Time After Time is a 1979 American fantasy film written and directed by Nicholas Meyer. His screenplay is based on a novel by Karl Alexander and a story by Steve Hayes and centers on British author H. G. Wells and his use of a time machine to pursue Jack the Ripper into the 20th century.
In London in 1893, popular science fiction writer and essayist H.G. Wells unveils a time machine, one like the same device he fictionalized in his novel The Time Machine, to his dinner guests. Before he can demonstrate it, police constables searching for Jack the Ripper arrive at the house. They determine that one of Wells’s friends, a surgeon named John Leslie Stevenson, may be the infamous killer. Stevenson escapes by using the machine to travel to San Francisco in 1979, where it is on display in a touring museum exhibit about Wells.
Because Stevenson operated the machine without disabling its reverse mechanism, which requires a special key to operate it, it automatically returns to 1893 and registers the date to which Stevenson has gone. Wells pursues him but has difficulty adapting to the future, which the Socialist had anticipated would be a utopia. These difficulties begin with his ineffectual use of a false name taken from the popular fiction of his own time, which he assumed would be long forgotten — Sherlock Holmes.
Wells meets Bank of England employee Amy Robbins, and they fall in love. The pair try to find Stevenson, who has resumed his murderous behavior in San Francisco. Confronted by his former friend in a hotel, Stevenson confesses that he finds modern society to be pleasingly violent, and notes in 1893 he was a monster, whereas in 1979 he is an amateur. Stevenson is determined both to continue his killing spree and to get the time machine key from Wells so he can use the device to travel to other times and kill there, prevent Wells from following him, and permanently strand his friend in 1979.
To prove he is in fact H.G. Wells and that his time machine is real, Wells takes Amy three days into the future, where she is horrified to find a newspaper headlining her own murder as the Ripper’s fifth victim. Wells and Amy go back three days to try to change history, but Wells is arrested on suspicion of murder because he knew so much about the serial killings, leaving Amy unprotected. As Wells unsuccessfully tries to convince the police of her danger, she attempts to hide from Stevenson. When the police finally enter her apartment, they find the body of a brutally slain woman, and Wells is released. He mourns Amy’s death until he discovers that she is still alive and being held hostage by Stevenson, who had killed her friend in Amy’s apartment before kidnapping Amy.
As he attempts another escape in the time machine, Stevenson’s pocket watch becomes tangled in the door, enabling Amy to break free. Wells now removes the vaporizing equalizer from the exterior of the machine’s cabin. This causes the machine, when Stevenson works the controls, to remain in place and send him traveling endlessly through time with no way to stop. Wells and Amy then board the machine themselves and return to Wells’s own time. History records that the two marry – Amy Robbins was, in fact, the name of Wells’s second wife.