I remember those days when we first got cable. It was ’80 or ’81, and we only got it because Adelphia Cable was having a serious discount on it. We got HBO and Spotlight . After Spotlight went out of business we got Showtime. I miss how cable used to be back then, which was more like Pay-Per-View. They used to run a single movie like ten times a day. I remember them airing Clash Of The Titans (1981) a lot this one particular day. I watched it, went on a bike ride, came back and watched it again, then a couple more times that evening. This is how I came to know Time After Time (1979). Saw it one day out of curiosity because when you’re eleven/twelve you pretty much watch anything. And this is also how I became acquainted with Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen (she and McDowell fell in love while making this flick and married soon after) and David Warner. Warner and McDowell have made many flicks I’m a fan of since then, but this is the only flick I instantly equate Steenburgen with. I think I saw her in something else years later and thought, ‘hey, the chick from Time After Time!’ She’s currently on Fox’s Last Man On Earth series.
Time After Time is a movie about time travel, and a pretty nifty one at that. McDowell plays the famous science fiction author H.G. Wells (1866-1946) thus starting the movie off in the eighteenth century, 1893 to be exact, right in the heart of the infamous Jack The Ripper murders, and right after the opening credits we get to see crazy Jack doing what he does best, killing a hooker. The movie is rated PG, and even though Director Nicholas Meyer says in the commentary he didn’t want to show anyone getting gruesomely done in by the Ripper, a mandate which he stuck too, there still is one scene of gore in the final act. But it doesn’t involve seeing someone murdered; it’s the aftereffect, a bloody room and a severed arm on the floor.
After Jack The Ripper, aka John Leslie Stevenson (David Warner) guts his hooker of choice in a fog enshrouded alley, he calmly heads to a congenial get-together with Wells and some of their mutual friends. Wells has something to tell them all. He’s going on a trip, one where he won’t even be leaving his laboratory. This is when he reveals his time machine to them and how it works. Perfect timing I should say, because the cops have tracked the Ripper to Well’s house, but he’s gotten away.
How did he get away so cleanly?
Time travel, my good man.
Once the cops and his friends are gone he quickly figures out how he escaped. Keep in mind he’s never tested his machine so he really didn’t know if it would work. Well, he knows now. And when he goes to his lab to see, the machine is gone! Not for long though. Without putting a special key into it, anyone who travels in it and leaves the machine, the machine will automatically return to the original point of departure, and it soon materializes right there in front of him. Now Well’s has a mission, to go where ever Stevenson went and bring him back. This journey takes him to the future time of 1979, where he and his machine materialize in a museum in California in a partial replica of his office.
Mary Steenburgen playing love interest and heroine, Amy Robbins, doesn’t come into the picture for some time. Incidentally the real H.G. Wells did have a wife named Amy Robbins, making this movie a fictional retelling to how Wells and Robbins “really” met. I thought that was clever. Until she shows up Wells has to navigate what must be a mind blowing experience in a future time full of future machines and future concepts he never could have imagined would come into being. In that there are moments of comedy watching him hail a cab, use a phone, traverse an escalator, and visit a fast food restaurant. On the more serious side he manages to track down Stevenson to a nearby hotel and naively confront the Ripper and tell him he’s coming back to stand trial for his murders. What we learn from the Ripper’s point of view is the world has kind of caught up to his sociopathy, in that it’s really easy to murder in this century than it was in 1893. Buying a gun is easy too. He also shows Wells via television the placid utopia he once assumed the world would evolve into never happened. People are still killing each other, just more efficiently now. To the Ripper this is home. But he wants that key to the time machine so he can go time killing and not have to worry about Wells following him.
Robbins comes into the picture as Wells is trying to find a bank that’ll exchange his coins for modern day currency. She instantly takes a liking to him. He eventually returns later on in the film and this where their relationship takes off. While crazy Jack goes a killin’ they fall in love, which gets seriously complicated by a short jaunt into the future as Wells tries to prove to her who he is and how he got here. A future newspaper shows Amy having been killed by the Ripper. Back to the “present” they go to try and prevent this from happening.
A happy ending ensues for them, while a bad one takes hold of crazy Jack as he’s thrust into time, without a time machine, lost in limbo is more like it. Death would have been better, if you ask me. This is also a movie where the music made an impression on me as well. Composed by Miklós Rózsa, at times he sounds like a score Ray Harryhausen would have used for his movies. Having checked out his credits on IMDB I did indeed see a couple of Harryhausen movies on his resume, not to mention a few other movies he scored I encountered when I was a kid.
Warner Brothers has released Time After Time twice before on DVD, once in 2005 and once in 2008. This release here marks the movie’s long awaited blu-ray debut and that may have been kick-started by the fact that a series (scheduled to debut on ABC next year) is currently in the works. There’s already a trailer for it.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.40:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English subs only.
This is the first time I’ve seen the movie in its correct aspect ratio and it looks fantastic not to mention the overall remaster Warner has given it!
Extras included . . .
- Audio Commentary With Director Nicholas Meyer And Actor Malcolm McDowell
The previous DVDs had a few more extras (It’s About Time Essay, Theatrical Trailers of the 1960 and 2002 Versions of The Time Machine, Cast/Director Film Highlights),
that weren’t ported over, but for me the best one already made the cut, so I’m cool with the exclusion of those others.
If you’ve ever wondered in a moment of daydreaming strangeness if H.G. Wells could take Jack The Ripper, then this film is for you! And by the way, yes, he could.