girlfriend gets captured by the Morlocks, George climbs down into the Morlocks’ lair, lights up a torch and opens up a can Victorian whoop-ass (Manufactured by H. George Wells!) on those cave scum.

The Morlocks are pretty cool as monsters go. They have this blue skin, long stringy white hair and their eyes light up which is a nice effect in the dark caves. Since they live underground they can’t stand light and even more importantly they don’t like to be set on fire!

There are nice touches throughout the movie about the significance of time travel such as when he meets up with the son of his friend Filby at different times. George sometimes talks about how he wants to go back and tell everyone what he’s discovered about the future. But will he tell them everything? Will he tell Filby that he is destined to die in the War?

The movie doesn’t really address these moral dilemmas with any depth and you wish that maybe they could have explored what the weight of all that knowledge, of the wars to come, his friends’ fates, presumably even his own, would do to an ordinary man. Time travel isn’t all just sightseeing and picking up future babes.

You do admire George for putting his money where his mouth is at the end of the film by returning to the future to help the Eloi out. The prospect of starting over is probably both simultaneously daunting and exhilarating. With the time machine though, I suppose he could just go back and forth until he gets it right.

© 2015 MonsterHunter

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