The film was produced and directed by George Pal, who had earlier made a film version of Wells's The War of the Worlds (1953). Pal always intended to make a sequel to The Time Machine, but he died before it could be produced; the end of Time Machine: The Journey Back functions as a sequel of sorts. In 1985, elements of this film were incorporated into The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal, produced by Arnold Leibovit.
An inventor named George has invented The Time Machine, and uses it to travel to the far future. He witnesses his world grow and change, only to be consumed by war. Finally, he arrives at an idyllic time in the year 802,701 AD, inhabited by a posthuman race known as the Eloi. He later discovers that they're controlled by the evil Morlocks.
On January 5, 1900, four friends arrive for a dinner at a house located near London, but their host, H. George Wells, is absent. As requested, they begin without him, but then George staggers in, exhausted and disheveled. He begins to recount his adventures since they last met on New Year's Eve, 1899.
A week earlier, George discusses time as "the fourth dimension" with friends, among them David Filby (Young) and Dr. Philip Hillyer (Sebastian Cabot). He shows them a tiny machine that he claims can travel in time, stating that a larger version can carry a man "into the past or the future". When activated, the device blurs and disappears. Most of his friends dismiss it as a trick, but after the others have gone, Filby warns George to destroy the machine. They agree to meet again next Friday with the others.
George uses the Time Machine to travel to the future. He first leaves the machine on September 13, 1917, where he meets James Filby (Young again), whom he mistakes for his father, David. James informs George that his father had "died in the war", and that the United Kingdom has been at war with Germany since 1914. He tells him that an inventor lived across the road who disappeared around the turn of the century and that his father wanted to keep the house in case the owner ever returned. George then travels to June 19, 1940, into the midst of "a new war", which he briefly stops in as his machine is buffeted from side to side. George's next stop is August 19, 1966, in a futuristic metropolis. He is puzzled to see people hurrying into a fallout shelter amid the blare of air raid sirens. An older James Filby tells him to get into the shelter. James spots an atomic satellite zeroing in and flees into the shelter. A nuclear explosion causes a volcano to erupt. Civilization is destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. George restarts the machine just in time to avoid being incinerated, but lava covers the machine, then cools and hardens, forcing him to travel far into the future until it erodes away.
He stops the machine on October 12, 802,701, next to a low building with a large sphinx on top. George explores, and spots young people by a river. A woman is drowning, but the others are indifferent. George rescues her, but is surprised by her lack of gratitude or other emotion. She calls herself Weena (Mimieux) and her people the Eloi.
George questions the Eloi, wanting to know more about their civilization. He asks about their books, only to learn they have been left to decay and turn to dust. Outraged by the Elois' apathy and lack of curiosity, George returns to where he had left his time machine, to find that it has been dragged into the sphinx-building, behind locked metal doors. Weena follows George and insists they go back, for fear of "Morlocks" at night. A monster jumps out of the bushes and tries to drag Weena off, but George rescues her and wards the beast off with fire. Weena informs him that the hideous creature was one of the Morlocks.
The next day, Weena shows George what appear to be domed well-like air-shafts in the ground. She then takes him to an ancient museum, where "talking rings" tell of a centuries-long nuclear war/holocaust. One group of survivors remained underground in the shelters and evolved into the Morlocks, while the other group, which became the Eloi, returned to the surface. George starts climbing down a shaft, but turns back when a siren begins blaring from atop the sphinx-building. Weena and the rest of the Eloi enter a trance-like state, and complacently file through the now-open doors of the building. When the siren stops, the doors close, trapping Weena and others inside.
To rescue Weena, George climbs down a shaft and enters the subterranean caverns and is horrified to discover that the Eloi are little more than free range livestock to the Morlocks, who raise and cannibalise them. He fights the Morlocks with the help of the Eloi, who prove to not be completely helpless, then escapes with them up the shafts to safety. Under his direction, they drop dry dead tree branches into the shafts to feed the fire. The entire area caves in, crushing and suffocating most of the Morlocks below. The next morning, George finds the sphinx-building in charred ruins and the doors to the building open again, with his time machine sitting just inside the entrance. He goes to retrieve his machine, but the doors close behind him and he is attacked by the remaining Morlocks. He uses the time machine to escape back to January 5, 1900 in time to meet his old friends for dinner and to tell them of his time traveling adventure. George's friends scoff at his story and leave; only Filby believes him. George leaves again in the time machine. Filby and George's housekeeper notice three books are missing from George's library which he apparently took with him. They, and the viewer, are left to speculate which three books were removed.
Differences from the Book
- In the book, the eloi are more like human children; they're physically small, can't speak English, and don't seem capable of adult thinking. In the film, they're closer to being human, and can speak English.
- In the film, George inspires the Eloi to rise up against the Morlocks, which in the book was a hopeless cause and the Time Traveler didn't even attempt.
- In the book, the cause for the divergence of the species was a difference in social class, carried over the generations. In the film, it was caused by a devastating war which caused most of Humanity to live underground.
If you look closely at the metal plate that is connected to the front of the machine it says, "Manufactured by H. George Wells".
When encased in rock, George lights a match to see the current time dial on his machine. But the dial is backlit every other time its shown.
During the big underground fight scene, the solid rock wall moves as George pounds a Morlock's head against it.
The Morlocks aren't affected by the light from metal in fusion in their foundry but they recoil from the light of a match.
When the Time Traveler is almost overpowered by the Morlocks, there is a shot of the torch which was whipped out of his hand. It has nearly burnt down, but as he regains it and orders the Eloi to escape, it burns strongly again. During the campfire scene a Morlock attacks Weena, and drags her off. If you look at the top of the frame, as the Morlock drags her away, the stunt man's head can be seen, as he forgot to wear the head part of the costume.
When the time traveler is first starting to travel in time, the sun moves across the window from left to right, indicating that the window faces south. When night arrives, however, the view is of the stars moving right to left, indicating that the window is facing north. [ As the machine is traveling through time George becomes aware of "strange sounds" which, when he stops, turn out to be air raid sirens. At the speed at which he was traveling through time, the sirens would have had to operate continuously for several days in order for him to have been able to hear them. ⇑⇓Continuity: When the time machine is traveling through time, close up shots of the control panel show the light bulbs flashing in exact synchronization with the time display. In far off shots of the time machine, the light bulbs are flashing more slowly. George is standing in the small park across from Filby's department store when an atomic weapon detonates. The cars in the street are instantly turned into burned hulks and the building crumbles and bursts into flame. However, George, standing no more than 20 feet away from both, doesn't even break a sweat! While shock waves from a blast can cancel each other out and leave things unhurt, the sheer thermal energy released should have severely burned him at the least. ⇑⇓Revealing: As George comes to the year 1917, the camera shows that the buildings in the horizon are nothing but poor painting, especially on the wall around the archway. The two buildings right beyond it have distinct differences above and below the top of the archway.
- George is underground fighting the Morlocks and kills several of them. As he leads the terrified and apathetic Eloi out and back up the ramp, one of the dead Morlocks very thoughtfully moves his legs out of way.
In 1966 when George is about to return to his machine and the atomic bombs (or whatever) go off, George just barely gets out of there before the lava from a nearby volcano cooks him alive. Two plot holes here. One is that in the short time it takes George to walk a few meters to his machine, a volcano explodes and the lava reaches him. Thats very speedy lava..especially considering there were no mountains near George's house. Secondly when the lava approaches, it is just flowing along the ground like normal. But when it reaches George, it splashes around him like a broken water tank. That lava can certainly defy gravity.
- At the very end of the movie, when Mr. Wells' housekeeper bids Mr. Filby goodnight, watch how quickly the upstairs lights get turned off after the downstairs lights. Considering that the time traveller was gone and she was the only one left in the house, that old woman must have RUN up those stairs faster than any human being could...
- When the time-traveller enters the Morlock caves via the ventilation shaft, you can see (when the screen is bright) that the background of the cave behind the machine section is merely a painted screen.
- The time traveller can hear external sounds in his machine, which means that vibrations outside of his machine's bubble of space can penetrate it. If this were true however, the machine would be destroyed in mid-travel by the shockwave of the nuclear blast.
- When the machine is in the laboratory racing through time and the sun whizzes across the window, note that the clouds don't move or change formation throughout the entire 'day'. In reality, clouds can change and move dramatically in only minutes.
- When the land is getting destroyed by the volcano, George is in his time machine and the disc attached to it is already spinning before he even turns on the machine and throws the lever forward.
picture]X⇑⇓Continuity: When George stops his time machine at 802701 A.D. he stops it too fast and falls out of his time machine. While he's lying on the ground rain falls out of the sky and only lands on him and a little bit of the ground. When George stands up however his hair and his clothes are completely dry and steam is rising from the ground. Edit At the end of the movie when they're escaping the morlocks, one of them catches on fire - he is obviously wearing a fire protection suit, since he is immensely fatter then the rest of the morlocks. continuity Continuity]: When the Time Traveller gets back into the machine after the volcano scene, because the numbers are turning so fast, you can only see the first number; the first time you see this, the first number says 8, then 9, indicating 8,000 then 9,000 years, then it cuts to the Traveller for a second, and when it is seen again, it says 8,000 then 9,000 then 10,000.
- Rod Taylor as George (H. George Wells, as written on the time machine)
- Alan Young as David Filby/James Filby
- Yvette Mimieux as Weena
- Sebastian Cabot as Dr. Philip Hillyer
- Tom Helmore as Anthony Bridewell
- Whit Bissell as Walter Kemp
- Doris Lloyd as Mrs. Watchett
- Paul Frees (uncredited) as Voice of the Rings
- Cast notes
George Pal was already known for pioneering work with animation. He was nominated for an Oscar almost yearly during the 1940s. Unable to sell Hollywood the screenplay, he found the British MGM studio (where he had filmed tom thumb) friendlier.
Pal originally considered casting a middle-aged British actor in the lead role, such as David Niven or James Mason. He later changed his mind and selected the younger Australian actor Rod Taylor to give the character a more athletic, idealistic dimension. It was Taylor's first lead role in a feature film.
MGM art director Bill Ferrari created the Machine, a sled-like design with a big, rotating vertical wheel behind the seat. The live action scenes were filmed from May 25, 1959 to June 30, 1959, in Culver City, California.
According to MGM records the film earned $1,610,000 in the US and $1 million elsewhere, turning a profit of $245,000.
Awards and honors
- Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects winner (1961) - Gene Warren and Tim Baar
- Hugo Award nomination (1961)
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Science Fiction Film
In 1993, a combination sequel-documentary short, Time Machine: The Journey Back, directed by Clyde Lucas, was produced. In the third part, Michael J. Fox talks about his experience with Time Machines from Back to the Future. In the last part, written by original screenwriter David Duncan, Rod Taylor, Alan Young and Whit Bissell reprised their roles.
- The Time Machine, a 2002 remake directed by Simon Wells and an uncredited Gore Verbinski, and starring Guy Pearce in the Taylor role.
- Time After Time, a 1979 science-fiction film in which H. G. Wells (played by Malcolm McDowell) travels to modern-day San Francisco in his time machine in pursuit of Jack the Ripper.
- The Nerdvana Annihilation, episode of The Big Bang Theory.
- ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- ^ October 12, 1492 was the date on which Columbus landed in 'the new world'.
- ^ Vagg, Stephen, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media, 2010
- ^ Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media, 2010 p64
- ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
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- Colemanzone.com: A tribute to the classic 1960 MGM movie The Time Machine
- The Time Machine - synopsis of film scenes
- Turner Classic Movies description
- Script (scifimoviepage.com)
- Cinematographic analysis of The Time Machine