The Time Machine, a review

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Menu screen from the Time Machine

R.I.P Rod Taylor, 1930-2015

This review is about the 1960 film The Time Machine starring Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux.

I'll admit right now I am a great fan of this movie. It only pays lip service to the Wells book in the main. It glosses over Wells' socialist leanings and theories which formed the background behind the novel and instead, takes aim at the pure scientific romance and adventure aspects.

It opens pretty much the same way the book does; the Time Traveller and a group of his friends are gathered in the Time Traveller's house one English evening at the end of the 19th Century. The Time Traveller demonstrates his model of the machine to his incredulous friends and states his intentions to go travelling. Quite logically, his friends consider him to be a fruitcake and bid him a good evening. All, except Filby, who pleads with the Traveller not to use his machine.

The film deviates from the book from about this point onward. I read The Time Machine when I was 16 and I haven't yet been as moved or stirred by a book since. It actually inspired me to take up fiction writing, to be honest.

The film was hailed as a technological marvel with its portrayal of the nuclear destruction of London and resultant lava flows. There's no such event in the book. The film-makers had the advantage of a 1960 hindsight that Wells in 1895 didn't have. It grossly simplified the reasons why people went underground and why the split between the Eloi and the Morlocks happened. In post-McCarthy 1960, it probably wouldn't have found an audience if it had discussed Wells' socialist theories in any great depth.

Rod Taylor plays the Time Traveller with aplomb. I have to admit to a certain patriotism here as Taylor is a fellow Australian that made it fairly big in Hollywood.

The Morlocks are distilled down to a nocturnal bad guy. In the book, they are the result of the blue-collar worker forced to go underground. They aren't baneful as such, just a product of their heritage.

Image capture from The Time Machine

Image capture from The Time Machine

Image capture from The Time Machine

The Eloi are a diminutive people, probably no taller than 5 or 6 year old children and they cannot speak English. Considering the English of 1000 AD is barely comprehensible to us today, logic would dictate that the language of 802701 AD would be entirely something else. Wells knew this, and the Time Traveller had to learn bits and pieces of a new language.

Rather, the film version stops off in the middle of World War 1, World War 2, and a putative World War 3. The futility of war is well illustrated. The Time Traveller's momentary fixation with a mannequin in a store window is an amusing aside too.

Missing from the book is the Time Traveller's voyage to the end of the world, his expedition to the Palace of Green Porcelain, the green metal chair and a few other minor details.

One of the more off-putting things about the film is Weena's question about how women do their hair in 1899 or whether the Time Traveller has a woman. Since the Eloi live in a custom-built utopia where the only things to worry about are being caught outside in the dark, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and in fact, it was probably added to the script to give the story a more human feel and satisfy 1960's sentiments.

Image capture from The Time Machine¤Image capture from The Time Machine¤Image capture from The Time Machine