In 1960 producer-director George Pal's The Time Machine
reshaped HG Wells' thoughtful, ironic novel into a two-fisted action movie, but one that still appeals to children and adults immensely and deserves its classic status. Wells' themes of biological and social evolution are played down, but there is a surprisingly melancholy thread as Rod Taylor's Time Traveller keeps stopping off at future wars to find that human stupidity still persists. In the first week of 1900 a group of fussy Victorians gather in Taylor's chintzy, overstuffed parlour to hear him tell of his expedition to the future, where the world is divided between the surface-dwelling, childish, beautiful Eloi and the hideous, underground, cannibal Morlocks. Wells intended both factions to seem degenerate, the logical final evolution of the class system, but Pal has Taylor pull a Captain Kirk and side with the Eloi and teach them to fight against their oppressors. The time travel sequence remains a tour de force
, with a shop window mannequin demonstrating a parade of fashions as the years fly by in seconds and charming but still-effective stop-motion effects. The future is a wonderfully coloured landscape with properly gruesome cave-dwelling monsters and a winning Eloi heroine in Yvette Mimieux. It may not be totally Wells, but it's a treat.
On the DVD: The Time Machine arrives on disc in a lovely widescreen print which makes the film seem new all over again. The featurette "Time Machine: The Journey Back" combines some mild behind-the-scenes stuff about the film (and its star prop) with a moving mini-sequel reuniting stars Rod Taylor and Alan Young in a scene that actually addresses a plot point skipped over in the original. --Kim Newman