[Film Review] Time After Time (1979)

Time After Time poster

Title: Time After Time
Year: 1979
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Adventure, Romance, Sci-Fi
Director/Writer: Nicholas Meyer
based on the story by Karl Alexander and Steve Hayes
Music: Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography: Paul Lohmann
Malcolm McDowell
Mary Steenburgen
David Warner
Charles Cioffi
Patti D’Arbanville
M.C. Gainey
Joseph Maher
Clement von Franckenstein
Corey Feldman
Rating: 6.0/10

Time After Time 1979

A fiction adventure of the Victorian writer H.G. Wells (McDowell), who time-travels to San Francisco in 1979 to capture the infamous Jack the Ripper aka. Dr. Stevenson (Warner), who uses Wells’ newly-invented time machine to escape and keep slaughtering women in the city, meanwhile he gets hooked on a local bank clerk, a modern woman Amy Robbins (Steenburgen), whose life comes under threat during the cat-and-mouse chase, Wells has to rescue her and settles the old scores with Stevenson.

For its own sake, the film leans more on a romantic adventure than a Sci-Fi no-brainer, predates the ultra-popular BACK TO THE FUTURE franchise (where Steenburgen also stars in its third installment), it pairs Wells’ ungainly anachronism and old-fangled chivalry with Amy’s active happiness-pursuing initiative from women’s liberation movement, it is most tantalizing when the pair connects under an unconventional method when the woman takes the lead and not shies away about it, Amy’s racy retort to Wells’ polite concerning is “Forcing me? My God, Herbert, I’m practically raping you.”, while Wells is an avant-garde exponent of free love, this is one significant aspect he envisions for a utopian future. McDowell is innocuously likeable with an unsophisticated urgency to right the wrong and Steenburgen acts with a distinctive drawl which sounds both seductive and peculiar, the two not just click wonderfully on screen, in reality, they also tied the knot in 1980, but eventually broke up after 10 years. As for Warner, his gore slashing atrocity is mostly dampened for not going to far, so his portrayal of the notorious killer is not startling enough, strangely, his final gesture even strikes as a tacit agreement with Wells, permits him a way out of an alienated real world.

Then with regard to the time machine gizmo, it looks chintzy even compared with George Pal’s THE TIME MACHINE (1960). However in its London prologue, Wells laboriously clarifies how the machine functions, with an emphasis on two important devices, one is the key, which the passenger should keep with to prevent the time machine returns to its departure location after the mission; another is the vaporizing equalizer, if it has been pulled out, the passenger will travel through time without the time machine, he will be stuck into an infinite dimension, so there is no coming back. The former grants the precondition of Wells’ pursuit in the first place while the latter guarantees the demise of the evil Ripper like a cinch. Director-screenwriter Nicholas Meyer really makes an effort to make the story at least logically passable, unfortunately, the happenings in San Francisco do not deserve such treatment, the sloppiness of a museum without any security measurement, or how Amy stays put in the exact same place even she is fully aware a murder will befall upon her later is alternately frustrating and befuddling, all feel more slapdash is that the suspense has been honed up greatly owing to Miklós Rózsa’s formidable symphonic score, if only the listless writers can squeeze their brain to confect a more believable scenario.

So TIME AFTER TIME has its innate clumsiness, but it also has a beguiling goofiness underneath to greet new visitors, plus if you are really into time travel or Jack the Ripper, this amalgam may shred some dim delight.


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