Time After Time (1979)

Nicholas Meyer wrote the Sherlock Holmes novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and for directing the second, fourth and sixth Star Trek movies (you know that story that only the even ones are good?) as well as the TV movie The Day After which forced every kid in my 1983 elementary class to realize that we were all going to die in a nuclear holocaust. Time After Time is his directorial debut.

In 1893 London, H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) is showing off his time machine to his dinner guests when the police arrive, on the hunt for Jack the Ripper, who they believe may be a surgeon friend of Wells, John Leslie Stevenson (the always welcome David Warner). By the time our author hero finds where the potential killer is, he’s stolen the time machine and is off for 1979 San Francisco.

Wells is shocked by our future, expecting it to be some kind of socialist utopia. Instead, he finds a world where even Jack the Ripper must admit is awash with horror and bloodshed. The maniac confesses to Wells that “Ninety years ago, I was a freak. Now… I’m an amateur.”

Our hero must protect his new love Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen), catch the killer and make it back in time — cue Huey Lewis — to London. Sadly, there was no time machine available to speed up this film, which confuses the words plotting and plodding. It’s a slow-moving affair that lumbers to a conclusion, but perhaps my brain is addled from years of Hong Kong cinema that rewards my short attention span.

That said, McDowell and Steenburgen have great chemistry, which makes plenty of sense when you realize that they fell in love making this movie and were married for nearly a decade. Also, despite how romantic the movie claims Wells was, his marriage to Robbins was anything but. He was an unapologetic cheater who believed that men could have as many lovers as they wanted while wives must be faithful.

Time After Time was rebooted in 2016 as an ABC TV series which only lasted for five episodes. It completely slipped by me, to be perfectly honest.

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