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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Time Machine

Rollin' again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly blog about a movie I happen to own.  This time, we get to a true classic of the sci-fi genre, The Time Machine.  This was originally in my notes at January 31, 2016.

Well, when I upgraded my Blu-Ray player, I figured I may as well get some new Blu-Rays to break it in.  As I mentioned last week, I grabbed two classic sci-fi films out of HMV's "2 for $20" bin, the first one being Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the other being The Time Machine.

The Time Machine is one of those classics of sci-fi where I was stunned that I'd never seen it.  The time machine itself has become such an iconic film prop...up there with Robby the Robot and any Star Wars spaceship.  I finally saw it for the first time about a year ago.  I'm still old fashioned enough that I haven't cut the cord yet, and it was the lazy Sunday afternoon movie on TCM.  I thought I'd just watch the first few minutes and then get on with my day, but I was instantly drawn in and wound up watching the whole thing. 

Our nameless narrator from the original H.G. Welles novel is here given a name...George.  (That's the "G" in H.G. Welles, by the way.  Easter egg!)  He bursts into his dining room where his friends are waiting for dinner, his clothes all disheveled as though he's been in a massive fight.  After a few moments to compose himself, he begins telling his tale. 

A week earlier, George revealed to his friends that he'd build a fully-functioning time machine.  He demonstrates a working model of it to his friends, but they don't believe him, except for his best friend Filby.  Filby wonders what he'd do with such a machine, and George confides the he's tired of this savage era of constant war, with the UK getting involved in the Boer War (I should mention this film opens in Victorian London on December 31, 1899), and George wants to head to the future in the hopes of finding a better world.  When Filby goes home, we see that George has already built a full-scale, working time machine.  He hops in, and heads to the future! 

First stop:  1914, where George discovers that his friend Filby has been killed in World War I, and Filby's young son has just come home from the war.  George keeps going into the future, stopping briefly in 1940 to catch a glimpse of the Blitz.  Next stop:  1966.  He has a brief chat with Filby Jr (now an old man), and it's the dawn of World War III.  The first nukes drop, destroying most of London and triggering volcanic eruptions.  George manages to make it back to his time machine just as it's engulfed in lava.  With his time machine now buried under a mountain, George has no choice but to set it for full speed, and wait for the mountain to erode away. 

The mountain finally wears away in the year 802701, and this is where the bulk of the film takes place.  George finds a beautiful, pastoral land, populated by a race known as the Eloi.  While at first George is thrilled that humanity has evolved back into the Garden of Eden, he soon grows disgusted at how naive and ignorant the Eloi are, with no desire to learn, grow, and mature.  However, one young Eloi woman named Weena does take to him. 

But George soon makes a horrible discovery.  Humanity has evolved into two races.  The second are the ape-like and savage Morlocks, who live deep underground, and still have technology.  The Morlocks treat the Eloi like cattle...quite literally, as George discovers the Molocks feed on the Eloi.  And soon, George is leading an Eloi revolt to save humanity. 

I will admit, what stuck me the most about watching this is watching Alan Young as George's friend Filby and Filby Jr.  For those who don't know, one of Young's most famous roles is doing the voice of Scrooge McDuck on DuckTales.  And since this film takes place in the UK, Young gives Filby a Scottish accent.  And...it's Scrooge McDuck.   When you grew up with DuckTales, it takes you out of the film a little bit to see Scrooge McDuck being a middle-aged Scottish bloke, but there it is!

Groundbreaking special effects too, using time-lapse photography to depict the time machine traveling through time, as the world around George appears greatly accelerated.  No doubt the film's visuals have contributed to its longevity, as the Morlocks themselves are striking creatures, with pale greenish-blue skin, white hair, and glowing eyes.  This film just looks amazing.

It's a thrilling adventure tale, with some solid sci-fi ideas, and a whole lotta fun. 

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