Time After Time (1979)

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Time After Time (1979)

Post  BoG on Fri Apr 09, 2010 9:17 pm


Here was a very entertaining tale on time travel, almost like a modern fable. The director, Nic Meyer, was kind of old school, sort of old fashioned and seems almost like a fan of old Victorian England. He wrote  The Seven Percent Solution (which featured Sherlock Holmes & Sigmund Freud) right before this and, afterward, directed Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan (1982), which emulated adventure on the high seas transplanted to outer space.
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I first saw this under the best of circumstances, in a big theater in my old hometown of San Francisco, where most of this takes place. But, the story begins in London, England, late 19th century, at the time when Jack the Ripper was committing his heinous murders. Herbert G. Wells (McDowell), the famous science fiction author, is hosting dinner for a group of friends when Scotland Yard arrives, on the trail of the notorious killer. It turns out, one of Wells' guests, a physician (Warner), is indeed the killer. But, the madman is quite clever and escapes in the time machine which Wells had just completed. Sound crazy? Well, that's time travel movies for you.
Some of this obviously recalls the most famous time travel tale, The Time Machine (1960), based on Wells' novel, but Time After Time has its own charms, unique to its flavor and wild 'what if' scenario. It's fantasy that Wells could actually be such a great inventor, but the whole concept is tantalizing, almost needing to be told at least once. Thanks to the well-drawn characters, the story becomes both a tense sci-fi thriller and a love story.
Because of a fail safe feature, a key, installed in the time machine, the machine returns to Wells' basement after his ex-friend uses it. Wells then follows the killer to 1979, San Francisco (why Frisco? I forget - but it made it more interesting for me, even if there's not much sense to this, unless it involves Earth's rotation somehow). As we expect, Wells' introduction to the social environment of '79 San Francisco is full of amusing moments and even some poignancy; Meyer & McDowell make the most of it - it's culture shock piled on shock. The confrontation between Wells & the Ripper is exciting, very well done, but the story really takes off when Wells meets a girl (Steenburgen). This may be the film that shows that love is truly timeless (a year later, Somewhere in Time made a similar attempt, but was a bit too sugary by comparison).
All the actors are close to perfect in their roles here: McDowell manages to be naive, idealistic (in stark contrast to his roles in A Clockwork Orange and Caligula) yet obviously very intelligent. Warner is superb as the insane doctor who, despite his violent tendencies, has the mental attributes of a chessmaster. And Steenburgen, though close to being overly quirky & eccentric, is quite beguiling as the lady whom a time traveler might fall for. She sort of repeated her role much later in another time travel tale, Back to the Future,Part III (1990). Some of the decisions Wells makes are not very bright, such as telling the police that he's a detective named Sherlock Homes, branding himself a kook, but I suppose it delineates how far from home Wells really is, never considering, for example, that Holmes would be still well known so far in the future. BoG's Score: 8.5 out of 10

Timely Trivia: film debut of Corey Feldman as a young boy who spots Wells when he materializes in a San Francisco museum, in an exhibit on H.G. Wells; McDowell and Steenbergen fell in love and got married after finishing this film - the marriage lasted a decade, after which Steenbergen hooked up with actor Ted Danson
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