Rod Taylor and The Time Machine (1960)

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 a American import of a new DVD version via eBay. I think that was the first time it became available on the DVD in the UK, because the Wells estate’s extended copyrights in the UK ruled out a native DVD release. 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 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.