The Time Machine (1978)

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The Time Machine (1978)

Post  BoG on Sat Apr 17, 2010 1:15 pm

TV REMAKE of 1960 film > THE TIME MACHINE starring JOHN BECK * PRISCILLA BARNES
with ANDREW DUGGAN*WHIT BISSELL*R.G.ARMSTRONG*Directed by HENNING SCHELLERUP

This TV film was presented as a 'Classics Illustrated' adaptation (recall, the comic books). However, the teleplay (by Wallace Bennett) reworks the story so that it begins in the then-present times of the late seventies, though it may be a few years in the future from that period, based on the events taking place. The first few minutes don't seem to have anything to do with time machines; a Soviet nuclear satellite is out of control, heading for a disastrous crash in central L.A. (USA). The military is helpless and it falls to the genius employee (Beck) of a high-tech company to correctly direct a missile at the satellite. I rolled my eyes at the end of this sequence; Beck's character had ordered everyone out of the control room and afterward tells them that their combined body heat was affecting instrumentation. Right...
The time traveler is not even named George in this version; his name is Neil Perry (John Beck). The company he works for has allowed him a lot of latitude due to his brains but a major investor (Duggan) now puts his foot down, suddenly putting the brakes on Neil's experiment (you guessed it, a Time Machine). Neil's machine was about a month from completion and seems permanently paused until a power source module is unexpectedly produced, completed. Neil wastes no time in testing his machine. However, he picks the past, not the future. He journeys to 1692, getting caught up in the witch trials very briefly (the superstitious folk place both him & the machine on a pile of burning sticks - Neil manages to do a fade out just in time). He goes forward to the Old West (late 19th century), gets chased by gold-miners, is thrown in jail by a sheriff, and rides a horse back to his machine as the Younger gang robs a bank.
These scenes in the first half are relatively brief but pretty much pointless and somewhat boring. Some of it doesn't make much sense, either. As established in the original Time Machine, the traveler doesn't move in space but in time. He materializes in an open field in 1692; that part is OK. He and the machine are then moved to the middle of a town, about to be burned at the stake. But, when he journeys forward again and stops in the late 19th century, he appears inside a goldmine. Where did this mine come from? In fact, where did the small mountain, in which the mine is located, come from? Geological changes do not take place so swiftly, in a matter of a couple of centuries. Of course, when he goes back to his present, he appears in the exact same spot in his office (remember, the machine had been moved in the past). Oh, well.
Back in his office, in his present, Neil learns from a colleague via computer data that projections show Earth will be unlivable a few decades from now, if current projects are allowed to continue (huh?). Neil decides to journey to the future and bring back proof of these projections. He slows a bit around the year 2025, where it looks like everything has been flattened by nuclear war or something (the area looks like the salt flats in Utah). Why not pick up a soil sample here? But no...he continues on and, seeing vegetation sprouting again, stops in the middle of a forest. So, here we finally have another version of the Eloi and Morlocks, as seen in the 1960 film. He meets Weena (Barnes, from the Three's Company TV show), her brother and the other blond young people, who are bit less passive than the 1960 versions. At night, the creepy Morlocks show up to take a couple of captives down below. And so it goes.

This is average TV fare, very bland and by-the-numbers. The Eloi, for example, do not have any kind of otherworldly quality, just young actors and tending to be bland, er, blond. The Morlocks are not apelike, more like bald, albino types, dressed in maintenance uniforms (the workers!). They don't like lit matches, yes, but carry some kind of glowing sticks, weapons they use to knock out their prey. The time machine itself is a streamlined, dull version of the original (no Victorian touches, of course). Finally, I don't know if this was an accident or someone was being clever, but actor Whit Bissell plays a mentor-scientist figure to Beck's character; Bissell played one of George's (Rod Taylor) guests in the original Time Machine film.
This was originally broadcast on 11/05/78. I have a DVD-R on which the film plays out at about 97 minutes, including the short intro about this being a Classics Illustrated effort. BTW, I noticed that actor Armstrong's voice (he plays a general) was dubbed for some reason.
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Time Machine TV version

Post  BoG on Sat Apr 17, 2010 1:28 pm

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