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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

The Time Machine (1960), directed by George Pal

It's been a long time since I read H. G. Wells novella. At the time, I wrote that it was a "decidedly pessimistic novella about a man traveling to the year 802,701 A.D., by which time Mankind has split into two species: the Eloi, frail and childlike, who live on the surface, and the Morlocks, pale and savage, who live in underground tunnels and caverns, tending out of habit to the needs of the helpless Eloi. Bleak as this view of the future is, Wells takes it a depressing step further, sending his Time Traveler even farther into a dismal future where Man is dead and the planet itself all but exhausted." Which may partly explain why, until yesterday, I'd never bothered to watch this movie. I should have known better. Adaptations are always a different animal.


This one is a happier beast, certainly a more hopeful one. It begins on January 5, 1900, when George (that's H. George Wells) returns from his time travels to tell his incredible story to a group of friends gathered at his home for dinner. And right away, the acting, direction, and script clue us in that this isn't going to be any cheap production. When one poor fellow comically lifts his eyes over the lid of a box in order to see what George is doing, we also know it isn't going to be thoroughly depressing, either.


At this point, the action shifts back a week and we see George stepping onto his machine and moving into the future. He moves slowly at first, getting a feel for it. Across the street, a mannequin in a shop window shows him the changing fashions of the times as he moves through the decades, stopping now and then to get the lay of the land. His last stop, a frightening one in the mid-sixties, sends him scrambling back to his machine, where he sends it 800,000 years into the future.


To the frail, passive Eloi and the brutish Morlocks. Here, he's lucky enough to meet an 18-year-old Yvette Mimieux, but not so lucky as to avoid having his time machine stolen by the Morlocks. I won't give away any more of the story than to say that this part of it is, in one crucial respect, actually more disheartening than Wells'.


I was a little worried the Morlocks would be laughably unbelievable, with their blue skin and glowing eyes, but by this time in the film I felt no urge to scoff. The special effects are dated but still excellent, the story and acting are solid, and the overall mood is one of fun and adventure. This is a pleasant movie, and an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half.