Rewind, film: 'The Time Machine', directed by George Pal
Richard James Havis
The Time Machine
Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux
Director: George Pal
Writer H.G. Wells is best known for his 1898 novel The War of the Worlds, a thoughtful adventure story about a Martian invasion. That work was filmed twice, most recently by Steven Spielberg in 2005,
But Wells' 1895 story The Time Machine, which was the first work of literature to explore time travel, was even more influential. Wells' science, his observations on the human condition and his careful approach to storytelling all carry over to Hungarian-born director George Pal's relatively faithful 1960 film adaptation.
The film version begins with Victorian inventor George (Rod Taylor) staggering in, unkempt and exhausted, to a dinner party attended by his conservative friends. George tells his guests he has invented a time machine that enables him to travel into the future. The film then flashes back to detail George's arrival in a futuristic utopia that is inhabited by a quiet and gentle race, the Eloi, who live off the fruits of the forest.
Further investigation reveals that his first impressions were wrong: the Eloi are in fact throwbacks who are bred like cattle and cannibalised by the Morlocks, a monstrous offshoot of humanity that live underground. George, secure in his Victorian mantle of self-righteousness, evokes the spirit of resistance in the Eloi and helps them overthrow their masters.
The film has pacifism as its core: both the Eloi and the Morlocks, George discovers, are descendants of the survivors of a long nuclear war. The Eloi chose to take their chances on the earth's surface, while the Morlocks fled underground and mutated. George is horrified to discover that, millions of years into the future, humanity still has the capacity for conflict. But he is still hopeful that this will change further into the future.
Wells was a futurist with a mixed vision of humankind's destiny. The writer, who died in 1946, would probably be thrilled to know that theoretical physics has now judged that time travel is possible, although constructing the machinery to do it may be well into the future.
Richard James Havis