Time After Time (1979)



Time-travel movies are often problematic.  If characters can zip forward or backward in space/time to alter events, why do they do so only at some junctures, and not others?  And once you get into that whole “butterfly effect” business … it’s enough to drive a viewer bonkers.

Time After Time, a 1979 lark starring Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen, also runs into these problems when plot complications cause it to lose steam, and credibility, in its final half hour.  But until then the movie is a fanciful good time.

McDowell stars as H.G. Wells, and the famous philosopher/novelist has a problem:  Jack the Ripper has stolen his time machine and transported himself from 1893 London to 1979 San Francisco.  Wells, nineteenth-century romantic that he is, follows the infamous serial killer into the future and in the course of his pursuit falls in love with a quirky bank employee (Steenburgen).

There are two reasons this movie is so enjoyable:  1) McDowell’s amusing turn as Wells, a man completely out of his element in San Francisco as he navigates modern food (dining at “that Scottish place” – McDonald’s), escalators, movies, and an electric toothbrush; and 2) the cute – but never precious – romance between Wells and banker Amy.  Steenburgen’s combination modern woman/ditzy brunette is a perfect foil for Wells, and you’ll find yourself pulling for these two.

I’m a sucker for H.G. Wells, Jack the Ripper, and (sometimes) time-travel movies, so this is great entertainment for me.  But don’t take my word for it.  Here is a capsule review from someone called “moneygob,” commenting on Time After Time at YouTube:  “This was a strange film.  I started watching it at 3 p.m. one Sunday afternoon and the film finished at 1 p.m. the same day.  Very realistic film!”   What more can you ask for – a great movie and it takes no time to watch?            Grade:  B+




Director:  Nicholas Meyer  Cast:  Malcolm McDowell, David Warner, Mary Steenburgen, Charles Cioffi, Kent Williams, Patti D’Arbanville  Release:  1979


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