The Time Machine (1960)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 3/20/21
Director: George Pal
Cast: Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux

On the eve of 1900, inventor Herbert George Wells (rugged Rod Taylor) invites several friends over for dinner to witness the prototype of his time machine. While the trial is a success, George's friends dismiss him as a fool, which leaves him frustrated and annoyed. Fed up with the problems and small minds of the world in his time, he decides to travel to the future to see how much humankind has progressed and evolved. Sadly, all he sees is conflict and the ever-increasing horrors of war. An atomic blast sends George hurtling a couple hundred thousand years into the future, where he discovers that humans are bred and slaughtered as livestock by a race of underground dwellers known as Morlocks. Unfortunately, he leaves his time machine unattended and it disappears, leaving George trapped in a future that he doesn't like and doesn't understand. But at least there's a pretty young woman named Weena (Yvette Mimieux) to keep him distracted.

Like many of H.G. Wells's stories, this is a ponderous tale of speculative science fiction. While its observations on war and human nature are timeless, the Victorian setting hasn't aged well and George's pompous arrogance, bumbling naïveté, and questionable behavior are grating. There's also the aggravating nature of time travel stories to deal with, and you can't let yourself think about the film's logic too hard. Even though George manages to liberate the Eloi from their Morlock masters, he's effectively doomed the entire human race to extinction as they are completely incapable of surviving on their own. The acting is good, although it tends to be overly melodramatic. The visual effects are impressive in their own right, but they haven't aged well. Matte paintings, rear projection, and painted backdrops are glaringly apparent and unconvincing, although the miniature work is quite charming. The makeup is good and the Morlocks are genuinely scary looking, which leaves a strong impression. Despite the tedious pacing and cringe-worthy dialog, the film is a true science fiction classic whose themes are just as relevant now as they were when the movie first came out.