Time After Time by Jay R
I know what you’re thinking kids, why in the HELL is he reviewing a Cyndi Lauper Song? Has he gone mad? The answer is, of course, yes, but it is not about the great Cyndi Lauper song of the same title. Though, when she was looking for a song title, she actually saw this movie, and it inspired, yes inspired her to record her timeless classic ballad.
Now that the worthless trivia point I was trying to slide in is done, lets get down to brass tacks. Time After Time as a thriller released in 1979, starring Malcolm McDowell as a time travelling HG Wells, Mary Steenburgen as his love interest, and David Warner as Jack the Ripper.
I actually saw this as an 11 year old, and was visibly shaken by this movie, so when I revisited it, I was expecting something a bit more terrifying. I…to put it mildly…was disappointed. Much like “Magic”, it was not near as disturbing as I remembered. To be honest, I appreciated the story more as an adult, but there are a whole plethora of issues that make me question myself as a child.
The story starts where HG Wells is in his time period, and he has invented a machine that allows you to go into the future, or the past, and he can’t wait to show it off to his friends. He gives them a basic tutorial in how to work it, and takes one of the keys with him. Right about this time, the cops show up, because they have figured out that his friend Dr. Stevenson is actually Jack the Ripper, and they are ready to arrest him. The police look throughout the house, and of course can’t find him, so when they leave, Wells goes to look, and discovers the time machine gone. Of course, while he stands there incredulous, it reappears from the future, and he realizes it’s up to him to track down Stevenson, and stop him from killing more women. So off he goes.
He’s able to track his movements, and travels to modern day San Francisco to begin the chase. And the first person to see him is a very young Corey Feldman. He just so happens to be visiting the museum, in his first ever movie role. He then gets yelled at for touching the displays in the HG Wells exhibition, and leaves the museum to wander San Francisco, somehow find modern day money, find lodging, find food, and THEN catch Jack the Ripper.
He eventually trades in his antique money for modern, at a very reduced rate because he didn’t have proof he owned it, and then decides to track down Stevenson by checking out all the money exchanges. Of course, the one he finally finds out he used is run by a young Mary Steenburgen, who is desperate to find a man, has a friend who wants to go out with her all the time, and by the time Wells gets there, being a modern woman, she invites him out for lunch. She is basically the epitome of every woman role that occurred in movies at that time. Very much followed a formula.
Eventually, HG Wells discovers McDonald’s (genius product placement), eats there, and goes on his merry way. What amazes me about this, is his digestive system is set to food in the 1800’s, and he eats McDonald’s and is able to continue on his merry way. I think we ALL know that if you’ve never had McDonald’s before, and eat it and expect to not be in the bathroom for an hour, you ARE in a work of fiction.
As a story though, it is a reimagination of Wells’ Time Machine, nothing more, nothing less. McDowell does a pretty good job playing a wonderous Wells, and David Warner does a nice job as a villain.
Even for the time, the special effects weren’t very good. When the time machine appears and disappears, even for the time, the special effects were very Dr. Whoish, or very low budget. They honestly looked like they were done with a Commodore 64. And I guess I am spoiled, because the murder scene was something to be desired. With today’s realism, it just looked…unrealistic…boring…low budget.
Alas, as a film, it doesn’t age well. I liked the story, the acting was pretty good, the script was clever in parts, and crap in others. I wasn’t impressed with how London looked, and still don’t understand how a time machine, in theory, travels through time, and not over land, so how it ended up in San Francisco is beyond me. I know that’s a silly little thing, but it bugs me.
Overall, it is definitely worth a watch if you find it on cable late some night. As a horror movie it’s a dud, but as a thriller, it has a few moments, and there are worse movies from the era you could watch.