Time After Time (1979)

Time After Time (1979)

“What have I done? I’ve loosed that bloody maniac upon Utopia!”

To escape the police, Jack the Ripper (David Warner) steals a time travel machine designed by H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) and travels to 1970s San Francisco; Wells pursues him, and finds himself falling in love with a sweet bank teller (Mary Steenburgen) whose life is soon put in danger.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • David Warner Films
  • Fugitives
  • H.G. Wells Films
  • Inventors
  • Jack the Ripper
  • Malcolm McDowell Films
  • Mary Steenburgen Films
  • Science Fiction
  • Serial Killers
  • Time Travel

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “entertaining, extremely clever thriller” is witty, features “terrific suspense”, and contains “three outstanding lead performances”. Warner is particularly “memorable as the vicious, intelligent” Jack the Ripper, who finds himself completely at home in a “modern” world full of violence and sexual freedom; he’s a slick, womanizing, articulate psychopath who knows exactly how to get what he wants. Meanwhile, McDowell and Steenburgen are “completely charm[ing]” as a couple (both on-screen and in real-life), with McDowell especially noteworthy as the bespectacled Wells, who manages to cope quite admirably with the “loose” society he suddenly finds himself thrown into. Yet one shouldn’t think too closely about the logistics of Wells traveling to the future, then coming back to write the remainder of his famous corpus of books, since the film’s historical veracity starts to break down at around this point… Instead, Time After Time should be watched simply for its suspense, thrills, and clever conceit.

Note: Director Nicholas Meyer would return to the concept of time travel for his contribution to the “Star Trek” film enterprise, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Malcolm McDowell as Wells
  • David Warner as Jack the Ripper
  • Mary Steenburgen as Amy

Must See?
Yes, as a clever and enjoyable sci-fi flick.



One thought on “Time After Time (1979)

  1. Not must-see.

    What ‘TAT’ has in its favor is its wonderful premise; it’s what makes the early part of the film genuinely exciting.

    ~ which makes it all the more disappointing when the bulk of the rest of the film can’t quite live up to that.

    The main problem is twofold:
    Writer / director Meyer should have known better than to compromise Wells’ intelligence. For example, Wells would be too smart to ask perfect strangers in San Francisco if they can tell him what city he’s in (he would know how ridiculous that would sound – and , besides, he would just manage to find out for himself). Wells would also not try to convince a modern-day detective that he is “Sherlock Holmes” (again, he would know how stupid and insane that would sound – esp. when he is trying to prevent a murder). The laziness of some of Meyer’s writing along these lines is unfortunate.

    The other irritant is Steenburgen’s Amy. Aside from the fact that she generally has the enthusiasm of someone with a serious vitamin deficiency, Amy leans toward being inordinately defensive about her position as a woman – to a man (Wells) who *is on her side* and *genuinely likes her*! In Steenburgen’s defense, Amy is not all-that-well-written a character anyway (i.e., why the hell would someone in fear of being killed – and knowing the time of the murder – take a sedative *within hours* of the impending attack?!)- so it makes the central relationship less-than-enjoyable. (The couple’s initial lunch conversation is a bit dreary.)

    Warner, on the other hand, is indeed “memorable” as Jack the Ripper. His in-charge tone is consistent (except, of course, that the plot illogically demands that he targets Amy when his pattern is in killing prostitutes).

    This is the kind of movie that has such possibilities that you can’t help wanting it to better than it is. ~ though it may have inspired ‘Back to the Future’.

Leave a Reply