Time After Time (1979)

Time After Time (1979), written and directed by Nicholas Meyer.

HG Wells is just about to test his Time Machine when Jack the Ripper strikes again! Jack -- who turns out to be a friend of HG -- steals the machine and escapes into the future. Wells has loosed a madman into the utopia of 1979 and must pursue him and bring him back to face justice.

Who will adapt best to the late twentieth century: the mild, perhaps naive utopian Herbert, or the psychotic, murderous Jack? As you would suspect, it's not even close. The humor prevents it from being too heavy, keeping it a fantasy of adventure and romance, with a time travel meet-cute with the heroine.

In the end HG has given up on utopia: "Every age is the same. It's only love that makes any of them bearable."

This is a great mashup of two story-lines, similar to the director's book The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), where Sherlock Holmes met Sigmund Freud. In the current film Wells has to be his own Sherlock, but discovers that it's best not to use the name. American police of the future don't respond well.

Meyer's first film as director. In the commentary track he still likes the picture, but also critiques the many things he would do differently. He wanted a movie that would be exciting and adventurous without being overly violent. As it is, Malcolm McDowell thinks they lost a lot of female audience because of the Ripper plot.

McDowell and David Warner had been pals since their young actor days, which gives them good chemistry both as friends and adversaries. Speaking of chemistry: McDowell met his future wife Mary Steenburgen, age 28, here. When told they were falling in love, Meyer jokes that he was shocked: "I thought it was because I was such a great director. They're so convincing!"


Available on DVD. The commentary track has Meyer and McDowell, but I am not positive that they were sitting together at the time. Both are happy but have no interaction. I suspect McDowell was listening to an earlier commentary by Meyer and adding his own thoughts. It's skillfully edited.