Welcome to today’s show, The Time Machine (1960), my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on Apple Podcast formally known as iTunes or follow the links to social media in the podcast show notes. So please subscribe when you are finished listening. You can also go to classicmovierev.com to read notes, bios, and other random movie thoughts.
Today’s movie is The Time Machine (1960). This is a great science fiction movie and it is certainly one of the best time-traveling movies ever made. The movie is rated 7.6 on iMDB.com and 77% on the Tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes. This film won an Oscar for Best Effects, Special Effects (Gene Warren and Tim Baar). There were about 10 other uncredited artists working on this as well. I just assumed it was Ray Harryhausen. Go figure.
At the time of the film’s New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther said: “…the drama, for all its invention, is creaky and a bit passé.” I don’t feel that way at all. The movie is great fun to watch and captures a lot of the time-travel tropes.
Amazingly, this film only covers six days; December 31, 1899, January 5, 1900, September 13, 1917, June 19, 1940, August 19, 1966, October 12-13, 802,701.
The time machine has become part of popular culture and was seen at the inventor’s convention Gremlins (1984) and has been on the television show “The Big Bang Theory.”
Rod Taylor played the time-traveling H. George Wells. Taylor was covered in Episode 28 – World Without End (1956).
Whit Bissell played Walter Kemp. Bissell was first covered in Episode 30 – Birdman of Alcatraz (1962). Bissell played Lt. Gen. Kirk in television series “The Time Tunnel” 1966-1967, which was inspired by this movie. Bissell was also in “The Time Machine” 1978, a made for television movie.
The great voice talent Paul Frees was uncredited as the talking rings. Frees was first covered in Episode 102 – Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956).
Alan Young played David and James Filby. Young was born in England in 1919. The family moved to Scotland and later Canada. A sickly youth, Young spent a lot of time listening to the radio. Young started performing on the radio by the age 13 and by the time he was 17, he was writing and acting for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The show became popular in the US from 1944 to 1949 before it was canceled. Young worked in American theater until he landed “The Alan Young Show” 1950 -1953 on CBS. He had also begun appearing in movies such as Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) and Chicken Every Sunday (1949). Young continued to work in television and made movies. Notable films include Androcles and the Lion (1952), and Tom Thumb (1958). However, everything changed when he was cast in The Time Machine (1960). The next year, he started working on the television show “Mr. Ed” 1961-1966 which covered the madcap adventures of Wilber (Alan Young) and a talking-horse, Mr. Ed.
Young continued to work in tv and film including doing the voice of Scrooge McDuck in Disney films. Unfortunately, he was the only member of the original The Time Machine (1960) to appear in that god awful The Time Machine (2002). I have said it before and I will say it again. Since I watched that 2002 version, I have been trying to build a time machine to get my two hours back. Young was quite well off because he received residual payments for “Mr. Ed.” Young passed away in 2016 in California. As a note, the make-up man for “Mr. Ed” was Jack P. Pierce, created much of the looks of Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Hunchback.
Yvette Mimieux played the not too bright future girl Weena. Yvette was born in California in 1942. Yvette had a French father and a Mexican mother. Since 1958, Yvette has amassed 50 television and film credits. She is best known for six movies, which are The Time Machine (1960), Where the Boys Are (1960), Toys in the Attic (1963), Monkeys, Go Home! (1967) a nice Disney movie about using simians to pick grapes in Italy, Jackson County Jail (1976), and The Black Hole (1979). It seems her specialty is being a beautiful, naïve, victim.
Yvette studied anthropology at UCLA and has excavated on several digs. She lives with her husband, who is a famous National Geographic photographer and they may or may not own a resort in Mexico.
Sebastian Cabot played Dr. Philip Hillyer, a pain in the ass friend of HG Wells. Cabot was born in England in 1918. Cabot has a very interesting story for someone who is known for playing sophisticated characters. He was born into modest conditions and had a strong cockney accent. His father died when he was 14 and Cabot began working as a garage helper. He worked as a chef and for three years as a professional wrestler. He was injured during his wrestling career. During World War II, Cabot entertained troops. After the war, he went to work on the stage.
Cabot began appearing in films by 1935, but his first big film was really The Time Machine (1960). Cabot also had a great career in Disney movies voicing Sir Ector in The Sword and the Stone (1963), Bagheera in The Jungle Book (1967), and as the narrator for Winnie the Pooh. However, he is best known for “Family Affair” 1966-1971, where he played a stuffy gentleman’s gentleman to bachelor Bill Davis (Brian Keith) who becomes the guardian of three children. Cabot died in 1977 in Canada.
The movie begins with clocks and other timing devices floating through space with a constant ticking sound. Big Ben chimes 7:30 and the credits roll. Scottish, Mr. David Filby closes his dress shop and runs across the street, almost getting mowed down by a bicycle. It is London in the Late-Victorian era. He is let into the house of his friend, who lives just across the street, by the housekeeper, Mrs. Watchett (Doris Lloyd). Three stodgy “British” men are waiting at a table. On the table are several ticking clocks. They are Walter Kemp (Whit Bissell), Anthony Bridewell (Tom Helmore), and the snottiest of all Dr. Philip Hillyer (Sebastian Cabot). Hillyer must be mad because all the other nannies are picking on him. Good Scottish friend James Filby (Alan Young) is also in attendance. About this time, clocks all over the house start clanging and chiming. They are all mad that their host H. George Wells (Rod Taylor) is not present. The housekeeper brings a note from George with the instructions that they are to be served at 8:00 P.M. whether he is there or not.
The group just gets seated when George stubbles in with clothes torn and singed. George takes a drink and Filby tells him to relax because he has all the time in the world. George calms down and begins to recount the tale of the last time the group met, 5-days prior, on New Year’s Eve, 1899. Presumed to be the last day of the century, but we now know the last day is not until Dec. 31, 1901, or there wouldn’t be a movie called 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Anyway, the group is together on New Year’s Eve, 1899, and George shows them a box which he says contains the results of two years’ work. They have a class on the fourth dimension, left right, front back, up down, and time. Time is the one you can’t control. George makes a large production of pulling a small model of a time machine from the box. I have to say, his friends are all assholes, except Filby. George bends a cigar into the shape of a man and sits it in the tiny seat. He hits the switch on the control panel. The disc in the back begins to spin and all glass begins to rattle as the temporal wake is formed. Final the machine vanishes. George makes it clear that it has gone into the future, but is still in the same space. Since there is no one to pull the lever back the machine should travel forever into the future. Jesus Christ, Doc, you disintegrated Einstein! His quote – friends all think they have witnessed a magic trick.
George says he wants to go forward in time but Dr. Hillyer assures him the future is fixed and cannot be changed. Unable to see the true potential, the men begin to ask about the commercial aspects of the machine and how it could help with the Boer War, which the British are currently losing in South Africa. Filby quietly waits behind as the three scoffers leave. George is despondent that no one sees his vision.
George goes back in the house and Filby tells him that he is worried about him. Filby asks George when he is so interested in time. George talks about his distaste for the wars that going on in their time. George says he is going to the future. Filby calls it a trick even though he knows it is real. Filby urges him to destroy the machine because of the dangers to humanity. Filby invites George to his house but when George refuses. Filby asks George to not go out this night. George says he won’t walk out the door. I see what he did there! George tells Filby to come to dinner in five days. Anyway, they leave friends.
George tells Mrs. Watchett to take the night off and leaves the note that will be read in the future. George hurries to his laboratory where a full-sized time travel machine is waiting. The room is a kind of three season room and has a nice window view. George lights a candle and sharpens the control lever for his machine. I don’t know what that does. The circular disk on the back of the machine has 365 rivets, one for each day of the year. George slowly pushes the lever forward and is encased in the wake. He thinks nothing has happened until he sees the clock and that candle has burned shorter. His watch in the machine shows only a few seconds.
As he goes forward in time, he sees the sun cross the sky every second, a snail moving at great speed, and flowers opening and closing. That is when he notices the mannequin across the street in Filby’s storefront window. The model is dressed in the latest Victorian fashion.
George decides to hit the fast forward. Then he turns it to 11. He slows and checks on the mannequin, with her ever-changing fashion. Apples are shown growing on a branch at high speed. This was done by bolting a camera in place and take shots at the picture was slowly painted.
In 1917, his study was boarded up. He stopped to see what was going on. His lab was a dusty shamble and his house was vacant. George breaks through the boarded doorway and walks to the road. There is a wooden fence that says private property around his lot. A man stops a car in front of Filby’s and seems that David Filby, but it is, in fact, his grown son James Filby. James is in the military because of The Great War AKA World War I. George is shocked to learn that David was killed in the war. James says the man across the street disappeared and his father refused to sell George’s house. George is saddened by the continued wars and goes back to continue his time travel. He pulls a few boards off the windows so he can see the mannequin.
George gets back in his machine, more determined than ever to get to the future. The machine begins shaking in 1940. He stops and sees the Battle of Britain and at first, thinks World War I is continuing with modern machines. He then realizes it is a new war and heads on to the future. His house is hit and George and the machine are now outside. He watches the country rebuild and the mannequin keeps changing clothes.
He hears a strange sound in 1966. He stops the hear air raid sirens going off. People are running towards the underground as air wardens usher them along. All of the air wardens are wearing Bellerophon uniforms from Forbidden Planet (1956). David Filby has turned George’s property into a park. George is walking around confused when an old David Filby comes out of the store in a silver air warden suit. He warns George to get underground before the mushrooms begin sprouting. Filby briefly recognizes George before moving on. The bombs are dropped by atomic satellites. The first blast goes off and it knows George to the ground. Everything melts and catches on fire, but he seems to be unhurt by the radiation. The atomic blasts make volcanos start erupting. George jumps in his machine and speed forward in time, just ahead of the lava. He is safe on his machine but he is now inside a mountain with no way to stop.
It takes 10s of thousands of years before the rock erodes and George is free. He sees a green Earth and some buildings. He doesn’t see the menacing wall go up behind him. The date is October 12, 80,2701, the anniversary of Columbus arriving in the New World. George stops his machine too quickly and it spins and turns over, throwing him onto the ground.
When he awakes, the building behind him has a menacing Sphinx-like statue on the top and large metal doors. After knocking on the metal door George takes the control lever from his machine and goes exploring. There are fruit and flowers everywhere and George feels like he is in an Eden. This film’s director George Pal, was a good friend of Walter Lantz, the “Woody Woodpecker” animator. If you listen carefully, while George is in the forest, you can hear the unique “Woody Woodpecker” laugh.
The abandon buildings have Sphinx-like statue complete with lion type bodies. When he goes inside, the wrecked building has signs of use such as working doors, and perfectly set tables with large bowls of fruit and vegetables. George goes out into the forest and has a bit of a panic attack thinking he is alone in this world.
He finally hears people laughing by the river. He sees young people having a good time by the river and thinks mankind has made it to a great place. Then a girl begins to scream as she drowns in the river. No one moves so George jumps in and save the young girl. The young people, including the saved girl, walk away without a word. They all go up the stairs where the food is waiting. George sits on the steps and finally, the girl he saved comes down with his jacket. She is speaking a kind of movie Indian English. In the horrible, The Time Machine (2002), they try to explain the halted English speech as the common tongue. Yes after 800,000 years they would still be speaking English. It is better in this film that they just left it alone.
Finally, she tells that her name is Weena (Yvette Mimieux) and tells George that there are no older people. She says here people are called the Eloi. As Weena sees the sun going down, she ushers George inside. He joins a table but the Eloi are not big talkers. The Eloi don’t have a government and they don’t know where the food comes from. Finally, George asks about books and an Eloi man takes him to the library. George picks up a book and it crumbles in his hands. He is kind of discussed with the Eloi. George rages on the Eloi and says they are not men having lost all curiosity and drive.
George goes out to find his machine. When he gets back to where he left it, he finds that it has been dragged inside of the building that was nearby. He tries to get in but cannot open the door or get anyone to answer. George sees something slinking in the bushes. He lights a match and the creatures in the bush retreat. He hears another sound and finds that it only Weena. She tells him that the Morlock feed and control the Eloi actions. Weena wants to go back to the doom but George decides to build a fire. A blue handed Morlock grabs Weena but George save her. George gets the fire going and finds out the Eloi don’t even have fire technology.
George thinks he can lead the Eloi and get them back on the path. The next morning, George and Weena find cement holes in the ground. George hears machines and realizes the Morlock are not simply animals. Weena says the talking ring can give information. They go to a hall that seems like a museum. A globe that can briefly be seen is the navigation sphere from the ship in the Forbidden Planet (1956). The rings, voiced by Paul Frees, tell of a 326-year war between east and west until nothing is left to fight for. The ones that were left divided into two groups. One group stayed above ground and the other moved underground. The subterranean Morlocks uses the Eloi like cattle.
Now, I have a bit of a problem here. If the Earth was all messed up by war, it seems the subterranean humans would be in the best shape, while the upper exposed ones would be the mutants just like the time-traveling Rod Taylor/Hugh Marlowe adventure cover in Episode 28, World Without End (1956)?
Anyway, George is determined to go below to get to his machine. He goes down one of the openings, which I have always assumed they were former manholes. Maybe not, as they might be air pump vents. George gives Weena a cheek kiss and she gives him VD, crap I mean a flower as he begins downward.
At the same time, pipes come out of the top of the Sphinx building and begin emitting an air raid warning. Weena and all the Eloi go into a trance and begin walking towards the metal doors, that are now opening. George frantically looks for Weena but everyone is a blonde so he can’t find her. George sees Weena go inside just as the sirens stop and the doors close. George rages on the Eloi again. An Eloi man says it is all clear and nobody ever comes back.
George runs back to the opening and heads down. Some of the Eloi tentatively watch him. In the tunnels, George makes himself a torch. George finds a cavern full of human bones and eating bowls. He realizes the Morlocks are cannibals. Some Morlocks are slinking around in the background watching George. A blue-skinned white-haired Morlock almost gets George from behind but the crack of a whip sends it away. Another Morlock is herding a sting of Eloi. George sees Weena and grabs her out of line. Book boy comes along too. The Morlocks attack George with whips, and he gets his first look at them. And man have they let themselves go. Blue skin, white hair, bad teeth, ape bodies, poochie bellies, and glowing eyes. George is a manly man and fights them off with a whip, way before Indiana Jones. The Eloi crowd into a small nook as a crowd of glowing-eyed Morlocks move in. George lights a match and it’s like a spotlight to the Morlocks. George uses a piece of Weena’s dress and his last match to light a torch. He is fighting the Morlocks off, but there are too many. George kills a few Morlocks but as he is being chocked out, book boy clenches a fist and learns to kill. The Eloi make their way out.
As they climb out of the holes, smoke is already flowing out. George has them gather sticks to throw down the stacks. The fire grows and burns out the Morlocks. The underground collapse while George and Eloi flee to the river. Now the Eloi will have to work for a living.
Weena and George talk and suddenly she understands jealousy and feminine fashion. They are interrupted by the Eloi saying the Sphinx is burning. The doors are open and George’s time machine is inside. He calls for Weena but the doors shut with her on the outside. George jumps into the machine while fighting off the last remaining Morlocks. Eventually, he realizes he is going forward and then changes direction to the past. He stops the machine at 8 P.M. on January 5, 1900. He is outside in his garden because the Morlocks moved his machine. He stubbles inside to meet his waiting guests.
It takes a little over an hour for George to tell his tale. Lead by the doctor, all of his friends, except Filby, think the entire story is made-up. George then finds the flower in his pocket and gives it to Filby as proof. Three of the men leave but Filby lingers. George says his final farewell to Filby. Filby tells the other three men that he might believe George.
Filby goes back into the house and hears George’s machine fire-up. When he and Mrs. Watchett break into the lab, they find that George has gone after having dragged his machine back to its original location.
Back in the house, Filby and Mrs. Watchett realize that three books are missing from the library. Filby asks which three books she would have taken. He says George has all the time in the world. He leaves and Mrs. Watchett turns out the lights.
George, who was upset by war, travels 800,000 years in the future to teach humans to kill and make war. Ironic. Or did misue ironic? You know I hate Nazis and Commies. They are fighting the Afrikaners in the Boer War at the beginning of this movie. They are not Nazis or Commie but they did turn out to be quite racist, so that could count. Next they fought the Germans in World War I, clearly not Nazis, just good Germans. Then they were fighting the Germans in World War II and those guys are clearly Nazis. The 326-year war was east/west so that is clearly Commies. Are the Morlocks the future of Nazis and Commies?
World-Famous Short Summary – Beware the Mor(locks)
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Beware the moors