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In 1895 journalist and bookkeeper H G Wells wrote The Time Machine, a book that many people (including myself) believe to be one of the greatest science fiction tales ever told. It was also the first book to have the theme of time travel by machine. H G Wells was fascinated by human society and The Time Machine shows his concerns about scientific developments and the evolution of humans. In 1960, 65 years year after its original publication and 12 years after the death of H G Wells, George Pal produced and directed its big screen adaptation. I first watched this movie one Christmas in the early 1990s and such was my fascination with this movie, upon returning to school after the holidays I borrowed a copy of the book from the library. When, while browsing a retailer’s website, I saw that it was now available on DVD, I couldn't resist buying it!

George explaining time travel to his friends
The Time Machine is the story of George Wells, a well-off "inventor" who is fascinated by the fourth dimension, commonly known as time. The movie opens with George's friends waiting for him in his dining room, having been invited there for dinner, but George is nowhere to be found. As they sit down to eat, George stumbles into the room in tattered clothing and exhausted. After taking a drink, he begins to recount what has happened to him. Flashback five days, it's New Year's Eve, 1899 and having failed earlier that evening to convince his friend's of the merits of his time travel machine, and of how it works, he goes to his basement, sits in his machine, pulls the lever, and begins the journey that will change his life!

He starts his journey slowly, going only a few months at a time, and watches the clothes change on a shop window's mannequin, which is one of the defining moments of the movie. He stops the machine in 1917 and wanders out of his now bordered-up house. He almost literally bumps into an early automobile as he crosses the street and then meets a man in an army uniform, whom he thinks is his best friend Filby. George is surprised to hear though that it is in fact Filby's son James, whom he last saw as a little baby. George is saddened to hear that Filby had been killed the previous year in the war. George returns to his house, climbs back into the machine and moves further into the future, stopping briefly in 1940 to see bombs raining down on London. As he continues on, a bomb destroys his house. He stops again in 1966, thinking the war is over. But as he wanders out into the street, sirens sound and people run for cover in air raid shelters. Filby's son James is now an old man working as an air raid warden and tries to get George to go down into one of the shelters. James eventually recognizes him, but cannot believe it is the same man he met many years ago during the first war. As destructive missiles begin to strike the town George runs back to where his house used to stand and scrambles into the machine. Cracks in the Earth's surface open up swallowing London and lava flows out. Seconds before the machine gets buried in lava George pushes the lever hard sending him into the future. The lava has solidified and encased him in rock. George has to travel hundreds of thousands of years into the future to when the rock has weathered away.

He stops, in the year 802,701 and upon exploring finds the world is now a Utopia, or so he thinks. The truth is two species; the Eloi who live on the surface in apparent peace and tranquillity, and the monstrous Morlocks, who live underground, now populate the Earth. The evilness of this future world is that the Morlocks prey on the Eloi at night, feeding on them. After watching a massive group of young Eloi go underground to be fed on by the Morlocks, George takes it upon himself to find a way down and rescue them, which, in true cinema style with a good hand-to-hand combat scene, he does. Returning to the present time in early January 1900 he finishes telling his tale to his friends, who, understandably, don't believe him.

I won't go any further with the story as I do not want to give the ending away for those of you who haven't read the book or seen the movie before. It may seem like I have given a lot away already with my detailed "timeline" of his travels through time, but let me assure you there is a whole lot that I have left out!

Those of you who have read the book will notice that this movie's screenplay is different from the original Wells book. David Duncan's script has added many scenes to the movie, most notably George's visits to 1917, 1940 and 1966 which are not in the original book, obviously because when the book was written H G Wells did not know that WW1 and WW2 were going to happen. These additional scenes fit in well with Wells' original idea for the book and I think they show that David Duncan was an H G Wells fan, either that or he did some very good research.

The movie's special effects are very good considering the era in which it was made and the Morlock's make up is scarily good. The scene of the destruction of London with the lava flows and the colourful whirling of time travel are visual marvels. Movies from his era often have cheap props, but not this one. The time machine itself was a very expensive and real-looking prop.

Inside the time machine, moving forwards through the 20th century
The movie has been digitally restored and re-mastered for this DVD release; the sound is now in brilliant Dolby 5.1 surround. Although DTS sound would have been nice, it probably isn't appropriate or necessary for this movie.

The background instrumental score is very good and at certain points adds tension to the on-screen attention. The sound effect of the time machine moving through time is one of the best I have heard.

Picture quality is very good, when compared to the old video release you can really see the differences in quality, and the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen output is a big plus. The high quality picture shows the producers of this DVD version worked hard to get the transfer perfect. The quality of the video is one of the advantages of buying this on DVD, even if you already have it on VHS or have seen it on television.

Extras on this release include the usual scene access, trailers and cast/crew biographies. The movie trailer, which is the original one from 1960, deserves a more detailed mention.

The disk also contains the absolutely excellent 48 minute documentary "Time Machine: The Journey Back", which is hosted by Rod Taylor who played George Wells in the movie. The documentary includes a brilliant 8-minute sequel to The Time Machine and is presented during the end segment.  Rod Taylor and Alan Young (Filby) recreate their characters, and the famous laboratory was also reconstructed for this sequel.  David Duncan, who penned the screenplay of the 1960 movie, wrote the sequel's script.

This is an excellent DVD that any science fiction fan should have in their collection. The Time Machine defines science fiction; it has everything that makes a great sci-fi movie from science and adventure to character interaction and development. There is plenty of action and the movie does at times make you feel ever so slightly emotional, particularly when George meets his best friend Filby's son in the future, and finds out that Filby has been killed in the war.

Some people believe The Time Machine to have a weak plot and little character development and interaction, but I have to disagree. If you are not generally a fan of science fiction movies, then you probably won't find much to interest you with The Time Machine. Science fiction fans, both young and old, will however find plenty of enjoyment with this movie.

The initial scenes of George trying to explain the concept of time travel and the fourth dimension to his group of friends helps to show that George is an ordinary man who wants to know how human society develops, and not a "mad scientist"!

Being a big H G Wells and science fiction fan, I am probably biased in giving this movie such a high recommendation, but I truly think it deserves it. The Time Machine is one of the, if not the, greatest science fiction movies of all time (pun intended!).