The Time Machine (George Pal / U.S., 1960):

Wells put Darwin in contiguity with Marx, George Pal adds Buster Crabbe and registers the poetry of time-lapse. The obsessive Victorian inventor (Rod Taylor) rallies against being a "prisoner of time," to the annoyance of colleagues who've come for a fin de siècle dinner. His botanist friend (Alan Young), a more moderate seeker, warns about the laws of providence, but the clockwork sleigh -- decked with scarlet velvet seat, titanium lever and revolving propeller -- is already in the laboratory, waiting to be taken for a spin. Temporal tinkering produces a racing snail first, the sun zips across the sky repeatedly, the fashions on a window mannequin reflect the mutating epochs. The man who was disgusted by the Boer War witnesses London during the Front in 1917 and the Blitz in 1940; nuclear disaster (sirens, aluminum suits, matte paintings) is predicted for 1966, then a deluge of lava (cp. When Worlds Collide) and "darkness for centuries." When the magma cracks in the year 802,701, Taylor finds the human race divided between a blond surf colony (the Eloi) and blue-skinned gorilla machinists (the Morlock). "It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active" (Curran): The traveler sees the accumulation of wisdom turned to dust and scolds the placid hedonists ("A million years of sensitive men dying for their dreams. For what? So you can swim and dance and play!"), though he eventually warms to the notion that any future that includes Yvette Mimieux in a pink tunic can't be all bad. Pal may scotch the author's politicized vision of upstairs/downstairs devolution, but scores a satirical prophecy of his own by predicting the counterculture's schisms (or those of Planet of the Apes, at least). With Sebastian Cabot, Tom Helmore, Whit Bissell, and Doris Lloyd.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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