The Time Machine (also known as H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine) is a 1960 science fiction film based on H. G. Wells’s 1895 novel of the same name about a man from Victorian England who constructs a time travelling machine and uses it to travel to the future. It starred Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux. The film was produced by George Pál, who also filmed a 1953 version of Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Pál always wanted to make a sequel to his 1960 film, but it was not remade until 2002 when Wells’ great-grandson Simon Wells, working with executive producer Arnold Leibovit, directed a film with the same title.
The film received an Oscar for time-lapse photographic effects showing the world changing rapidly.
In 1985, elements of this film were incorporated into The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal, produced by Arnold Leibovit.
In 2009, work is underway on a sequel to The Time Machine (2002 film) to be produced by Leibovit
On January 5, 1900, four friends arrive for a dinner in London, but their host, H. George Wells (Rod Taylor), is absent. As requested, they begin without him, but then George, staggers in, exhausted and disheveled. He begins to recount his adventures since they last met on New Year’s Eve 1899.
A week earlier, George discusses time as the fourth dimension with friends, among them David Filby (Alan Young) and Dr Philip Hillyer (Sebastian Cabot). He shows them a tiny machine that he claims can travel in time. He tells them it is experimental, that his larger version can carry a man “into the past or the future”. When activated, the device first blurs, then disappears. The others dismiss it as a trick and leave. Filby warns George that if it was not a trick, it is not for them “to tempt the laws of Providence.” They agree to meet again next Friday.
George heads to his lab, where he sits in his full-scale model, pushes the lever forward, and watches time pass at an accelerated rate. To his amusement, he observes the changing of women’s fashions on a mannequin in the window of a shop across the street. He stops at September 13, 1917 and meets a man in uniform whom he mistakes for David Filby; it turns out to be David’s son James. He informs George that his father had died in “the war”.
George returns to the machine and travels to June 19, 1940. There are barrage balloons and bombing. He cannot believe the war has lasted so long, then realizes this is “a new war.”
George’s next stop is August 18, 1966, where he is briefly fascinated by the changes in the neighbourhood, which is now part of a magnificent future metropolis featuring proud skyscrapers and an elevated monorail. However, he is puzzled to see people hurrying into a fallout shelter amid the blare of air raid sirens. An older, grey-haired James Filby tries to get him into the shelter, warning him that “the mushrooms will be sprouting.”. Shortly after, James spots an “atomic satellite zeroing in” and flees into the shelter. An explosion turns the sky red and lava oozes down the street. George restarts the machine just in time to avoid being incinerated. The lava covers the machine, then cools and hardens, forcing George to travel far into the future before it erodes away.
He stops the machine on October 12, 802,701, next to a low building with a large sphinx on top. George explores the idyllic pastoral paradise and spots young adults by a river. A woman is drowning, but the others are indifferent. George rescues her, but is surprised by her lack of gratitude or other emotion. She calls herself Weena (Yvette Mimieux) and her people the Eloi.
As night falls, George is surprised to find out that the Eloi have no government, no laws, and little curiosity. Wanting to learn why, he asks to see their books. When he finds them all covered in dust and rotted by mold, he is outraged:
“What have you done? Thousands of years of building and rebuilding, creating and recreating so that you can let it crumble to dust. A million years of sensitive men dying for their dreams, for what?!!! So you can swim, and dance, and play.
George returns to where he had left his time machine, but it has been dragged into the building, behind locked metal doors. Weena follows George and insists they go back inside, for fear of the Morlocks. A Morlock grabs Weena, but George saves her.
The next day, Weena shows George openings in the ground like air shafts. She then takes him to a museum, where “rings that talk” tell of a centuries-long nuclear war. One group of survivors remained underground in shelters while the rest decided to “take their chances in the sunlight, small as those chances might be.” George starts climbing down a shaft, but turns back when a siren sounds. Weena and the Eloi walk towards the open building in a trance, conditioned to seek refuge from a non-existent attack. When the siren stops, the doors close, trapping Weena and some others inside.
To rescue her, George climbs down a shaft and enters a large cave. In one chamber, he finds human bones and learns the terrible truth: the Morlocks feed on the Eloi. George finds they are sensitive to light and uses matches to keep them at bay, eventually fashioning a makeshift torch. A Morlock knocks it away, but one of the male Eloi summons up the courage to punch the Morlock. Weena pitches in as well. George sets the Eloi to setting fire to material in the cave, driving off the Morlocks, then leads the Eloi up the shafts to safety. Under George’s direction, they drop tree branches into the shafts to feed the fire. There is an explosion, and the area caves in.
Finding the doors to the building now open, George goes to retrieve his machine, but they close behind him and he is attacked by a few surviving Morlocks. George manages to activate the machine and travel into the future, as the Morlocks turn to dust.
Then George returns to January 5, 1900. Only Filby believes his fantastic story. George’s friends leave. Filby turns back, but by the time he reaches the laboratory, it is too late: George has left again. The housekeeper, Mrs Watchett (Doris Lloyd), notes that he took three books. Filby rhetorically asks which three she would have taken to restart a civilization.