Time After Time (1979)

Article 3058 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-21-2009
Posting Date: 12-28-2009
Directed by Nicholas Meyer
Featuring Malcolm McDowell, David Warner, Mary Steenburgen
Country: USA
What it is: Time travel story with horror overtones and a comic edge

Writer H.G. Wells is appalled to discover that one of his closest friends is actually the notorious Jack the Ripper… and is doubly shocked to discover that that friend has stolen his time machine to continue his murders in the future. Fortunately, the time machine returns to its original time, and H.G. Wells uses it to go to the future and track down Jack the Ripper.

This has long been one of my favorite time travel movies. I find the premise clever, I like the juxtaposition of two historical characters thrust into modern times, and having them try to adjust to how the actual future diverges from their views of it. All three leads are excellent; both Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen are engaging, and David Warner is the perfect choice to play Jack the Ripper. The movie has a fair amount of humor, especially with Wells trying to come to terms with such modern conveniences as telephones, cars, garbage disposals, and fast-food restaurants. It has its social commentary as well; when Jack the Ripper shows Wells all the violence on TV and describes himself as an ‘amateur’, we get the point. It’s quite scary on occasion, especially when the Ripper discovers how Wells got his address. One thing I noted with this viewing; the scenes in England actually feel like they’re from movies from the late fifties or early sixties (when the original version of THE TIME MACHINE was made), and it doesn’t start feeling like a modern movie until H.G. Wells reaches the present day. In between we get the time travel sequence, which looks like the stargate sequence in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and I couldn’t help but feel how that made a perfect bridge from the earlier movie style to the later one. My favorite moment is when H.G. Wells replaces his broken glasses.

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