Sci-Fi Cinema Classic – THE TIME MACHINE (1960)

Right now, I’m having a lovely, relaxing Saturday evening, sitting back, chilling, and watching one of my favourite sci-fi cinema classics on Film4. The amazing 1960 George Pal movie adaptation of the landmark H. G. Wells 1895 novella (or short novel) THE TIME MACHINE is one that I haven’t watched in quite some time, and it’s really nice to see it on the telly again.

This was the very first sci-fi film that had a big impact on me, when I first saw it at about the age of five or six years old on local Irish television (RTE). I remember standing, totally transfixed, in my grannie’s living room, staring at the TV in total amazement for two hours as the film unfolded (some achievement, I can tell you, as I never stood still for a moment when I was a young kid). At that tender age, I’d never seen anything quite like it, and this film was to become a life-long influence, playing a massive part in turning me into the sci-fi/science fiction geek that I am today.

For at least the first half of my life (I’m almost 54 now), THE TIME MACHINE remained my absolute favourite film ever, until I eventually became fed up with it after watching it over and over again ceaselessly on video during the 1980’s. This one film kick-started my obsession with sci-fi cinema in general, which I’ve adored from that very early stage of my life. It also led directly to me picking up the original H. G. Wells novel from the local library a couple of years later, a point in my life which also marks the beginning of my life-long love for reading science fiction literature. This old film has a lot to answer for! 🙂

Sure, a lot of my love for this 1960 film is probably sheer nostalgia on my part, and younger viewers might consider it slightly dated and slow now compared to more modern films, with their wondrous CGI special effects and non-stop action and explosions. But I believe that the SFX in THE TIME MACHINE still hold up remarkably well today – you have to remember that this film is over fifty years old, and it DID win an Oscar for the visual effects back in the day. So it was definitely THE big sci-fi blockbuster movie with the great effects, at least back in 1960, and still looks good today, in my opinion. I wonder how many of the current fancy movies will still hold up in fifty years time.

The 2002 Simon Wells-directed reimagining of this film has grown on me over the years, despite my dismissing it as an inferior remake when it was first released. But while I do like the 2002 version now, the 1960 version still retains that spot in my heart as my favourite movie version of this classic 1895 scientific romance. Highly recommended, especially for older viewers who don’t suffer from having only the attention span of a goldfish or who are unable to sit through a film without non-stop action and snazzy modern SFX.

The film is getting near the climax now, with the hero rescuing the female “love interest” from a terrible fate underground as “Saturday Evening Lunch”. I’m off to watch the ending!

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Yet Another “Sci-Fi Sunday”

Sundays at our house have become a favourite of mine in recent months, so much so that I’ve taken to referring to the day as “Sci-Fi Sunday”. The reason for this is that the local UK television channels almost always air one or more sci-fi films in the late afternoon and evenings. Then, at night, my friends pay a visit and we always finish off Sundays by watching two, maybe three more sci-fi movies on DVD. Well, yesterday was no different.

Beginning with television, by hopping between two channels, Channel 4 and Channel 5, I managed to find three sci-fi films in a row. We started off with Barry Sonnenfeld’s fun 1999 steampunk western Wild Wild West, based on the rather strange 1960’s sci-fi TV series of the same name. It’s not exactly a masterpiece, but is definitely a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

Next up was Simon Wells’s 2002 reimagining of George Pal’s classic 1960 film The Time Machine. I recall when I first watched this one that I wasn’t very impressed, and considered it a poor remake of the original. But I’ve mellowed over the years, and the film has definitely grown on me with each subsequent viewing.

Finally, we were treated to a real classic, George Lucas’s epic 1980 Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. As far as I’m concerned, this one was EASILY the best of the original Star Wars trilogy, by the proverbial country mile. I’ve seen it dozens of times, and I still enjoy it every single time.

That was it with the sci-fi films from the television channels, but there was still more to come, as the DVDs came out. The 1998 Alex Proyas-directed noir-sci-fi classic Dark City has always been a particular favourite of mine. It’s moody, atmospheric and simply gorgeous visually. I hadn’t seen it in quite a while, so it was an absolute pleasure to sit down to this one again. This film was probably the highlight of the evening for me.

Finally, to round off the night, we had the classic 2001 first film of Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring. This one is a gorgeous Big Screen classic in every way. I really enjoyed all three films in the trilogy, which is the height of irony, as I absolutely hated the books (I dislike Tolkein and that particular brand of fantasy immensely). The films work for me visually, and distill everything that was good in the novels, while cutting out all the endless padding and rambling (in other words, most of the novels). I find it weird that I’ve always liked fantasy onscreen, but not in books. Very strange indeed.

That’s a few classic movies and many hours of fun movie-watching for one day (more than the rest of the week combined). Roll on the next “Sci-Fi Sunday”! 🙂