The Time Machine (1960 film)

The Time Machine (also known promotionally as H. G. Wells' The Time Machine) is a 1960 American science fiction film in Metrocolor from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, produced and directed by George Pal, that stars Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, and Alan Young. The film was based on the 1895 novella of the same name by H. G. Wells that was influential on the development of science fiction.

The Time Machine
Directed byGeorge Pal
Produced byGeorge Pal
Screenplay byDavid Duncan
Based onThe Time Machine
by H. G. Wells
Narrated byRod Taylor
Music byRussell Garcia
CinematographyPaul Vogel
Edited byGeorge Tomasini
Distributed byLoew's[1]
Release date
  • July 22, 1960 (1960-07-22) (Chicago)[2]
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$829,000[3] or $827,000[4]
Box office$2.61 million[3]

An inventor in Victorian England constructs a machine that enables him to travel into the distant future; once there, he discovers that mankind's descendants have divided into two species, the passive, childlike, and vegetarian Eloi and the underground-dwelling Morlocks, who feed on the Eloi.

George Pal, who had made the first film version of Wells' The War of the Worlds (1953), always intended to make a sequel to The Time Machine, but he died before it could be produced; the end of Time Machine: The Journey Back functions as a sequel of sorts. In 1985, elements of this film were incorporated into the documentary The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal produced and directed by Arnold Leibovit.

Gene Warren and Tim Baar received the Academy Award for Best Special Effects[5] for its time-lapse photographic effects, which show the world changing rapidly as the time traveler journeys into the future.


On January 5, 1900, four friends arrive for a dinner at the London home of their inventor friend George, but he is not there. He arrives suddenly, bedraggled and exhausted, and begins describing the strange experiences he has had since they last met.

At their earlier dinner on New Year's Eve, George said that time was "the fourth dimension". He shows David Filby, Dr. Philip Hillyer, Anthony Bridewell, and Walter Kemp a small model time machine and asks one of them to press a tiny lever on the model. The device disappears, but his friends remain unconvinced; their reactions range from curiosity to frank dismissal.

George bids his guests a good evening, then heads to his workshop where his full-size time machine awaits. He presses a lever and travels ahead 17 years to September 13, 1917. He meets Filby's son, James, who tells him of Filby's death in a war. Saddened, he resumes his journey, stopping on June 19, 1940, during The Blitz, finding himself in the midst of "a new war"; George resumes his journey and his house is hit by a bomb and is destroyed. George stops on August 19, 1966, finding his neighborhood now part of a futuristic metropolis. People hurry into a nearby fallout shelter amid the blare of air raid sirens. An elderly James Filby urges George to immediately take cover. Moments later, a nuclear explosion destroys London, causing a volcanic eruption. George narrowly makes it back to his machine and continues his journey forward as the lava rapidly rises, cools, and hardens, trapping him inside. He travels much farther into the future until the lava erodes away, revealing a lush, green, unspoiled landscape.

George stops at October 12, 802,701, and finds himself near the base of a towering sphinx. He goes exploring and finds a group of delicate young men and women wearing simple clothing gathered at a stream. One woman, carried off by the current, screams for help, but none of her companions show any concern. George rescues her and is surprised when, revived, she walks away without a word; George eats with them, trying and failing to get information. Later, the same woman George rescued gives him a flower. She says her name is Weena and tells George her people are called the Eloi; they do not operate machines, work, or read, and know little of mankind's history. One of them takes George to a library, and when he tries to read one of the books, it crumbles to dust. Outraged, he decides to return to his own time. That night, George discovers that his machine has been dragged into the sphinx. Weena follows, telling him "Morlocks", who only come out at night, have moved it. From behind bushes, a Morlock jumps out and tries to drag her away, but its light-sensitive eyes are blinded by George's torch. Weena has never seen fire before and nearly burns herself when trying to touch the flame.

The next day, Weena shows George domed structures that dot the landscape: air shafts that lead down to the Morlocks. She takes him to an ancient museum where "talking rings" tell of a war in the distant past between east and west that lasted 326 years. By the end of the war, Earth's atmosphere was so contaminated that it could no longer be safely breathed. The destruction of the last oxygen-producing factories left little chance for the survivors to stave off extinction. Another of the rings describes the small population's struggle for survival on a poisoned Earth; many decided to live underground, while some returned to the surface. George realizes this was the beginning of speciation for the Morlocks and the Eloi. He starts to climb down a shaft, but stops when sirens blare from atop the sphinx. He finds Weena gone and crowds of Eloi in a trance-like state entering open doors at its base. The sirens stop and the doors close.

George enters the Morlocks' caverns and is horrified to discover that the Eloi are food for the Morlocks. Finding Weena, he begins fighting the creatures. His efforts inspire other Eloi to defend themselves. George sets fires and urges the Eloi to climb back to the surface with him. He directs them to gather dry tree branches and drop them down the shafts. The expanding fires cause the caverns to collapse.

The next morning, George finds the sphinx in charred ruins and its doors open. His time machine is inside. He enters, the doors close, and he is attacked in the dark by Morlocks. He activates his time machine and travels back to 1900, coming to rest on the lawn outside his home as the time machine had been dragged away from the initial leaving point.

After the bedraggled George recounts his story, his friends are again skeptical. He produces Weena's flower and Filby, an amateur botanist, says that he cannot identify it as any species known in the 19th century. George bids his guests a good evening. Filby steps out, but returns to find George and his time machine gone. His housekeeper notes that nothing is missing except three books that she cannot identify. When the housekeeper wonders if George will ever return, Filby observes that he could not say, noting that "he (George) has all the time in the world".



George Pal was already known for his pioneering work with stop-motion animation, having been nominated almost yearly for an Oscar during the 1940s. Unable to sell Hollywood on the concept of the film, he found MGM's British studio (where he had filmed Tom Thumb) open to his proposal.

The name of the film's main character (alluded to in dialogue only as "George") connects him both with George Pal and with the story's original science fiction writer H. G. (George) Wells. The name "H. George Wells" can be seen on a brass plaque on the time machine.[6]

Pal originally considered casting a middle-aged British actor like David Niven or James Mason as George. He later changed his mind and selected the younger Australian actor Rod Taylor to give the character a more athletic, idealistic dimension. It was Taylor's first lead role in a feature film.[7]

MGM art director Bill Ferrari designed the time machine. Recognized today as a classic film property, Ferrari's machine suggested a sled made up of a large clockwork rotating disk. The disk rotated at various speeds to indicate movement through time, evoking both a spinning clock and a solar disk. In a meta-concept touch, a brass plate on the time machine's instrument display panel identified its inventor as "H. George Wells", though the Time Traveler is only, otherwise, referred to as "George" in the film.[6]

The charm of a fantastic technology (time travel), wrapped in the archaic guise of brass, rivets, Art nouveau arabesques, and crystal mechanisms, was one of influences on the later emergence of the steampunk genre.

With a budget of under $1 million, the film could not be shot in London, where the plot sets the story. Thus, the live-action scenes were filmed from May 25 to June 30, 1959, in Culver City, California, with the backgrounds often filled in by virtue of matte paintings & models. Some of the costumes and set were re-used from Forbidden Planet (1956) such as the Civil Defence air raid officer uniform which was the C-57-D crew uniform and the large acrylic sphere in the talking rings room, a prop from the C-57-D's control bridge.

Home media releases

Released multiple times on Beta and VHS video cassette, Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED), and both letterboxed and open matte LaserDisc, the film was released on DVD in October 2000 and on Blu-ray Disc in July 2014 from Warner Home Video.


An original score CD was released in 1987 produced by Arnold Leibovit, the original soundtrack recording was composed and conducted by Russell Garcia himself. Released by GNP Crescendo. The track listing is as follows:

1."Main Title / Credits"1:55
2."London 1900 (Filby's Theme)"2:40
3."Time Machine Model"0:47
4."The Time Machine"1:57
5."Quick Trip Into The Future"2:43
6."All The Time In The World"0:33
7."Beautiful Forest / The Great Hall"2:10
9."Weena (Love Theme)"1:46
13."End Title (Reprise)"1:16
14."Fight With The Morlocks"3:33
15."Time Traveler"2:26
17."Prayer / Off Again"1:41
18."Trapped In The Future"2:18
19."Love And Time Return"2:33
20."End Title"2:13
21."Atlantis, the Lost Continent (Overture): Main Title/Credits/Love Theme/Night Scene/Submarine/End Title"6:59

Critical reception

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote a mixed review, praising the "familiar polish and burnish" of the production values but finding that "the drama, for all its invention, is creaky and a bit passé. (Apparently there has still been no contact with other planets in 800,000 A.D.) And the mood, while delicately wistful, is not so flippant or droll as it might be in a fiction as fanciful and flighty as this one naturally is".[8] A generally positive review in Variety praised the special effects as "fascinating" and wrote that "Rod Taylor definitely establishes himself as one of the premium young talents on today's screen", but faulted the pacing of the film, finding that "things slow down to a walk" once the protagonist arrives in the far distant future.[9] Harrison's Reports called the film "an excellent science-fiction melodrama ... jammed full of suspense, action and out-of-this-world special effects", although the review lamented a lack of comic relief.[10] Whitney Balliett of The New Yorker wrote in a negative review that the film "converts this good simple-minded material into bad simple-minded material", by including such Hollywood touches as a love interest. He was also unimpressed by the production values, writing that the model sets "don't touch the lowest-price Lionel train".[11] Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post wrote that with the exception of the "gooey" love interest, "the tale is an engrossing one, boasting adroit camera tricks by Paul C. Vogel and an exceptionally easy, likable performance of the Times Traveler by Taylor. The youngsters will like this, and their elders will be kept wide awake".[12] The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that the film was "at its best in the scenes where George explores his new surroundings at each time stop", but found the acting "inadequate: Rod Taylor lacks both intellect and period sense, belonging more to an American science fiction world, and Weena is just a doll. Nevertheless, Pal's visual flair and genuine feeling for his fantasy world help to maintain an entertaining surface for most of the time".[13]

The film has a score of 77%, with an average score of 6.9, at the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with 27 out of 35 critics giving the film a positive review.[14]

Box office

According to MGM records, the film earned $1,610,000 in the United States and Canada and $1 million elsewhere, turning a profit of $245,000.[3]

The film had admissions of 363,915 in France.[15]

Awards and honors

Gene Warren and Tim Baar won the 1961 Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects.

The film was nominated for the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Comic book adaptation

1993 sequel/documentary

In 1993, a combination sequel-documentary short, Time Machine: The Journey Back, directed by Clyde Lucas, was produced. In its third section, Michael J. Fox talks about his experience with the DeLorean sports car time machine from Back to the Future. In the short's final section, written by screenwriter David Duncan, Rod Taylor, Alan Young, and Whit Bissell reprise their roles from the original 1960 film.

See also


  1. "The Time Machine (1960)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  2. "The Time Machine - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  3. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  4. Scheuer, Philip K. (8 June 1970). "Patience Key to Pal Success". Los Angeles Times. p. e19.
  5. "The 33rd Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  6. Hughes, Howard (2014). Outer Limits: The Filmgoers’ Guide to the Great Science-Fiction Films. I.B. Tauris. p. 69.
  7. Vagg, Stephen (2010). Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood. Bear Manor Media. p. 64.
  8. Crowther, Bosley (August 18, 1960). "Screen: Glimpse of Life in 800,000 A.D." The New York Times: 19.
  9. "The Time Machine". Variety: 6. July 20, 1960.
  10. "'The Time Machine' with Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux and Sebastian Cabot". Harrison's Reports: 118. July 23, 1960.
  11. Balliett, Whitney (August 27, 1960). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 54, 56.
  12. Coe, Richard L. (September 14, 1960). "'Time Machine' With Tail Fins". The Washington Post: C10.
  13. "The Time Machine". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 27 (320): 127. September 1960.
  14. "The Time Machine". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  15. French box office for 1961 at Box Office Story
  16. "Dell Four Color #1085". Grand Comics Database.
  17. Dell Four Color #1085 at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original)


  • Hickman, Gail Morgan. The Films of George Pal. South Brunswick, New Jersey: A. S. Barnes and Company, Inc., 1977. ISBN 978-0-49801-960-9.
  • Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties, 21st Century Edition. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009 (First Edition 1982). ISBN 0-89950-032-3.

Streaming audio

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.