There have been plenty of adaptions of H.G. Wells novel — a 1949 BBC made for TV movie, the 1978 made for TV movie and the 2002 film — but the best one is George Pal’s 1960 special effects-heavy opus, which takes H. George Wells (Rod Taylor) from January 5, 1900 to September 13, 1917; June 19, 1940; August 18, 1966 and October 12, 802,701. The deeper he goes into the timestream, the worse off humanity is, especially in the future when the highly evolved Eloi and the deeply devolved Morlocks are all that is left.
Yvette Mimieux plays one of the Eloi that our hero falls for. This was her first feature film — Platinum High School was released first, but this was filmed before that — and MGM put her under contract. Her career took to TV, American-International Pictures and plenty of fun roles in movies we love like The Black Hole, Jackson County Jail, Snowbeast and Devil Dog: Hound of Hell before retiring in 1992.
Yet the real star of this movie are the effects, like the actual time machine that was created by Bill Ferrari and built by Wah Chang, who also designed the Morlocks. Made for around $1 million dollars — the costumes from Forbidden Planet got reused and man, those must have been pretty sweaty when you consider how many movies used them — and filled with matte paintings, stop-motion and optical wizardry by Gene Warren and Tim Baar, this movie obviously won the Academy Award for Best Special Effects.
If you’re a fan of this movie, I recommend tracking down Time Machine: The Journey Back. Produced in 1993 for PBS stations to tie-in with the Back to the Future sequels, the first segment is all abut the making of the George Pal movie, including Gene Warren giving a rare on-air interview in which he discussed creating the special effects, along with comments from Wah Chang in which he reveals how the Time Machine itself was made.
However, that’s just the start, because the third part of this features a cannon sequel to the original film, written by the original screenwriter David Duncan. A now older George (Rod Taylor looks great!) goes to find his friend Filby (Alan Young) just before the start of World War I. George knows that his friend will die on May 15, 1916 and tries to get him to travel with him and Weena through time. He refuses and George thinks that he’ll try again, because he loves his friend. Man, just writing about this — much less watching it — makes tears drop from my eyes. That’s how much this movie means to me. This ends with Walter Kemp (Whit Bissell in his last role) showing up in 1932, wondering whatever happened to his inventor friend.
Ah man! I didn’t even mention how much I love Sebastian Cabot in this movie!