With Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux, Sebastian Cabot, Whit Bissell, Tom Helmore, Doris Lloyd
Directed by George Pal
Reviewed by JB

     A classic science-fiction film based on the famous novel by H. G. Wells, THE TIME MACHINE captures the spirit of the book if not the whole story.  Sadly, my favorite part of the book is missing, a sequence where “The Time Traveler” (as he is only called in the book) goes so far into the future, he finds the only inhabitants of Earth left are gigantic crabs who spend their time chasing humongous screaming butterflies.

     In the film, the scientist, known only as George (played by Rod Taylor), takes his time machine forward and experiences the horrors of the First World War, World War II and a nuclear war supposedly taking place in the mid-sixties. While attempting to escape being nuked, he accidentally goes thousands of years into the future where he finds a utopian society of people named “The Eloi” who do nothing but play games and eat fruit. But all is not what it seems to be when he discovers the Eloi are actually enslaved by the ape-like underground-dwelling Morlocks.

     For me, and all lovers of books, the most heartbreaking moment of the film is when George, wanting to know more about The Eloi and their way of life, is shown the vast library. As he opens one book, the pages crumble, and when he slams the book in frustration, it disintegrates complete. One swipe of his hand knocks out an entire shelf of ancient books. The Eloi have left the entire history of mankind to rot for centuries. “Yes,” George says to a totally uninterested Eloi, “they do tell me all about you.”

“I'd hoped to learn such a great deal. I'd hoped to take back the knowledge and the advancement mankind had made. Instead, I find vegetables. The human race reduced to living vegetables.”

The voice of the “rings that talk” is none other than famous voice artist and sci-fi movie legend Paul Frees.

Each of the four actors who play the scientist's friends had good careers of their own in movies and/or on TV.  Alan Young (“Filby”) was famous for starring in the sitcom “Mr. Ed” as the owner of the titular talking horse. He also did voice work for animated productions, and is probably best known as the voice of Disney's Scrooge McDuck. Young had a short, pointless cameo in the awful 2002 remake of The Time Machine. He died in 2016.

Sebastian Cabot (“Dr. Hillyer”) played Mr. French in the sitcom Family Affair and like Young also did voice work. He is unmistakable as the voice of Bagheera in Disney's Jungle Book (1966) and as the narrator of several Winnie the Poo stories. Two of my favorite Cabot roles are as Winston Essex in the short-lived TV series Ghost Story (1972) and Santa Claus in the not-bad-at-all TV remake of Miracle on 34th Street (1973). Cabot died in 1977.

Whit Bissell (“Kemp”) was well-known for his many roles in movies and movies spanning all genres. Although they make up only a small percentage of his work, his roles in sci-fi and horror films such as Target Earth (1954), Invasion of The Body Snatchers (1956), I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957), I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (also 1957) and TV's The Time Tunnel (1966-67) is where most of his fame lies. Bissell died in 1996.

Tom Helmore (“Bridewell”) had a long career in film and television, including three directed by Alfred Hitchcock: The Ring (1927), Secret Agent (1936) and most famously, Vertigo (1958). Helmore died in 1995.


Look closely at the inscription on the time machine and you'll see that it was “manufactured by H. George Welles”, meaning that Rod Taylor' is actually playing H. G. Wells himself. This may not be news to you, but I've seen the film several times in my life, and this is the first time I discovered this.

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