Sad to hear that the film actor Rod Taylor has passed away. He had his breakthrough in one of my favorite movies, the Oscar-winning 1960 adaptation of Wells’s famous short novel of “The Time Machine” (1894/95). I first saw the movie as a child, though not under ideal conditions — it was a BBC TV re-run seen on a black-&-white TV set, and at a time when nuclear war was still a very real possibility (readers may remember the vivid scenes of a city under nuclear attack). Amid the pessimism about future wars Rod Taylor’s character seemed a reassuring beacon of ‘scientific optimism and curiosity in the face of pessimism’, something which must have had a strong effect on me when I saw it as a child.
I doubt that I saw it again until about 2003, when the movie became available to me as an American import of a new DVD version. I was glad to find that the movie had stood the test of time very well. Seeing it again, I noticed that George Pal had been very canny about subtly nudging the ‘neither optimistic nor pessimistic’ stance of the book in a slightly more positive direction, presumably for the American audience. Nothing tub-thumpingly obvious, since Pal was far too skilled a movie-maker for that. But I picked up on a few of these deftly applied elements in my recent faithful and optimistic sequel to The Time Machine. I see now that casting the fresh Rod Taylor for the central role was probably also an aspect of Pal’s subtle nudging of the movie toward a more positive stance.